Frantic Fred's Travel Tips: France

by Miles O'Neal, Jetlag, Ltd.

Hotel Sofitel

There are two Hotel Sofitels in the La Defense district of Paris; the Sofitel La Defense and the Sofitel CNIT. My first trip, at customer expense, we stayed at the Sofitel La Defense. Be sure and tell them if you are with a company large enough to possibly have arrangements with them. In our case this resulted in a discount from 1150 francs to 950 francs (a 16% savings).

The people at the desk are your friends. They are the most helpful hotel staff I have ever met. All of them speak at least a little English, several of them speak quite a bit of it. One young desk clerk had already made arrangements to work for a year in a London hotel to improve her (already formidable) English! One time when we were having difficulty communicating, she almost burst into tears. These are the hotel staff by which I judge all others.

The sole 110 volt outlet in the bathroom is for razors only ("soulement pour rasoir"). It does not carry enough current for a hair dryer; if you try a hair dryer, iron, microwave, etc in that outlet, you will probably burn the hotel down, killing the wonderful desk clerks. Assuming those of us hoping to go back don't get to you first, you will at the very least cause an international incident, resulting in more Scuds for Iraq. Do you want that on your conscience? If you cannot deal with the built-in hair dryer (it seems wimpy, but works quite well), use your converter in an outlet in the bedroom instead of the bathroom.

Please note that the bathtubs have a warning sticker in them not to use the shower nozzle outside the tub. The symbol is fairly intuitive. Initially I thought the sticker was because (a) they assumed all Yanqui tourists are arrogant, ignorant, drunken jackasses, (b) their friends from Iraq tend to wash their camels in the bathroom, or (c) the Brits, who seem to abhor showers (they prefer baths), have no idea what to do with them. Closer inspection showed there was a message in (apparently) Japanese under the symbol. Unless this said, "Made in Japan", it implies the Japanese are the likely offenders. Perhaps the ever-efficient Japanese are prone to shower while using the toilet and drying their hair simultaneously?

Aside from room service coffee for that morning jumpstart, I think the hotel restaurant is too high-priced to be used except in an emergency. Your best bet close by is probably Les Quatre Temps (The Four Seasons), the mall across from the CNIT building. They have a food court as well as upscale restaurants. On the other hand, when I ran out of PopTarts [tm], room service had a decent deal where they send up several types of bread, jam, etc for less than 20 francs.

You can direct dial from your room, or use a phone credit card (0-19-0011-area code-number). The latter may not always work, depending upon the whims of the French phone system and the most recent Texas lottery winning number.

The hotel provides same-day laundry service, if you notify them of the laundry by 11:30AM. All tee shirts will be pressed, even old, faded, Billy and the Boingers tee shirts. (Trust me - I know.) As the laundy ticket has no place on it for jeans, all pants end up being treated as slacks, and are dry-cleaned and presssed. (This is sort of like getting the $200US detailing job on a lawn tractor at the local car wash.)

The laundry ticket should be inside the bag with the laundry, not on the outside as in the USA. Personal experience shows that otherwise the ticket may be left when the laundry is picked up, and your laundry will be bundled in with Casey's and delivered to his room. If Casey is not in France at the time, this could result in your wearing towels and wash cloths to work and the Eiffel Tower. Even in Paris, this may be a bit much, unless you can pass yourself off as an artist.

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Last Update: 01 Oct 2002
All text copyright 1992-1995,2002 by Miles O'Neal, <>, Austin, TX. All rights reserved. Free electronic redistribution of this article is allowed only in its entirety; all other uses require the author's permission.
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