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We never planned to stay at the Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon hotel near Gare de Lyon station. However, as if often the case with travel, it is the seemingly minor details which can turn into a major problem. That is exactly what happened to our family on a recent trip to Paris. I had booked an overnight sleeper carriage from Paris to Italy but forgotten to take into account three important practical considerations.

1: It was summer in Paris and very, very hot.
2: The train left at 8pm and had no onboard shower.
3: We were spending the previous night at an Airbnb apartment with a 10am check out.

Not being able to store our bags for the day at our Airbnb meant we had the choice of either lugging our backpacks around town or paying more than AU$50 to store them in a luggage locker, neither of which appealed. Our day spent sightseeing would see us desperately in need of a shower before boarding the train and wanting somewhere to rest for at least a few hours before it left the station.

Sightseeing at Canal Saint-Martin in Paris
Sightseeing at Canal Saint-Martin in Paris

We would have nowhere to kill some time unless we paid to sit at a cafe or restaurant, something we didn’t want to do near the train station. As is the case in most big cities, the area around Gare de Lyon is somewhat ‘colourful’ and not the best place to hang out as a family. It goes to show that even professional travel writers mess up sometimes. I learned a valuable lesson on this trip and that’s never book an Airbnb when you’ve got a late night departure. They do not offer the convenience or services of a hotel. In the end we decided to get a day room at Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon, a modern hotel right next to the station so we had somewhere to relax for the 10 hours between checking out of the Airbnb and getting onboard the train.

Paris turned on a scorcher of a day which made us even happier we had organised somewhere to literally and figuratively chill out (hello air conditioning!). The friendly front desk staff were multilingual which made checking-in very easy (and spared them from my terrible French). There was even a free Angry Birds game in reception to keep kids busy while the grownups complete the check-in process. Our room was ready when we arrived but our son couldn’t resist giving it a try.

Playing Angry Birds for free in reception
Playing Angry Birds for free in reception

Grownups receive a welcome drink voucher to use in the bar either when they arrive or any time during their stay. If you want to buy a snack without venturing outside there is a fridge in the reception area with drinks, sandwiches etc, all of which are reasonably priced. We stayed in an Executive room which was bigger than the Airbnb apartment we had just come from.

Chic welcome drink voucher
Typical Paris. Even the welcome drink voucher was stylish.
Snacks and drinks for purchase in reception
Snacks and drinks for purchase in reception

It had a large couch, a worktable and a balcony which meant we could relax outside and watch the world go by in the evening when the temperature began to drop. We had planned to go sightseeing again in the afternoon but decided to spend a relaxing afternoon at the hotel instead. Our only disappointment was the pool was closed for cleaning on the day we were there but the free wi-fi kept us entertained.

Watching the passing parade below from our balcony
Watching the passing parade below from our balcony

All of the rooms include the option to change the glass between the bedroom and the bathroom from frosted to clear at the touch of a button. Our son thought this was ‘even cooler’ than the Angry Birds game in reception. We all appreciated the convenience of having a separate toilet as it meant you didn’t have to wait for someone to finish in the shower before you could use the bathroom. Executive rooms come with a free mini-bar which includes chocolate, soft drinks and Evian. There was also an Nespresso machine which we put to good use.

Bathroom with the cool frosted panel on the left
Bathroom with the cool frosted panel on the left
Complimentary mini-bar
Complimentary mini-bar

Having such a flash room was a real luxury but the standard rooms are equally modern with all the mod-cons. There were many things we liked about this hotel but the best was yet to come. When we checked out the staff pointed out the hotel’s ‘secret back entrance’ which took us straight to the station and avoided the pickpockets hanging around outside Gare de Lyon’s main entrance. It was the perfect end to our perfect stay at the Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon.

Disclosure: The writer stayed at Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon as a guest of Wotif.com.

Are you visiting Paris during June, July or August? If so, you need to read our tips for visiting Europe in peak season. If you’re looking for something to do while you’re in town, we enjoyed our Paris in a Day walking tour with Take Walks.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.