I flew to Europe to start my France vacation on United in business class, with flat-bed seats from Washington Dulles to Paris. The service was great and the sleeper seats were very comfortable.
In Paris we stayed the first night at La Tremoille Hotel, which is about 1 1/2 blocks from the Four Seasons George V. It's one of our Signature collection properties, a lovely boutique hotel, great location. I saw all 5 categories of rooms and they all were lovely. Rooms are large, beautifully decorated, with great bathrooms and amenities. Their buffet breakfast was sumptuous and served in the dining room. I also enjoyed a very good dinner there.
Spent two nights at the 4-star boutique Hotel Le Littre, located on the left bank between the neighborhoods of Saint Germain des Pres and Montparnasse. My room was very flowery, older style. Good breakfast served in the breakfast room, no restaurant, small bar. Had dinner one evening at La Coupole Restaurant near the hotel. A very large historic brasserie restaurant. We saw Jeff Goldblum there!
Had the opportunity to visit the following hotels as well:
Hotel d'Aubusson - located in St Germain des Pres. Beautiful old style French boutique hotel with a beautiful patio, fireplace in the lobby area, small restaurant with jazz (is being redecorated). Rooms were very nicely decorated, nice bathrooms -- nothing to dislike.
Hotel Pont Royal - one of our 5-star Signature Collection hotels, located in St Germain des Pres. The Pont Royal bar was a favorite hangout
of authors like Hemingway and famous artists - the bar has been redone and is beautiful. The rooms are beautiful, too, a little more modern feel. Some with great views of the streets of St. Germain. Dark wood and navy hallways, but the rooms are very light and decorated nicely.
Relais Christine - very charming hotel located in St Germain des Pres. Rooms were beautifully decorated. Several were duplex style with an upstairs/downstairs. The garden suite was beautiful.
Espirit St Germain - This hotel is located in St Germain, 5-star, more modern style. Great living room area off the lobby with a fireplace. Beautifully decorated rooms with nice bathrooms. Their suite would be great for a family of 4.
Other than checking out hotels, I enjoyed meeting with the manager at the famous, historical Parisian department store, Galeries Lafayette, and spending some time in the VIP area at the top floor, where personal shoppers assist VIP clients with their selections. Took the dinner cruise on the Bateaux-Mouches - what a good time and great views of the city at night, especially the Eiffel Tower.
We left Paris by first-class rail to Strasbourg. The French train was very comfortable, big colorful comfy seats, with a little lamp on the table (if you were seated with 4 people). Lots of space for luggage in the front and back of the train. You didn't need to store it above your seat.
We stayed at Hotel La Cour du Corbeau - This is a terrific 4-star boutique. Great location across the little river from the main area of Strasbourg. Hardwood floors in the rooms, some with a garden view. They took the old style of the wood beams and updated it so it has a little shabby chic style with interesting little tables and chairs in the rooms and public areas. Dark wood beams in the bathrooms which were very nice with a big bathtub. Entry to the hotel is on a cobblestone driveway, with many decorated Christmas trees and decorations. They have a little sitting area outside before you enter the hotel, off the breakfast area. They had a great breakfast in the mornings.
Hotel Regent Petite France - is a larger hotel in a seventeenth century building which used to be a mill, bread and ice factory. Great location in center of Strasbourg. Its a little more modern style, larger rooms and lobby, restaurant with patio, very nice small luxury hotel.
Hotel Le Bouclier d'Or - old mansion style hotel in center of town that has been bought by a family and totally refurbished. Beautifully redone with colorful fabrics and beautiful old antique furniture. Mr. Jung and his wife are the new owners and run the hotel, he personally gave us a tour and served us hot wine and breads (which he baked) in the lobby area!
The Christmas Market in Strasbourg was beautiful, very festive, lots of lights. Lots of hot wine to drink while shopping. One day we met in a tent at the Christmas market to bake Bredele (small Christmas cake from Alsace). We also took a boat tour of the city on the Bateau Mouche, which was lovely.
Some restaurants we samples included:
-Restaurant La Table de Louise - classic French food
-Restaurant Maison des Tanneurs - their specialty is sauerkraut-and-pork platter.
-Le Tire-Bouchon -a traditional Alsatian restaurant
In Strasbourg, the local wine is mainly white , especially good is Cremant (sparking wine) and Muscat (sweet wine). Boutique Wolfberger is a shop which carries this wine and can also do wine tasting.
We headed to Baden-Baden, Germany. Baden-Baden is known for its beautiful thermal baths/spas. We visited the Caracalla spa which is the best to go to if you prefer to wear a swimsuit. Friedrichsbad is another spa but is mainly nude bathing.
We stayed at Steigenberger Europaischer Hof Hotel, a historic old-style hotel with charm, located across from the Casino and Christmas Market. A small stream runs in front of the hotel along with a large park. We ate at Restaurant Rizzi which sits next to the stream/park. Across the park is the Museum Frieder Burda featuring modern art.
Also looked in on:
Hotel Merkur - 3-star small boutique hotel. Rooms are modern style. Nice hotel for the more budget conscious.
Hotel Belle Epoque - is a beautiful neo-renaissance villa with garden.
Hotel Der Kleine Prinz - sister hotel to the Belle Epoque, it's a charming town villa with decor taken from the book " The Little Prince".
Brenners Park Hotel & Spa - 5-star luxury hotel, very grand. Presidents Obama and Clinton have stayed here. Beautiful pool, spa and restaurants. It's a 10-minute walk to the old town.
Dorint Maison Messmer - 5-star, more like a business/conference hotel, very nice, more modern style. Near the park and Christmas market.
Aqua Aurelia Suite Hotel - elegant suite hotel connected to the Caracalla spa by underground tunnel. Good location next to old town.
-Restaurant Rizzi - Mediterranean food
-Kurhaus Restaurant - fine dining, haute cuisine (next door to the Kurhaus Casino, which we also visited after dinner)
-Rive Gauche im Kulturhaus - Mediterranean food, is affiliated with Brenners Park Hotel
-Weinstube Baldreit - little wine bar in the middle of old town. Traditional German food, great flammkuchen.
A highlight in Baden-Baden was the arrival of Santa Claus by hot air balloon at the Christmas Market. (Actually they put air in the balloon in the grassy area next to the market and Santa went up in the balloon only a few feet then they brought the balloon down and had him enter the stage to see the children. But the balloon was really fabulous.)
We continued to Frankfurt, where we stayed at the Maritim Hotel, a modern hotel connected to the convention center and next door to concert hall.
We enjoyed a guided city tour of Frankfurt in the snow. We took the subway from the hotel downtown. At the the Main Tower we went to the top of the 56th floor (5th largest building in Europe). It was snowing so didn't have the best view but it was fun. We went to the Goethe Haus and then to the Christmas Market which was in downtown Frankfurt, beautiful setting. After we went to the Apfelwein Wagner restaurant for dinner where we tried the famous Frankfurt apple wine and traditional green sauce. I flew home from Frankfurt airport. Learn more about Germany vacation packages and our list of hand picked hotels from our team of travel experts.
Contact Gail Hiddleston to learn more about planning a trip to see the famous French and German Christmas markets.