Did you read the title of this post to the tune of that classic hit Living In A Box by that oh-so-famous group Living In A Box? Yes? Then I think it’s fair to say you’re probably too old to enjoy a stay in one of Jo&Joe’s “cabins”. Unfortunately I found this out the hard way, but hopefully telling you about my painful, claustrophobic experience will save you from making the mistake of booking one.
Or, if you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be inside a coffin, then read on and wonder no more. Because staying in a cabin at Jo&Joe is exactly what I imagine it would be like inside a coffin. Actually, maybe even worse – at least in the coffin you’d be dead (one would hope), so the airless, confined space wouldn’t bother you.
Fully alive throughout my stay, however, it seriously bothered me. After just one night there I felt anxious, tired and irritable. It’s highly possible that if I’d had to sleep there just one more night, the streets of Paris may have witnessed me having a Michael Douglas-style Falling Down meltdown. After the Notre Dame trauma earlier in the week, let’s be thankful that I only stayed in a Jo&Joe coffin – err I mean cabin – for two nights.
What is Jo&Joe?
The Jo&Joe brand is part of the Accor Hotels group. With one property already well established in Hossegor, south-west of France, the one in Gentilly, Paris (where I stayed) is the second addition to the family. It opened its doors on 1 April 2019 – so was only a few weeks old when I checked in on Friday 19 April.
Jo&Joe describes the concept of its accommodation as “a house open to all, a cool and caring place to live, at the crossroads of a hostel, a hotel and a private rental.” It plans to open 50 properties by 2020, in mostly city centre locations (including Warsaw, Budapest, Rio and São Paulo) close to public transport and less than 15 minutes away from major points of interest. Foolproof plan me thinks.
Predominantly aimed at Generation Y travellers, Jo&Joe is designed to “meet the expectations of Millennials and all those who value sharing, spontaneity and experience”. I value experience, I really do (in fact, I’ve had some pretty awesome experiences in my 30+ years – I’ve learnt a lot from travelling) – but I’ll be honest, staying in a cabin at Jo&Joe is an experience I’d sooner forget.
Inside Jo&Joe Gentilly.
“Positive, unrestrained, fun and unfussy”, Jo&Joe says it’s a reflection of its customers: “open, connected, curious about everything and in tune with their time.”
You can come to a Jo&Joe just to hang out, for food and drinks with friends, or to spend the night. The building is open to everyone all day, and has a kitchen serving homemade dishes (though I didn’t try any myself).
The Jo&Joe Gentilly building was co-created by the Penson design and architecture studio, which is best known for inventing spaces as smart as they are aesthetically pleasing; it’s worked with some of the most visionary brands in the world (including Google, YouTube, Jaguar Land Rover and PlayStation). The vibe inside was as you’d expect: quirky, eclectic, colourful, a haven for Instagrammers and influencers.
I’m sure had I not had such a horrible experience in my cabin, I may have spent more time in the communal spaces, maybe even made a friend or two. But to be honest, the whole “hang-around-with-randoms-and-chat-bollocks-about-your-last-trip-to-Bali” hostel thing is not for me. Sorry Jo&Joe.
Where is Jo&Joe?
Gentilly Jo&Joe is located just outside Paris city centre, between Porte d’Orléans and Porte de Gentilly. It’s a five minute walk from the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, and 10 minutes from Charlety Stadium,
The location was perfect. Getting there was easy – Jo&Joe is directly connected to both Roissy and Orly airports by the RER train network (the airports are 30 and 45 minutes door-to-door respectively). I arrived very late on the Friday night after getting the Eurostar from London Kings Cross St Pancras. I took a train from Gare du Nord straight to Gentilly, which cost me just 1.90€ – then walked five minutes from Gentilly station to the hostel.
What are the rooms like at Jo&Joe?
If you want to book a stay at Jo&Joe, there are three types of room to choose from:
1. Dorm rooms at Jo&Joe.
The dormitory style rooms range in size from two to 12 beds. They offer mixed accommodation, but can be booked in entirety for “small tribes”, or they’re a good option for solo travellers to meet others. They come with deluxe bunk beds especially designed for Jo&Joe, and each bed includes bed linen and a private locker, as well as access to the room’s shared bathroom. Prices start from 25€ per night.
2. Private rooms at Jo&Joe.
The private rooms apparently offer “a perfect night’s rest for solo travellers and love birds alike”. Each comes with a huge, comfy king-size bed, and is equipped with USB ports, a bedside lamp, towels and bed sheets. They also have their own private en-suite bathroom.
Prices start from 70€ per night, and in hindsight, I should have forked out the cash and booked one of these rooms. At least then I’d have had a proper bed and a window with natural light…
3. Cabin rooms at Jo&Joe.
Inspired by Japanese hotels and their sleeping “pods”, the cabin rooms are a sort of private room with a single bed to sleep one person. Jo&Joe thinks cabins are the “perfect option between a bunk bed and a private room”. You have your own private space in a boat-like cabin, which is supposed to equipped with a queen-size bed, USB ports, fans, and a bedside lamp. Towels and bed sheets are meant to be included, and there’s a shared bathroom for everyone to use.
