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“Eccentric, great for coffee lovers”

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SenS Hotel & Vanne Bistro Berkeley
Ranked #20 of 20 Hotels in Berkeley
Reviewed 17 December 2009

In my opinion the French Hotel has the best coffee in the East Bay. But it's not everyone's cup of tea, as it were. The place is run-down, not particularly clean or cozy, but it is a very local haunt. The same people have been sitting there for decades, every morning, discussing how to save the world from itself. I go there whenever I can for coffee when in Berkeley, to go with my brioche from the nearby Cheeseboard bakery.

The hotel itself is thus conveniently located if you insist on having the best coffee and best bread in Berkeley for your breakfast, not to mention the best pizza (again the Cheeseboard). There are no really good hotel options in Berkeley, the hotels are either overpriced or sleazy. This one is just quirky. The rooms are filthy, the sheets and covers are what you'd find in your grandmother's attic, including the holes in the blanket, very uncomfortable, a Motel 6 would be ashamed. But it isn't sleazy, for some reason.

There's wireless internet and it mostly works. It is walking distance from the University, and the walk is a nice one if you go by the residential streets. If you have a car, there's only a 50% chance you'll get a parking permit from the hotel, and pretty much 0% chance on the first night but you can park on the street at night. The rooms overlook the Andronico's parking lot. There is one room on the 3rd floor with a bay view, but it's way too hot in summer and it's noisy.

It's a big priority for me to stay in that neighborhood, see above brioche mention, and it's the only hotel there, and since it's bearable and affordable, I still stay there when on professional visits. But it really wouldn't hurt for someone to take up a collection to replace the bedding.

  • Stayed: May 2009, travelled on business
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2  Thank goanywherefast
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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38 - 44 of 62 reviews

Reviewed 18 April 2009

Right near the train and a grocery store with lots of trucks entering in the early morning. Very noise and mediocre rooms and location.

  • Stayed: July 2006, travelled with family
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2  Thank Chicagohoosier07
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 October 2008

This is a small comfortable hotel located on Shattack St in Berkeley across the street from Che Panise, the famous retsaurant. Ron , the manager, is very accomodating and helpful. My wife & I have stayed here several times. Excellent location to U C of Berkeley and Napa and SF. Do try it!

  • Stayed: September 2008, travelled on business
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1  Thank ShanaMadel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 September 2008

my trip started badly and ended badly in regards to this hotel. when we arrived at the hotel at 1:00a.m after making a reservation our rooms that we had booked had been given to someone else, but after about a hour of arguing with the gentleman at the lobby area, we were finally given rooms with fold out beds. they didn't seem to care or compensate us in any way after them messing up.. in fact they wanted to charge us more because our room was not available. we had booked for 3 nights and because they messed up we had to change room every morning at 11:00a.m. not exactly the best situation when hung over after drinking in the area each night. i felt that the lady of asian decent with grey hair who worked the night shift to be possibly the most ignorant and least helpful lady i have ever met while i have been in america the last 3 months. the hotel it self stinks of coffee, a really strong smell that started to annoy me, the rooms were small, with a very small fridge, no iron, no microwave, no air conditioning, no fan, and i found it very noisy. basically the only thing i liked about the hotel was the area it was in. i will not be staying there again. id rather live with the bums on the street, if you choose to go here i hope u are treated better than i was.

3  Thank gooeylue
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 March 2008

My sister and I stayed here because of the lively neighborhood in which it is located. The earlier reviews were a little scary, but it seems the hotel has been more recently renovated. It's not luxurious, but perfectly comfortable, clean and safe. Actually its more like a small pension in France as the name suggests. We had one of the limited number of parking permits, which was worth a lot in Berkeley.

The room rate does not include breakfast although there's a busy coffee shop on the first floor and a well-patronized bakery a couple doors away. We chose to have breakfast at the original Peet's around the corner and up the hill.

  • Stayed: March 2008, travelled with family
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Thank housewifeseye
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 March 2008

The French Hotel has been a mainstay of North Berkeley for quite a while now, and I've used it since 1990. In 1990 it was quite the place to stay for the price; I suspect ownership has changed several times since then. However:
1). It is walking distance to U. C. Berkeley
2). Chez Panisse is across the street from the hotel, and an excellent Thai restaurant, along with a couple other restaurants, is located within minutes of the hotel entrance.
3). Andronico's (a super market) is right next door.
4). The rates are excellent for a hotel room in Berkeley.

I read all the reviews for this hotel and booked a room for March 12-15, 2008, anyway; with trepidation, a set of clean sheets in my bags, and a list of phone numbers for alternate places to stay.

The hotel is old, yes. It's not well-decorated, yes (but there were flowers on the tables outside the elevator doors on each of the three floors). I chose to examine the available rooms on the third floor (Berkeley's climate is damp, and I had a seasonal mold problem in my own house when I lived there, so I never book first floor rooms when I stay in Berkeley). I chose room 301 (which faces Shattuck Avenue) but 302 would have been acceptable as well (it faces Andronico's parking lot). This is a downtown hotel, so I expected a degree of noise -- I wasn't disappointed; deliveries, commuting traffic, etc. awoke me about 7 am (but had I closed the windows it would have been a degree quieter).

