A quick google for Paris hotels shows that there are an increasing number of characterful, hip and relatively-inexpensive places to stay in the centre of town these days…properties such as the Hotel Grand Amour and Le Snob.

Now there’s another strong contender, The Hoxton on Rue du Sentier, which opened a week ago and where I stayed last night.

Rue du Sentier itself might be un peu terne (drab) – perhaps “ripe for development” might be more charitable – but step inside Number 30 and you are in a different world. The building was constructed in the 18th century by architect Nicolas d’Orbay for Etienne Rivié, who was an advisor to King Louis XV. It subsequently became a clothing factory and then lay empty before the four year restoration that brought it to its current impressive state, as you can see from the photos below. Staircases have been restored, cobbles relaid, columns repurposed and wooden floors uncovered. Old meets modern, and the style works.

Before you get to the reception desk there are indoor and outdoor lounges to navigate on which to tap away in your computer or meet for an aperitif. Even at less than a week old, many cool local Parisians seemed to be doing just that. To one side there is the brasserie-style restaurant and bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bedrooms – there are 172 of them – come in varying sizes from Shoebox via Cosy and Roomy to Biggy. Even the smallest rooms aren’t that tiny, although the Shoeboxes on the top floor are more compact than those of the same category on floors below. My Roomy had a decent-sized bathroom with a powerful shower and Pen & Ink toiletries. Also in the room is a fridge that only contains water and milk – no complaints there, the point is you can stock it up with your own products and so bypass the rip-off mini bar prices beloved by many hotels.

There are already Hoxtons in London and Amsterdam, with Brooklyn to follow later this year.

Lead in rates in Paris (for a Shoebox) are currently from €99 per night if you plan ahead. Included is a free snack breakfast consisting of juice, granola, yoghurt and a banana. For anything more you’ll have to go downstairs to the restaurant, at which you’ll pay a fairly substantial amount…my breakfast of a chia seed and raspberry pot (very tasty by the way), a pain au chocolat, grapefruit juice and two coffees came to just under €30. Maybe I’m just grumpy because of the weak state of the Pound right now. Staff here, as elsewhere in the hotel, are young, bilingual and super helpful, suggesting coffee shops to visit as well as helping me weigh up the pros and cons of several museums for my time-poor afternoon. (I ate at the hotel the night before, and can hand-on-heart say the cheeseburger I had there was perhaps the tastiest I’ve eaten anywhere.)

The Hoxton is a cool brand, and it is bound to do well in Paris.

www.thehoxton.com

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Full disclosure: I paid for my own Shoebox room but was upgraded to a Roomy by the hotel. My dinner and breakfast were paid by the hotel.

Think about great inventions of the 20th century and what springs to mind?

There are those who’d say penicillin, electric air conditioning, the airplane or nuclear power.

But I’d say the soft-close loo seat has to be up there. Seriously, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The gentle, almost imperceptible clunk as it lands at 2am has surely saved almost as many marriages as antibiotics. OK, perhaps not, but once you go soft-close, you’ll never go back to the rude, noisy thwack on porcelain of a regular toilet seat.

The point being, and there is one, that I was very pleasantly surprised to see a soft-close loo seat in the bathroom of the budget-oriented Room 2 Hotel in Hammersmith, W6 recently when I had an overnight staycation with the other half before new year. It’s a budget hotel that doesn’t feel budget: they’re obviously not skimping.

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Situated at 120 Hammersmith Grove, the hotel blends into the residential street, a 5-minute walk from Hammersmith tube.

There’s no reception – how millennial! – so instead you key in a door code that’s been emailed to you prior to arrival. Ditto the code for your room. There’s a well-stocked vending machine on the ground floor with everything from toothbrushes to popcorn and hand sanitizer in it, and a well-maintained garden at the back, which must be a boon in summer. On the top floor was a small washer and dryer room.

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Our bedroom – a large studio – on the top floor had a kitchenette with a dishwasher, microwave, toaster, stove top and kettle, eating area, a decent-sized bathroom with shower and a very soft bed, and overall was well designed. The TV swivelled out from the wall (perfect to watch in bed) and we could have streamed downloads from our phone or tablet had we not been tech dinosaurs. The double glazed windows did a good job of shielding the road noise outside. We loved the practical, local what-to-do suggestions left in an envelope by our bed. Quick, strong wifi is available throughout the building.

We could have got some food and cooked in our room but we walked ten minutes to the Anglesea Arms gastropub, and for breakfast the next morning tucked into bacon and pancakes at Bill’s near Hammersmith Broadway.

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Any niggles? Well I’m a light sleeper and did hear a few night owls returning to their rooms in the small hours. Maybe earplugs could be in the vending machine for us princesses who demand nocturnal silence?