The luxury of staying in one of these “private” cabins will set you back at least 28€ per night. But what was it really like to stay in a little wooden box?
What it’s really like inside a “cabin” at Jo&Joe…
To keep the cost of my trip to a minimum (after all, Paris was only a pit-stop before going to Montreal), but too afraid to take a dorm after my last hostel experience (the least said about that the better), I booked a cabin room. Quel erreur.
I arrived at Gentilly just before midnight. Getting to Jo&Joe was easy, but as soon as I stepped through the glass double doors, it all started going wrong. The check-in process was painfully long – I stood there waiting for 15 minutes to be served, as both guys behind the desk attended to a large Asian family (it looked like there were three adults to about 20 kids, though who knows, maybe it was a school trip?). The kids were running riot, charging around, eating sandwiches as they ran and leaving a trail of crumbs in their wake. Mumma Asian didn’t speak French or particularly great English – she didn’t understand that she had to pay the local tax on arrival.
After what seemed an age, out of nowhere Papa Asian walked in, handed over his debit card and the whole thing was sorted. They were given room keys – but then started arguing that their group had been split between rooms on floors 1 and 3. I prayed that I would have a cabin far, far away from the noisy boisterous children.
I was in luck – my cabin was on floor 5. I had already paid the full rate, so just handed over a couple of euros for the local tax. I could see a stack of towels on the side, so (grateful for the fact that I can speak French) asked to be sure: “Puis-je vous demander, s’il y a une serviette dans ma chambre?” I was told towels were chargeable and cost 5€. Luckily I had a tab open on my phone that showed a description of the room, which said towels were included. Begrudgingly the guy handed one over. I then went off, down the trippy hallway in search of my cabin…
After eventually finding my room through the laser quest-esque maze of corridors, I swiped the key card and pushed open the door.
I was on the bottom bunk, that was a plus at least. The main space in my cabin was taken up by a queen-size plastic, wipe-clean mattress. As soon as I saw it I was reminded of a baby’s changing mat, or the plastic “just in case” sheet that my brother had over his mattress when he was going through a bed wetting phase. And it looked like this mattress was plastic for the exact same reason: it hadn’t been wiped down and was covered with suspicious, sticky stains. I felt disgusting.
There was a tiny little wooden table in the corner, two wall hooks and a little shelf on the wall. Apart from the that, the space was never ending ply wood. The bed wasn’t made, and I didn’t really fancy sleeping straight on the mattress, so using the sheet (which I hoped was clean) and the duvet, I rolled it out on top of the mattress. To get I had to sort of army man crawl into the space, dodging the suspicious stains.
There was a little window to the side, but as the main room lights were on, I kept this closed. Having no natural light in the cabin was a horrible feeling – it was stuffy, airless and hard to know what time of day it was. Despite being so tired and arriving so late, it took me ages to fall asleep on the Friday night, mostly because of a clunky, noisy aircon unit. When I did eventually drift off, I woke every hour or so to check my phone and see what the time was, worried that I had slept through the day because there was no natural light to wake me.
But it wasn’t until about 9am on the Saturday morning that I realised the full extent of my mistake booking a Jo&Joe cabin.
As I lay there staring up at the knots in the wood overhead, I listened the American guy in the cabin above, having not one but three separate FaceTime conversations with his Tinder matches from back home in Atlanta (poor, poor ladies – little do they know that he’s planning to take you all out to his favourite restaurant). He bragged to each of them about the amount he’d drunk the night before and how he’d puked all over his mattress. I felt sick myself.
I’d had enough; in a rush to get out and get to the shared bathroom, I sat bolt upright, cracking my head on the wood above. If even a 5ft1 shorty like me has problems sitting up in the bed, then it’s not a good sign. I made it to the bathroom just in time…
Considering it was a shared bathroom, I was actually really impressed with the facilities. There were plenty of toilet cubicles, all clean with toilet paper. And the shower pods were amazing – very powerful Grohe showers, all spotless without any grime, mildew or watermarks:
Apart from the amazing location, lovely clean bathroom and powerful shower, the only plus point to my stay at Jo&Joe were the employees working there. All the staff at this hostel-hotel hybrid were super friendly and very helpful.
Official checkout was supposed to be 11am on the Sunday morning, but after yet another sleepless, stressful night, I found it impossible to drag my arse out of the cabin. I wheeled my case down about 1.10pm, fully expecting to pay a late check out charge. But they didn’t bat an eyelid. Maybe they’ve encountered other guests who’ve had a bad night in the cabins?
As I sat on the plane from Paris to Montreal writing this post, I realised I actually had a splinter in my right thumb. I can’t be 100% sure it was from the cabin, but I’m struggling to think where else it may have been from.
After such a horrible, claustrophobic experience, I think it’s pretty safe to say I won’t be booking any more “cabin” stays at Jo&Joe, or anywhere similar. I think it’s also safe to say the next time I sleep in a box will be the only time when I won’t be waking up.