The carpets in the main hallway, and the hallway on the third floor were recently steam-cleaned and still smelled of the sanitizing agent one smells in many hotels these days (I travel a lot). The carpet in room 301 was fairly new, and it was spotless. The bed was comfortable, and the sheets were relatively new (I never used mine). The bathroom was spotless, the shower was powerful, the water was hot, and the toilet flushed well. The room had been painted relatively recently (except for the ceiling -- which was an interesting combination of white and green -- apparently never completely painted over) and the window on the side facing Andronico's was taped shut. The color TV was connected to Time-Warner, and HBO was available. The remote worked fine.

The gentleman at the front desk was very helpful and friendly at check-in. When I asked if I could check-out early the night before my departure (I had to catch a 6 am flight from Oakland), he told me there was no need because he would be there all night. And, at 4 am on my day of departure he was. Check-in and check-out were smooth, and the hotel even arranged for my shuttle to the airport.

I spoke with one of the cleaning staff; she had been at the hotel for 9 years. Her attention to detail was good -- my bed was made up each day, water glasses were changed, and the shampoos, etc. were restocked as well.

I am male, and use a hotel for sleep, so my needs are few. This hotel met all my needs. It is clean, affordable, secure (the room door was metal, with deadbolt, locking handle, and chain) and well-staffed. And I would feel comfortable recommending it to any who are looking for the basics in places to stay. There's no pool, but there is free telephone access and local service. I can't say about parking -- call and ask first; parking in Berkeley is generally a nightmare. The University B.A.R.T. station is about a 3-5 minute walk away. Using B.A.R.T., for about $7.00 a person round trip, San Francisco is but 30 minutes away. And, for breakfast, try Peet's Coffee (to the left and around the corner up the hill) for a taste of Berkeley. It's where Starbucks got started.

  • Stayed: March 2008, travelled on business
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Thank Podarcis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 February 2008

I understood full well going in to the French Hotel what it was. I lived in Berkeley for 2 years approx 2 blocks from the hotel, so it wasn't a mystery to me. That said, you get what you pay for.

The Good:

The neighborhood. Best in Berkeley by far. Next to Andronico's market (an amazing, though expensive, organic lovers market), across the street from Chez Panisse (possibly the greatest restaurant meal possible to experience for foodies) - there are hosts of shops and amenities. If you're going to experience Berkeley and the Bay Area, French Hotel is a good bet for a cheap night's sleep and easy walks to the world. If you're staying here, the must list includes: Elephant pharmacy caddy corner for crazy organic pharmaceuticals, Andronico's, Chez Panisse, Kirala across the street for their take out sushi (I heart salmon rolls), and Saul's for a virtual NYC pastrami experience. The cafe downstairs make solid coffee, as well, and is a local hangout for newspaper readers and the grad student crowd. But note that all the sights are OUTSIDE the hotel.

The Bad:

That brings us to the bad. The hotel itself is pretty much terrible. The rooms haven't been updated in years, the carpets and furniture all smacks of bugs, stains, or mold, and the staff is relatively non existent as far as I can tell. A non existent staff can be good if you want to be left alone, but if you're needing help, forget it. The side rooms (facing Andronico's) are notoriously terrible, and if you decide to stay, DEFINITELY ask for a FRONT ROOM (facing Shattuck avenue). It may be slightly louder if you open the window, but you get more light and the rooms are bigger for the same price.

So, the end result is a solid three stars, since MOST people will not enjoy their stay at the hotel, even if they enjoy their stay in the area. Otherwise, it's a backpacker's delight.

  • Stayed: July 2007, travelled on business
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Thank MrLactose
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about SenS Hotel & Vanne Bistro Berkeley

Address: 1538 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709-1517 (Formerly French Hotel)
Region: United States > California > Berkeley
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #20 of 20 Hotels in Berkeley
Price Range: £102 - £146 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2.5 star — SenS Hotel & Vanne Bistro Berkeley 2.5*
Number of rooms: 18
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
SenS Hotel & Bistro is centrally-located in one of the best food destinations in the Bay Area. The famous Gourmet Ghetto is renowned for its epicurean delights provided by restaurants like the world renowned Chez Panisse, the upscale Mexican restaurant Cesar, and the enormously popular Cheese Board Collective. The famous SenS Bistro is located on the ground-floor and serves the best espressos, lattes and pastries in town. Hotel guests enjoy complementary morning coffee as well as fresh pastries and bagels all while soaking up Berkeley's morning sun and catching up on-line with access to our complimentary Wi-Fi. Our three-level, historical hotel is centrally-located in one of the best walking neighborhoods in town. The hotel is undergoing a complete renovation featuring new amenities such as luxurious walk in showers, high end linens, and new flat screen TVs. Renovations will be completed in early 2017, but until then, you can enjoy our spacious, comfortable rooms equipped with cozy beds, cherrywood armoirs and writing tables. Several of our rooms have balconies. We are conveniently located close to University of California Berkeley and many Berkeley corporate offices. San Francisco is minutes away via freeway and BART. Both San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport are a comfortable drive from our hotel. Our friendly staff will happily assist in any special arrangements that you might need. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
French Hotel Berkeley

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