Tennis anyone? Yes, those are tennis nets on the bed board. ( Photo)

By Michael Lewis Editor

PARIS — One of the best things when traveling is staying at a boutique hotel that has its own unique ambiance.

In this city, I am rooming at the Olympic Hotel. It’s theme? Tennis, because it is near Roland-Garros, home of the French Open.

Here is what my room looks like, with a tennis slant. Yes, a tennis net is on the headboard and yes, even our room keys are attached to tennis balls (yes, we have to give them up when we leave). I love it. According to hotel management, those balls were actually used at Roland-Garros.

It reminded me of the Roxbury Motel in the Catskills, which has theme rooms. Joy and I usually stay there for summer vacation.


Because I am not part of the official media plan for the most part, I have had to find my own housing.

No problem, so far.

My place in Reims was a residential hotel (think Residence Inn by Marriott, French style, with a kitchen, stove and microwave).

The room at the Olympic Hotel is much smaller, but there is no comparison with its ambiance.

And besides, it is within walking distance of Parc des Princes stadium, the venue for Sunday’s Women’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Chile.

The residential neighborhood in the Boulogne-Billancourt district is a place I would love to live. Across the street from the hotel is an Italian restaurant, which makes fantastic pizza (ate there Thursday night) and a store with a fruit stand in front of (bought peaches, grapes and water).

When I arrived here Wednesday, I did a short walk around the neighborhood. There are some really nice restaurants, which usually open around 7 p.m. (yes, they eat late in Europe, especially in France). One restaurant the hotel recommended to me seemed to be a little too expensive, so I found one just about across the street. It didn’t look as modern. In fact, it looked a bit rundown from the outside.

But a full course meal for 13.90 Euros certainly whet my appetite. I had a huge walnut salad, steak and fries and ice cream for dessert. Of course, there was bread.

Slowly, but surely, while I was eating, the place started to fill up. Local residents, I presume, businessmen in suits, and even people taking out food. Yes, I had picked the right place and hope to return for another dinner.

Another reasons we should not pick a book by its cover or how a restaurant looks from the outside.

If the U.S. returns here for the Round of 16 or quarterfinals, I would love to stay at this hotel and this area again.