Why The Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris Sucks

I just completed a short trip to Belgium and France and wanted to share some of my thoughts.  This trip was a new experience for my wife and I.  I have been collecting miles and points for about 4 years now.  We have redeemed those points for many domestic trips, but this was our first international trip with points.  We flew business class, stayed in fancy hotels, and did it all for $600 in taxes and fees.  On our flight home, I was continually thinking about something Rick Steves said in an interview a few years back when he was asked about the difference between a tourist and a traveler.

I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, my family was excited to go to Mazatlán. You get a little strap around your wrist and can have as many margaritas as you want. They only let you see good-looking local people, who give you a massage. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t consider it travel. I consider it hedonism. And I have no problem with hedonism. But don’t call it travel. Travel should bring us together.

For the most part of our trip, especially at the Park Hyatt Vendome, I felt like I was on a cruise ship, minus the boat.  Instead of a wrist bracelet, I had my hotel elite status.  I had twice daily housekeeping service, heated stone tiles in the bathroom, a rain shower, and I was surrounded by good looking people with money.  What was there not to like?

What was not to like was that the Park Hyatt was missing something that I value, highly, when traveling abroad.  People.  The hotel is not in a residential area.  It is in a mostly commercial area surrounded by high-end stores like Cartier, Tiffany’s, Mont Blanc, and more.  This is what window shopping looks like by the Park Hyatt.

Cartier Paris

I do not travel to pretend I am a part of the 1%.  I travel to experience new cultures, to learn about myself, and others.  The Park Hyatt, is no different than a cruise ship occasionally dropping you off at port so you can see the sights and say you’ve been there.

When I travel I prefer to stay in neighborhoods where people live.  The restaurant food is better, people are friendlier, and you can experience a new place in a more intimate way. As opposed to just dropping in and retreating to the confines of your luxury suite at the Park Hyatt.

Part of the reason I chose to travel in this way was because I wanted to experience something new. I have never flown international business class, I have never stayed at a $1200 a night hotel, and to a large degree I was influenced by mile and point bloggers who present this as the way to travel.

What I learned about this way of travel is that the bloggers are wrong.  For me, at least, it is not the way to travel.  In fact, I hardly consider it travel at all.  The bloggers (who are the face of this hobby) have lost perspective (or maybe they never had it).  Instead of the flight and hotel being the vehicle by which you experience a new destination and culture.  The destination has become the vehicle by which you experience a hotel and flight.   Like passengers on a cruise ship, it is hedonism, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Just do not call it travel. “Travel should bring us together.”

Let me give you an example of how travel should bring us together.  My favorite lodging in Italy was a place called Manuel’s Guesthouse in Cinque Terre.  Manuel had about five rooms to rent in his house.  He had a wonderful terrace that doubled as his outdoor kitchen.  In the evenings you could chat with him, his nephew, and fellow travelers from all over the world, while taking in this view.

Manuels Guesthouse View

By limiting yourself to lodgings where your hotel elite status gets you a suite upgrade you are missing out on what travel should be about.  Connecting with people.  Next time, I will confine my hedonism to the flight and skip the fancy hotel.  This trip reaffirmed my love of small B&Bs and pensions, located in residential neighborhoods.  I may not have a nightly turn down service and bottles of Evian every morning but I will happily trade that for a more intimate connection with the people and place I am visiting.

Forgive me for this little rant, in my next post I will actually talk about the places I visited and have pictures.

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15 thoughts on “Why The Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris Sucks

  1. Scott,

    Enjoyed your post!

    I think the great perspective here is to understand your travel style and how to get the most out of your experiences.

    I think it’s also a mistake to talk about “the bloggers” and that there’s only one right answer.

    Five years ago I stayed at the Prince de Galles off the Champs Elysee *because it was cheap*, a 52 euro mistake rate got me to Paris.

    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2009/11/28/hotel-prince-de-galles-52-euro-mistake-rate-stay/

    I spent my time out and about, both the iconic tourist spots and local spots too.

    And I’ve stayed at the Vendome. I do like the hotel. It’s a great way to spend Hyatt Visa free nights, for instance. And it doesn’t mean you stay in your hotel. It doesn’t mean you only talk to people at the hotel.

    I actually think it’s a pretty good spot to base yourself in Paris, it’s an easy walk to 3 different metro stations so you can get almost anywhere without even changing trains. And it’s walking distance from good restaurants, from iconic locations, from local shops too if you have a look around and are willing to walk 10 minutes.

    I guess I don’t understand why spending points or credit card free nights for a well-appointed hotel means you cannot experience culture, eat outside the hotel, or see other parts of the city — or where the notion comes from that these unnamed bloggers tell you that you shouldn’t?