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Overall, it’s a cool place to stay and gets all the basics right in a way that’s far from basic. Once you hop on the tube at Hammersmith, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are just 15 minutes away, and Heathrow half an hour. London’s classic tourist sites await, but then so does a Londoner’s London, with pubs, shops and parks that many visitors never get to see.

Double rooms at Room 2 start from £109 per night (correct, January 2017), www.room2.com

Will Hide stayed as a guest of the hotel.

Photos copyright Room 2 and Oliver Markham.

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Dubai seems to be rather marmite – you love it or hate it – but I must admit as a a five-time visitor who initially couldn’t see the point (Vegas with the fun sucked out?) it has definitely grown on me.  Wouldn’t say it’s my favourite place on the planet, but I definitely don’t dislike it. If you just want some guaranteed sun, great service, good food and shopping, it’s hard to beat, especially bearing in mind it’s only six and a half hours away with 14 flights a day from London alone, not to mention nonstops from Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham too. In summer Brits love it, when temperatures are nudging 45c – just look out for the bright pink lobsters by the pool.

Dubai in summer - it ain't half hot Mum

Dubai in summer – it ain’t half hot Mum

Last week I had quite a blitz on hotels.

View from the One & Only Royal Mirage

View from the One & Only Royal Mirage

I stayed at the One and Only Royal Mirage, which I can thoroughly recommend both for service, ambience and location. It puts itself out there as a leisure not business hotel and it has an expansive pool and long beach if you just want to work on the tan and Fifty Shades of Whatever.

Had a look round the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray – plus points are the amazing spa (its hammam is as impressive as anything you’d find in Istanbul) and its large range of dining options. (Really tasty Lebanese mezze lunch at Al Nafoorah)

All Burj al Arab guests get a shiny gold iPad to use in the hotel - or you can buy one to take away for £6,800

All Burj al Arab guests get a shiny gold iPad to use in the hotel – or you can buy one to take away for £6,800

Went for a quick nose poke round the Burj al Arab. Hmmmm, not my cup of tea despite the shiny gold ipads given to guests, and a quick look round inside the $23,000 a night Royal Suite. Just way too gaudy for me. (I think the hotel would rather have Chinese and Russian guests anyway – they spend more than austerity Brits). Having said that, the afternoon tea on the top floor was something special and if you want an anniversary or birthday treat when you’re on holiday, this is definitely worth splashing out the, gulp, £80 a person for. (You do get a glass of champagne! And wouldn’t need dinner afterwards) And it’s one of the few ways you can have a look around if you’re not a guest.

Afternoon tea at the top of the Burj al Arab.

Afternoon tea at the top of the Burj al Arab.

Onwards to the spanking new – opened just last week – Oberoi in Business Bay, near the Dubai Mall. Clean, crisp, sleek. Aimed at business travellers rather than leisure although I can see a certain “Monocle / Wallpaper” type of the latter group thoroughly enjoying it anyway. It has Dubai’s first 24 hour spa, so if your plane arrives in at 3am and you need a jetlag-busting massage, no problem. All bedrooms have floor to ceiling windows too which give impressive views.

Pool deck at the Oberoi

Pool deck at the Oberoi

View of the Burj Khalifa from the Oberoi hotel

View of the Burj Khalifa from the Oberoi hotel

There’s a new Sofitel on the Palm which opens next month. Its theme is Polynesian. Sounds tacky? It’s not – it works. Lots of greenery inside (“living walls”), calm colours and plenty of wood. The designers have done a good job, accompanied with French flair. All in all it certainly looks nice.

There's more than 950 square metres of "living walls" at the new Sofitel on the Palm

There’s more than 950 square metres of “living walls” at the new Sofitel on the Palm

I had a look at the new’ish JW Marriott Marquis too – the world’s tallest hotel with great views of the Burj Khalifa. Squarely aimed at the business crowd, specifically meetings and conference groups, but like the Oberoi I can see it attracting a certain kind of business/leisure – can I say bleisure? – guest. In fact it’s near the Oberoi, and in a few years it will be joined nearby by a W and other Starwood properties that will have 1600 beds.  Its top floor steak house and bar alone are worth checking out.

JW Marriott Marquis

JW Marriott Marquis

I travelled with Qantas  (booked through Trailfnders) who now flies to Sydney and Melbourne from Heathrow via Dubai rather than via Singapore – nice to have some Aussie friendliness en route.

Plenty of familiar high-street names in the malls to keep Brits happy

Plenty of familiar high-street names in the malls to keep Brits happy

Looking out over the Palm from the balcony of the Royal Suite at Atlantis hotel.

Looking out over the Palm from the balcony of the Royal Suite at Atlantis hotel.

One of Dubai's female taxi drivers - for women and families only

One of Dubai’s female taxi drivers – for women and families only

Would really recommend breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding - a very different side to the glitz you associate with Dubai

Would really recommend breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding – a very different side to the glitz you associate with Dubai