Mama Shelter, 20ème (Ménilmontant), Paris, France ****

Q: What is it? A: A smart and pretty affordable hotel in Paris, (but not in the middle of it).

Mama Shelter from the outside.
Don’t expect a small and boutique-y hotel. This place has 172 rooms!

Mama Shelter – here’s where you sleep.
Shelterish interior design: Super-hero face masks double as lampshades.

Mama Shelter – here’s where you take a shit.
Compact but functional bathroom where everything worked.
No complaints, although the flower was faded on the second day…

Care for a pizza? Mama Shelter boasts a communal table next to the pizza baking guy.
I didn’t try the Mama Pizzeria but they are rumoured to be great. In fact, even those
who are not in support of the hotel admit that these pizzas are “shockingly enjoyable”.

True. No dinner room is complete without a foosball table.
Next to the so called Island Bar; a gianormous foosball table that
does the work of bringing people together. All hotels should have this.

The funky corridor carpet at the Mama Shelter.
This little design feature made me feel so… old! Some scribbled little
messages woven into the corridor carpet – who does that these days?

No doubt a lot of thinking went into this hotel.
Honestly, I had my doubts. When more is written about the creators of a hotel, than the hotel itself, it’s more often than not a warning flag, (André Balazs, anyone?). This hotel – created by the Trigano family (who co-founded Club Med) and French philosopher Cyril Aouizerate along with designer Philippe Starck – was cause enough to sound the big alarm. Their website trumpeted what only a star-studded group of people with unlimited access to assistants with PowerPoint-presentations can achieve: “A desire. A city. Paris, the world capital of tourism. Paris, a place of refuge. Everyone is welcome. The neighborhood: Saint Blaise – rebel character and city life at a country pace. Mama Shelter: the key to a city.”

That Mama place has a way with things.
Arriving a taxi from the masochist morning flight from Stockholm, armed with more than a few doubts, means that the hotel had to work a little harder to impress. Well, I’m not impressed. But I’m amused and the atmosphere at Mama Shelter is a breath of fresh air. You don’t feel like you’re trespassing into a fashion model landscape. The staff are not busy petting their iPhones, they are attentive and friendly. They solve our little morning problems and the overall grumpiness disappears. Little things make a difference. Free internet in the rooms. The weather forecast and some tips for the evening scribbled on the mirrors near the elevators. A nice and friendly attitude. Not bad.

It’s large. It’s cheap. It’s not in the center of the map.
The converted garage that is now Mama Shelter opened in September 2008 and to many, some of the design tweaks will feel a bit outdated. The nonsense-message wallpaper in the elevators, for instance. Or the corridor’s dark carpets with yet other “messages”. Obviously, the super-hero masks that double as lampshades will have their lovers and haters. Rooms come with an iMac, free movies, free WiFi and a microwave. There’s an embedded message there; this place is not heavy on room service. Nor is it mean to your wallet. The explanation to the latter is “location”. Sure, the neighbourhood is coming to life but the 20ème arrondissment isn’t exactly Place de la Concorde.

It serves a good breakfast! And it’s in France!
It’s not as “…a sensual refuge” that the Mama Shelter scores the most points. They win by their freat public spaces, the attitude of the staff and the breakfast buffet, which is superior to what you’d normally expect from a French hotel. Also, the lobby’s self-service check-in machines for most airlines that operate from CDG is a sign of smartness, (although I wonder how often they are actually used). The next time I’ll try to get my boarding pass in the hotel lobby.
For the benefit of you, dear reader of this site, I also promise to try superstar chef Alain Senderen’s “shockingly enjoyable” pizza.

Mama Shelter
109 rue de Bagnolet
Paris, France


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