    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2013/01/15/new-years-in-paris-air-france-business-british-airways-first-and-the-park-hyatt-vendome-in-and-around-paris/

    I think this is a very good post about understanding what you value most, and that should serve you well, I’m just not sure about the generalizations or conclusions about how other people travel that flow from it.

    Best,
    Gary

    • Part of the generalization is based on the face that you place on it. One of the reasons why I don’t read as many mile and points blogs as I used to is that there seems to be too much emphasis on the airplane ride, the airplane food, the lounge, the suite upgrade, etc… I’m more interested in destinations and experiences than I am about a hotel or plane seat. I think your new year’s eating in Paris was a great post. But that was part one of five, the other four parts being about airplane seats, food, and lounges. That’s great but it’s why I think destination is secondary to mile and points bloggers. Again, nothing wrong with that, it is just not my style.

      One of the things I loved most about this trip was that it reaffirmed my travel philosophy of “becoming a temporary local.” I can’t do that at the Park Hyatt. I can at B&B or a vacation rental. Thanks for your feedback.

  2. One day you can go to Bali, realize all the chain resort hotels covered by the major bloggers are in Nusa Dua, and learn that Nusa Dua is downright awful. Imagine a tropical island with a rich history and unique culture (mostly Hindu in the world’s largest majority-Muslim country, with unique art, food, and dance traditions), and a bunch of gated resorts straight from Palm Springs.

    I stopped reading most of the bloggers for the same reasons: too much Vendoming and not much learning or self-awareness.

  3. Loved this post! While it may be possible to sleep away from the culture and still visit it during the day, the Vendoming and self-important status seeking seems to be contagious. Frankly, it seems to suck all the fun out of travel and reduce travel to comparing notes over who got the best service so the other person can complain for the purpose of getting a refund or more perks. HT on the word Vendoming to Dia the Deal Mommy (I think)

  4. Usually the plane travel portion of a trip is about surviving the time as best you can, trying to save up energy for when you arrive. So I was glad to read towards the end of the post you did say upgraded plane experiences are indeed worth it. I think it does make time that usually you are trying to get through enjoyable. I also think the class of place to stay also is affected by if you are visiting a first or second world country. In a second world country I wouldn’t necessarily go Park Hyatt but a higher class hotel pays off importantly in cleanliness and service knowledge

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  6. Great read. I have stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, but that was a year before I started blogging. I had 2 free weekend nights from the Chase Hyatt CC and was going to Pairs anyway, so it was a perfect mix. I went with my friend and we look like white trash compared to the rich people who paid to stay there. Nothing wrong with that. The hotel staff was very nice and kind to us. I think experiencing a very high end hotel every now and then makes you just say wow. If you stay at only high end properties, you start comparing them to each other and start to look for the flaws, rather than just appreciating the elegance.

    I feel the same way as you in regards to hotel rooms and BnBs. It’s all about the location. I wouldn’t stay at a high end hotel if it is way out of the city or not where I want to stay. I’d rather go with a lower end property near where I want to be. If it happens that I find a great deal on Trip Advisor or AirBnb, I’ll gladly pay money to stay there.

    With that said, I think I prefer the Andaz properties (Amsterdam is awesome) because of its Andazlingness.
    HT to me for Andazlingness 🙂

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  8. Great post! That’s the whole reason that I started blogging – because it seemed like every blogger focused on these kind of aspirational trips. And there’s nothing wrong with doing that if that’s your thing, but that’s not how MY family travels (not even close!)

    Glad to read about your trip and blog

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  10. I guess one of my problems with the whole Vendoming thing is the certain condescension of a certain travel “expert” that supposedly has the background to be the expert…but then posts like PHV is so freakin’ perfect. It is obvious that this blogger has no clue about Paris.

    No clue. No research. No background googling. However, a very intimate detailed post about the PHV…blah.

    But to make it sound like the PHV is the pinnacle of luxury…just wait for Hôtel de Crillon reopening. I’ll never afford it but I know real grandeur when I see it.

    As someone that lived in Paris, and has a degree in French….his posts and blog annoy me.

    Don’t eat breakfast in the hotels, people. Get out. Get fresh pastries from a local shop. Don’t Americanize your French visit. Geesh!

    Obviously, Vendoming is a global thing. It means so much more than the PHV (which might be a great hotel). But it is now a lifestyle…the whole “Do you know who I am?” crowd.

    Meh. It’s like the people that scream in English at others when visiting non-English speaking countries. Then getting pissed when people don’t respond. Sad.

    I have no problems with people redeeming free hotel nights. I do that too. I think it’s awesome.

    I’d rather redeem my points in Iceland or Calgary or Maine.

    And I’d rather hike the Highlands of Scotland (and/or explore the fjords of Norway) than ever set foot in the Maldives. .

    But that’s just me. 🙂

    With that, I’ve think I said all that I wanted to say in all the blogs on this subject.

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