The Ibis Calais Hotel is located about 2.5 miles from the center of town and the Calais Ville train station. I chose this hotel mainly because it was close to the L’Auberge des Migrants/Help Refugees Warehouse where I was volunteering and because it was affiliated with Accor Hotels so I could earn points on my stay. I generally prefer to book chain hotels because if something goes wrong and the hotel isn’t willing to deal with it, corporate will step in and handle things. That turned out not to be the case with Accor. After writing about my experience with the hotel’s dishonest billing practices and Accor’s unwillingness to deal with it, several other readers reached out to share similar issues with the chain.
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My experience at Hotel Ibis Calais wasn’t all bad. In fact, the front desk staff was always friendly and accommodating. The young man who checked me in gave me the option of having a room on the first or second floor. He pointed out that the hotel didn’t have an elevator and carrying a large bag up the stairs might be troublesome for me. I told him the first floor was fine. He handed me the key (an actual metal key), with a keychain the size of a paddle. When I got to the room, I felt uneasy about being on the first floor and having a tiny window that seemed so accessible from the outside.
I headed back to the front desk and asked to switch to the second floor. “Of course!” he responded, “I can even put you on the top floor if you’d like.” I opted for the second floor and he switched out the keys for me. I also asked which bus route to take to the warehouse and he pulled out a map and marked it for me.
Ibis Calais Hotel Standard Room
The rooms at the Ibis Calais Hotel are tiny and reminiscent of a high-end hostel or dorm room. There’s not room for much other than the bed and you really have to squeeze through to get to the desk. I have to give them credit for managing to fit some type of closet in that tiny space. Other than the size of the room, it was in very good shape. There aren’t many decent hotels in town and this is about as good as it gets, though the Ibis Styles Hotel is just as nice and has a better location in the center of town.
My only real issue with the room was that it had just one power outlet, located in an odd spot by the desk. On the up side, the climate control knob was right by the bed – so if it gets too cold or warm at night, you don’t have to go very far to adjust it.
Ibis Calais Hotel Bathroom
The bathroom at the Ibis Calais had the bare minimum: Four towels, a sink, toilet, and a shower with only half a glass panel so that each time I used it, the bathroom looked like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
There was no soap in the bathroom either. Instead, there were two large bottles of this 3-in-1 shampoo-body-hand wash. I was really glad I’d stashed those bathroom amenities from the Hyatt Regency Paris Charles de Gaulle, which had suddenly become a luxury. I even tweeted about it and the Hyatt twitter team responded – they were good sports about it.
The strangest part of the bathroom was this contraption that resembled a vacuum cleaner but turned out to be a hair dryer.
Ibis Calais Hotel Breakfast
Breakfast at the Hotel Ibis Calais costs an additional $10 per night, which is cheap and also the only viable option in the immediate area. Sure, there were a few restaurants nearby, but they weren’t open at 8:30 AM when I walked to the bus stop. Or when I came home in the evening around 9:00 PM. I guess the rest of the world doesn’t share the same 24-hour work ethic as Americans do.
The buffet consisted of a large selection of bread, cheese, sliced meat, yogurt, fruit, crepes, oatmeal and a hard broiled egg station.
I did wish they had had fried eggs, but after a couple of days I actually got into the habit of having a hard broiled egg for breakfast every morning, something I continued to do when I got home.
There was also a juice dispenser with shot glasses that could contain about half a sip of orange juice.
The coffee machine made halfway decent coffee if you poured in enough sugar. There were tiny cups for the French coffee, which is basically espresso, and larger mugs for “American long coffee.”
Ibis Calais Hotel Room Service
The Ibis Calais had a room service menu, which was a life saver because otherwise I may have starved to death on this side of town. The food was pretty good. Guests had to call the front desk to order and then picked it up – this place was no-frills, so there was no in-room delivery.
I always got the lasagna bolognese with a side salad, glass bottle Coke, and occasionally a molten chocolate cake. It was perfect after a long day of manual labor followed by 2-3 hours of tutoring in the camp. On this trip, I ended up losing 6 pounds that I’d packed on after two years of working from home, eating badly and getting zero exercise. I checked my step tracker every night and it showed that I had walked 4 – 7 miles every day. Since I got back home, I’ve managed to keep the weight off by walking a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.
I recently got word that the Calais Jungle is set to be demolished on October 31 and the volunteers will be evacuated. I don’t know what will happen to the L’Auberge des Migrants/Help Refugees warehouse, but if it does remain open and you decide to head to Calais to help out, I highly recommend staying at a hotel in the city center. It’s closer to everything (laundry, restaurants, transportation, and the refugee camp) and regardless of whether you end up carpooling with other volunteers or taking the bus, you won’t be doing it alone. Plus, the bus fare is the same no matter where you start.
Other than the imagined intruder incident and the issues my check-out (and the subsequent handling of the issues at check-out by the manager), I enjoyed my stay at the Ibis Calais Hotel.
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