Want to stay in an icon? You might as well, right? Mama Shelter, in a strangely untouristy part of eastern Paris is the icon, the hotel that changed hotels forever. The brainchild of designer Philippe Starck, among others, it was pretty much the first hotel that decided that hotels didn’t need to be formal or grown-up or stuffy. They could be silly and funky and youthful and colourful and arty… and cheap! And so here we are, paying just over 100 Euros for a room that is cool and quirky… and has free porn (and great free movies!) on the TV!
The first in what is now a global brand, Mama Shelter Paris East is located between a student accommodation block and a mediateque on a street that, while not swish or fancy, is lined with contemporary art galleries and bookshops and cafes. This is real Paris, the Paris where people actually live. And also die: we’re just five minutes from one of the city’s most under-explored treasures, the cemetery of Père-Lachaise, where some of the world’s most famous LGBTQs rest in peace: Oscar Wilde has a huge monument, protected by glass from the kisses it used to get, not far from the simple grave of Marcel Proust in between everyone from Piaf and Jim Morrison of The Doors to Balzac and Bizet in a huge city of statuary that is one of the most fascinating spots in Paris. Download the app and explore.
Back at Mama and the welcome is cheeky and friendly as you walk past the wall of very covetable merch to the lifts. Go right to the top and there’s a roof terrace with a bar. Swerve a left as you get to the lifts and you’ll find the restaurant situations. Low-ceilinged and with those ceilings painted in chalkboard black with messages scrawled on them, it’s a snooky spot where digital nomads’ laptops pop up during the day and which comes alive in the evening with a jolly, game-for-a-laugh crowd here for a noisy dinner of really good Neapolitan pizzas or an international selection of dishes from gazpachos to Argentinian steaks. There’s even a little stage area for performances.
Back in your room and the eccentricity continues. You won’t find a mint on your pillow, but you might find a Darth Vader mask. You won’t find a copy of Paris Living, but you might find a Sexy Mama box of condoms, lubes and toys. And you may not find a little ‘bienvenu’ note from your chambermaid but she will have scrawled ‘Mama loves you’ on your mirror.
The rooms themselves are as quirky as you’d expect. Double mirrors facing each other for when you get round to your Sexy Mama box, walls that are half concrete, half painted black, ceilings where the raw concrete has been made to dry in such a way as to suggest clouds, a carpet that’s like a magazine collage, a headboard that lights up and doubles as a reading lamp and that TV with all the movies and pornos.
You might not get your big, grand, sparkly, journalist-affords-Dior-couture Carrie Bradshaw Paris moment, but you might actually have some fun. Which is more than she can say.
Mama Shelter Paris East, 109 Rue de Bagnolet, 75020