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TPG Managing Editor Eric spends some of his hard-earned Starwood Preferred Guest points on a Cash & Points redemption at the Westin Paris Vendome and gives us the inside scoop on his experience.
I’ve had the Starwood Amex for a couple years now, and I think it’s a great card for racking up valuable Starwood points. Since I’ve had it, I’ve earned over 50,000 points through bonuses, referrals and spending. The only thing is, I’ve never actually redeemed my Starpoints for anything—neither a hotel stay nor airline transfer to get the 5,000-mile bonus on 20,000-mile transfers.
I thought my trip to Paris might be a good chance to put my Starpoints to use finally. Especially considering how expensive hotels in the city are at the end of May—it’s a strange combination of holiday weekends, events like Cannes, the Grand Prix and the French Open, as well as what seems to be a glut of end-of-school-year trips.
Still, when I went on the Starwood Preferred Guest site, I was able to find both points and Points & Cash options for most of the Starwood hotels here.
Though I would have loved to check out the W Opera, it would have cost me 30,000 points, and there was no Cash & Points option available since it’s a Category 7 hotel. Rooms were going for 450 euros ($565), so that would mean I’d be getting less than 2 cents per point in value. Non, merci!
The Meridien Etoile would have cost 12,000 points or 4,800 points and $90 since it’s a Category 5 hotel, but since rooms were going for 209 euros (and the location’s not that great, sort of towards the edge of the central city) it didn’t seem like a great value, and I decided not to redeem there either.
The third option was the Westin Paris. Now, I’d rather use my Starpoints on something interesting like a St. Regis or a W, but I’ve been past the Westin several times and it’s in a great location right on rue de Rivoli across from the Tuileries and down the block from uber-fancy Place Vendome (where the Park Hyatt TPG likes is), and the photos looked nice enough. It used to be the Intercontinental Paris, and was one of Paris’s grand palace hotels back when it first opened in the 1800’s.
The regular room rate was a rather shocking 390 euros ($490) plus tax for the night, while the points option was 20,000 since this is a Category 6 hotel. However, Cash & Points was available for my exact date for 8,000 Starpoints + $150. Still a steep price to pay for a Westin, but considering what the room rate was, I was still reaping 4.25 cents of value from each of those points, and it seemed worth it to me. Plus, I had my choice of rooms, so I booked a non-smoking superior king room and waited to see how it would turn out.
The hotel is readily accessible by metro, between the stations La Concorde and Tuileries on Line 1, which I was taking from Gare de Lyon anyway, so even though I had a heavy suitcase, I could just hop on the Metro and I was there in about 15 minutes and it only cost me 1.70 euros.
It seemed like everyone was checking in at the same time, around 2pm, so it took a little while to get help, even in the SPG line, but a nice trainee checked me in toute de suite. She originally said my room wasn’t ready, but I asked her if another one was and she said there was one last room in my category that was already available so she gave it to me. Why I had to ask, I don’t know, but at least there was one ready a bit early so I could drop my things and head out for the day.
I had high expectations for the room because I still thought the Cash & Points option was steep. I don’t have the elite status to merit a room upgrade (though you do get Gold status after spending $30,000 on the card, sadly I’m not there yet)—and none would have been available since the hotel was completely sold out—so I knew going in I’d get the standard room I’d reserved. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
The room itself was quite spacious by Paris standards (another hotel room I stayed in was literally 110 square feet!), and was almost 300 square feet. But even more than the square footage was the sense of space created by the high ceilings, which must have been at least 12 feet with a big chandelier hanging over the bed.
As for layout, when I walked in the door, there was a small entry hallway with the closet placards (they weren’t full closets, but rather cabinets) in dark wood on the left, and the bathroom on the right.
Though the bathroom was all marble, this was actually the major disappointment of the room since it was a bit cramped and there was just a single sink, a shower-tub combo and the standard Westin products (honestly, Westin, if this is one of your flagship properties and you’re charging a premium to stay here, think about investing in some individuality by using local products like L’Occitaine or Dyptique or Clarins).
The bedroom was fairly large, with a stylized armchair in the doorway, a tall chest with the minibar, on top of which was the 37-inch flatscreen TV, a curved wooden work desk with European plugs and a universal plug as well, so I didn’t need my adapter, and a small orange desk chair.
The bed was a king with an oversize leather headboard that wrapped around nightstands on either side, one of which held the telephone and the other had the clock-iPod dock combo.
The color palette was a sort of charcoal grey and heather purple with accents of color like that orange chair thrown in for good measure, and the standard Heavenly Bed white-on-white linens.
My two favorite things about the room were the pink marble fireplace that, though it was sealed up, still gave the room some character—another relic of the hotel’s history dating back to the 19th century—and the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking rue Roget de l’Ile so I could sit and watch the street life as I did my work.
There was some noise from the street, but it was pretty minimal until the glass recycling collection truck came by the following morning around 9. The only other noises were some loud guests out in the hallway early in the morning, and my neighbor’s 6:00am wake-up call which I heard through the wall—I wasn’t thrilled.
Unlimited 24-hour WiFi cost me an infuriating 19 euros, but that’s not as expensive as I’ve seen it, and it worked really well—no drops, good speed, easy access—so it could have been worse. This is another reason why I need to get elite status, stat!
I didn’t get to explore the hotel in detail, but some of the other features that stood out to me were the sunny “winter garden” in the inner courtyard where guests were enjoying afternoon tea and a twilit dinner late into the night since the weather was gorgeous. Service seemed good, and the tea pastries I saw making their way out of the kitchen were mouthwatering.
The hotel has a rather slick restaurant with an entrance right on rue de Rivoli called First that looks a little like a bordello and serves nouvelle French cuisine, and a pretty but sort of dark and fusty little bar called the Bar des Tuileries that was all red leather and dark wood—the clientele was about three times my age, so I skipped it.
The hotel also has a small fitness center and a spa on the first floor. Since the evening was so gorgeous, I skipped the gym and went to dinner at Le Saut Du Loup in the Tuileries instead to enjoy the summery sunset.
Though the hotel was a bit more expensive than I’d been looking for, I still think it was a good value because I pulled over 4 cents out of each of my Starpoints based on the current rates. It was in a great (if touristy) location that was accessible from all over the city, I ended up really liking my room—especially the high ceilings and the fireplace—and though expensive, the WiFi worked very well (not always the case at Westin!), so I had a very good stay and would recommend the property.