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Helter Skelter Mama Shelter

Mama Shelter: 3.5 for décor, 1 for service (no comment yet on the bar)

Back in September on the night of the Jimmy Buffett concert, I decided to get a hotel room to celebrate my birthday in style. So the afternoon before the show the Swede and I set off for Mama Shelter, an uber hip bar/hotel on the far side of Père Lachaise. I’ve been meaning to check it out for quite some time but never had a good reason to go that far east. So we packed an overnight bag of birthday goodies: champagne, fancy underwear, foam whale hat, etc. and off we went. We walked from the metro down Rue de Bagnolet with great anticipation as the surrounding nondescript neighborhood grew subtly more refined with each block. Finally we arrived at the door step of a modern and minimalistic building, an impressive remake of what was formerly a car garage. We walked into the shiny dark lobby and were confronted by several glass cases housing toys and gifts for hotel guests to purchase, ranging from provocative coffee table books like Taschen’s the Big Butt Book to colorful leather gag masks and new-age vibrators. I thought I glimpsed an OhMiBod out of the corner of my eye. We checked in and went up to the 3rd floor via an elevator with walls lined in trivia facts: “there are more sheep than people in New Zealand” and the like; kind of nerdy but still somewhat endearing. We entered the room and were initially pleased. The bed was totally lush, with billowy white linens, and the IMac affixed to the wall made me feel instantly at home. What is it about Apple that makes everything seem so comfortably down-to-earth and totally elitist at the same time?

The satisfaction ended abruptly however when I noticed two creepy clown masks (or possibly Ronald Reagan masks, I couldn’t really tell) backlit by small torches flanking the bed, casting a sinister orange glow across the room. Absolutely horrifying. I swiftly scooped up the Reagan clowns and lay them to rest in a drawer for the night. Apart from the creepy masks everything appeared just right. That is until I went to the bathroom, whereupon my eyes were assaulted by a curly clump of dark hair next to the toilet paper roll. I covered up the clump with some toilet paper; out of sight out of mind, I figured. When I stood up I noticed another clump of hair stuck to the wall and more clogging the shower drain. This was just too much. I left the bathroom totally grossed out and immediately called down to the front desk to say that housekeeping had somehow forgotten to do their job in room 312. I was assured a cleaner would be sent up straight away. We left the hotel around 7:30 pm leaving plenty of time for the cleaners to pick up where they left off.

After the concert, we went out for dinner to Zicatela, a mexican restaurant near Grands Boulevards. It was slightly better than mediocre, which is really all you can ask for as far as mexican food goes in Paris. If it’s not French, Italian, or Japanese (the current trend in cuisine), than it’s apparently not worth eating to any serious degree. Anyway the food was fin but the staff was WASTED. I mean literally every 30 seconds 2 or 3 of them would go into the bathroom, which was right next to our table, and come out twitching nervously and rubbing their noses. Maybe that’s the only way to get excited about mexican food in Paris!! Maybe they should have put some in the food…

Anyway, we got back to the hotel around 1 am, totally exhausted and so looking forward to crashing on our cushy bed and watching movies on the IMac/TV. I undressed and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash the green eye liner off my face when, to my horror, I saw that no one had come to clean. All those clumps of hair were still mocking me hostilely. I called the front desk again and was informed that the cleaner got off work at 7 and that she had already gone home by the time we called to make a complaint. Ok. Fine. But don’t tell me you’ll send someone up to clean it if you don’t intend to! I was then told that they would send up a cleaner first thing in the morning. Great. So I can be rudely woken up by a cleaning lady the morning I have to check out. I declined the offer, not that it mattered because that poor cleaning lady barged right in at 9 am and got a full view of my naked bum sprawled across the bed.

I will never stay at Mama Shelter again, nor will I ever recommend it to anyone I like. I won’t swear off the bar just yet, as I still have not been. It looks pretty enticing, despite their website’s obnoxious description: “an enormous bar that also serves the purpose of being chichi, a brasserie, and private terraces where you might run into American poets, Japanese painters, or Latin American writers”. That doesn’t even make sense! Sounds like someone is trying a little too hard. Maybe that’s the problem. Some places just flounder in a sort of identity crisis: are we a hip bar/night club or a cool design hotel? Let’s be both! And both rarely works. Take the Murano hotel near République. Great bar with delicious cocktails and a fire place, but  totally bizarre and utterly useless as a hotel. I mean the hallways are so dark you can barely find your room let alone the keyhole and then worst of all, there isn’t even a door to the bathroom! I guess that’s one design element I’m not willing to go without.

For cracked out Mexican food in Paris: Zicatela at 8 Rue Geoffrey Marie in the 9th.

For dirty bathrooms but a Phillippe Starck designed room: Mama Shelter at 29 Rue du Bagnolet in the 20th.

For intimate moments with no bathroom door: The Murano Urban Resort Paris at 13 Boulevard du Temple in the 3rd.

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