The good news: Paris remains Paris. It's springtime: The trees of the Tuilleries gardens are plumping up with fresh greenery, sidewalk cafes and restaurants are going full tilt, people-watching is at peak capacity and museums are, as normal, packed. Having toured 21 fabulous hotels offering a wide variety of styles, views and rates last week, I can testify first-hand that not only does life go on but also that Paris, France is ready and waiting to welcome us.
So, moving on to said hotels: I was impressed and delighted by the charming and tasteful Park Hyatt, Palais Royal and Sofitel Faubourg, all in the 1st Arrondissement close to the Place Vendome. I loved the Molitor in the 16th, nearby famous Stadium Roland Garros, which sports two gigantic swimming pools and is built for fun—a sort of artsy, chic Paris meets Hard Rock--for younger, trendier clients.
Our hard-hat tour of the Ritz Paris revealed a stunning pearl re-emerging from its oyster shell. Which means all is well in the world, right? The Plaza Athenee and LeMeurice were as engaging and perfect as ever—different styles for different tastes but both on a par of never-disappointing excellence. The Mandarin Oriental offers a fabulous fashion-centric location Rue St. Honore between the Meurice and the Ritz. Its décor is stunning. When it first opened its service was a bit sluggish, but it seems to have overcome that challenge. However, for those of us of average stature, the height of the bathroom mirrors presented a serious challenge of their own. Great shower though! So what if my room was meant for fashion models? I still love its ambiance, location and comfort.
We viewed the Tour Eiffel’s dazzling light show from the privileged vantage point of the terrace of the Shangri-la Hotel’s rooftop Presidential Suite, itself a sparkling venue located in the 6th. For boutique hotels, my perennial fave is the San Regis, but I also fell in love with La Tremoille, both in the Golden Triangle area. So many fabulous hotels, so little time!
Heading over to the Left Bank, the place for families is Victoria Palace with its wonderful inventory of affordable Junior Suites. We also looked in on the gem boutique hotel Pont Royal, another long-time favorite of mine--love the junior suites with panoramic window or the top-floor one-bedroom suites with balconies and wonderful views. This hotel has the added benefit of Joel Robuchon’s Restaurant within (they cater breakfast!). So we naturally indulged in a scrumptious lunch there.
One massive non-hotel find for clients on this fam was the predecessor of Versailles Palace, Vaux-le-Vicomte, a gorgeous 17th century palace and gardens, opened to the public by its present count, who grew up there and personally showed us around. It was a more accessible version of Versailles perfect for a visitor who doesn’t have the time (or the strength) to take on Versailles. It was originally built by a tax collector for the "Sun King" Louis XIV at the time when the king was still residing at the Louvre Palace in Paris, prior to building Versailles. When the Louis attended the viscount’s housewarming celebration, he became so jealous of this jewel of a palace that several days later he had the viscount arrested and thrown in jail for 10 years purportedly for pilfering treasury funds! Just sayin’… it’s gorgeous! Then Louis hired the same artisans, architect, builder and landscape designer to create his even grander Versailles Palace. That might be considered cheeky if he weren’t the king!
We were also able to fit in a delicious wine and cheese tasting at a Canal Saint Martin shop, a hoot, and of course visit at least one museum (my fave, Musee d'Orsay). In between we enjoyed some dazzling meals at the Westine Vendome, the Mandarin O, Plaza Athenee, the Shangri-la, Palais Royal, Le Meurice, and finally a fabulous small plates dinner at Pinxo Restaurant, also in the 1st.
By no means is Paris an inherently scary place unless you fear and are determined to avoid every chic and exciting metropolis in today’s world.