If you are coming from or going to London on the Eurostar train through the Chunnel, or heading elsewhere to the north, say Brussels, Amsterdam, or Cologne, a hip spot to hang your hat before or after is 25Hours Hotel Paris Terminus Nord. Despite that this colorful quartier of Paris is not one of the usual neighborhoods where travelers stay for more than transit, there is plenty to see and do see nearby, and a plethora of restaurants to enjoy.
Once a Mercure Hotel, 25Hours renovated the interior of the 1870 Belle Epoch-style property adding chic panache, both in color and concept for its 237 rooms. As guests enter the lobby, they are greeted with a welcome mat saying, “Hello Stranger,” and upon exiting, it says, “Goodbye friend.” This is 25Hours stock in trade – its ability to make guests smile and feel at home. Employees at reception could not have possibly been more warm or welcoming. The quirky lobby has bicycles available to rent, books, and magazines, antique odds-and-ends as well as a small kiosk with beautiful handmade accessories using natural materials.
The hotel has several cool seating areas, computer workstations, and the comfortable SAPE Bar. There’s also a retro typewriter station to pen a note which the hotel will send off for you. Most important and fairly unusual for Paris, it boasted wonderfully strong air conditioning which was key as the weekend I was there the mercury was hitting the 90s.
I stayed in room 525, designated as large, and indeed for Paris, it was large at about 300-square feet with a marvelously comfortable king-sized bed. Typical style for this small chain – it has 14 properties in Europe and one in Dubai – and I’ve stayed at three, there are charming sayings around the hotel and in guest rooms. On my bed, two of the four pillows were embroidered with “Almost home” and, “Let’s spend the night together,” making it rather tough not to giggle. The bag holding the hairdryer said, “Come as you are but be dry.” The free-standing closet had travel stickers from around the world and on top of it, a neon light sporting the phrase “oh la la.”
My room also had a writing desk, in-room safe, and a small refrigerator with delicious, complimentary Demory Paris Citra beer, water, and snacks. Hardwood floor marked the entry with the main space having colorful patterned carpet. The dark violet walls and light blocking curtains made for restful sleep. Wonderfully, this room has a narrow balcony with two stools and a small table, facing the gorgeous facade of the 19th century Gare du Nord that was great for people watching.
The bathroom had a separate WC, pink, dark mauve, and white tiled shower with both a large rain shower and standard Euro shower head, and environmentally sound dispensers for soap, shampoo, and lotion. The Tunisian-style blue-and-white sink added extra élan.
Within a few feet of 25Hours Hotel, there are literally dozens of restaurants with something for every taste or craving. Right next door are two French brasseries, Au Baroudeur and the art deco Terminus Nord serving the classics because sometimes you have an emergent need for escargot and Cabernet. A few minutes away by foot is Chez Casimir, which has good charcuterie. There is ethnic food of every conceivable variety nearby and a 10-minute walk down Boulevard Magenta is Krishna Bhavan, a busy vegan/vegetarian restaurant.
Another favorite of mine, a 20-minute stroll south to the Marais district, is Vins des Pyrénées. Enjoy a fresh tuna Niçoise salad and a glass of Rosé and dream that the walls could talk. This restaurant has been around for 115 years with notables like Jim Morrison having passed through its doors so historical stories abound.
However, if you only eat one meal while staying at 25Hours, it must be dinner at NENI, their signature restaurant. NENI has fantastic fare with Israeli, Romanian, and Spanish roots in an airy, pretty dining room. You’ll definitely want to try the grilled shrimp served with a mouthwatering yogurt, dill, chili, and horseradish sauce and the tender chicken shawarma. Save room for NENI’s mind-boggling Sésam dessert with har bracha halvah served with house made Moscovado ice cream. This is the third time I’ve had this dessert and each time I swoon, reminding me that the word diet is truly a vile four-letter word.
A 20-minute walk from 25Hours is the imposing Byzantine Basilica Sacre Coeur de Montmartre, the city’s second highest point – after the Tour Eiffel – with its inspiring forever views of Paris. It’s also the second most visited religious building in France after Notre Dame (prior to the fire).
Though I lived in Paris for a couple of years, somehow, I managed to never get to Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris’ largest green space comprised of nearly 107 acres and 70,000 graves, about a 30-minute walk from 25Hours. In addition to being the final resting place of notables such as Balzac, Proust, Seurat, Moliere, Pissaro, Modigliani, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf, Baron James Rothchild, and of course, Jim Morrison, among others, there are monuments to concentration camp deportees and veterans. Pére Lachaise even has its own biodiverse environment with butterflies, birds, nocturnal foxes, and a whole host of other wildlife making this their resting place as well. Interestingly, and unlike other cemeteries, all religions that bury their loved ones here are not separated by affiliation or denomination. Thus, while they may have had their differences in life, for eternity they repose peacefully together.
In the Marais quarter, 20-minutes away on foot, there are a number of smaller museums certainly worth a visit including the Carnavalet, the Picasso, and Museum of art and history of Judaism, known as MahJ, which reflects 2,000 years of Jewish presence in France, including a good collection of paintings and clothing on North African Jewry. Until August 27th, there’s a special exhibition of Perre Dac’s life and the comic work of this master of the absurd.
The Lessons Learned
There’s something wonderful about staying near the Gare du Nord, watching people headed to and fro as you ponder their onward adventures with a sense of curious awe and warm delight. Perhaps equally important, staying at 25Hours Hotel you’ll know that you’re comfortably ensconced in delightful gem of a hotel, with your own adventure awaiting where ever you’re headed. Besides, how can you not love a hotel whose internet connection is “25Hours loves you?” Happy travels!
Written by Julie L. Kessler
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