By Patricia Keegan
In planning a Paris visit, there is a multitude of hotels from which to choose. It can be confusing, as well as time consuming. Becoming acquainted with the Concorde Hotel Group makes planning a trip to the “City of Light” so much easier. Each address, whether left or right bank, is the best possible starting point to get to know this great city of culture.
Renowned for their quality of service and unique design, no two Concorde hotels resemble each other. They vary from intimate boutique hotel to secluded chateau, from royal palace to executive business hotel, and they all carry a dynamic history. All have state of the art technology.
On a recent trip to Paris, (see Paris, Falling in Love Again), my niece, Diana, and I experienced the adventure of staying at five Concorde hotels. We were surprised at how distinctively different they all were. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we could not pick a favorite. All were held together by a subtle, bonding thread reflected not only in the beauty of the décor, but in the warm, welcoming, down-to-earth staff. Each hotel held its own wonderful surprise.
Hotel Du Louvre
Inspired by the original style of Napoleon III, the Hotel Du Louvre became the first luxury hotel in France in 1855. At the heart of old Paris, between the Opera Garnier House, the Louvre Museum, the square of the Royal Palace, the French Comedy and the State Council, it welcomed not only the rich and famous, but also artists from around the world. Considered the most Parisian of Paris hotels, its location is still unbeatable. Today, it houses 200 rooms decorated in eight different styles.
Opening the door to our chambre, we are immediately drawn in by the daring, scarlet walls and rose tinted rug. The room exudes a deep, rich, relaxing glow. It is as though we have just entered and become part of a warm-toned painting. Tassel–tied, rose colored drapes cover three paneled glass doors, each with its own terrace. Drawing ajar a French door and walking onto the terrace, I am looking from the sixth floor straight down into the quadrangle of the Louvre Museum. To my left, the sweep of the Rue de Rivoli stretches as far as the eye can see.
Standing rooted to this spot, surrounded by spectacular architecture, I was suddenly aware that I had stumbled upon a rare moment, one that would last a lifetime. I was here, I was thrilled, and I realized that somewhere in a room above, in the year 1897, Camille Pissaro had stood likewise, on his terrace, so spellbound by this feast for the eyes, that he decided to make the Hotel du Louvre his home for awhile. From this vantage point came several of his great paintings, now displayed at the Getty Museum of Los Angeles. Falling asleep next to the Louvre has the comfort and glory of resting next to a great cathedral or library. It evokes a feeling of reverence for all the great artists who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of beauty.
Breakfast in the hotel’s glass enclosed Brasserie every morning was enlivened by its view overlooking the bustling streets of Paris, awake and on the move. Service was both cordial and efficient. In the heart of the hotel is the popular Louvre Bar with red and black curtains and a bar of velvet with armchairs signed by Olivier Gagnere. The Bar is a cozy area for lunch, or afternoon tea and a popular meeting place after work.
Among the amenities that makes the Hotel Du Louvre special was the willingness of busy concierges to go to great lengths for guests. We marveled at the sight of Arnaud, who, when he became impatient with the first “inept taxi driver,” came from behind his counter. With grace and style, in black tie and tails, he went striding into the middle of busy Place Andre Malraux, with traffic flying everywhere, to flag down another taxi who knew my address. Thankfully, Arnaud lived to accomplish his mission, and we were on time for our appointment.
The Hotel Du Louvre has succeeded in striking the precise chord of gracious hospitality in comfortable, yet elegant, surroundings. Upon discovering this address, discerning travelers can be assured of a secure, dependable friend in Paris, in an unparalleled location.
For more information go to www.hoteldulouvre.com. Tel: 33-1/44-58-38-38.
Hotel Lutetia on the Left Bank
In 52 BC the Romans conquered Lutetia, and a thriving town grew on the site of today’s left bank. In 212 AD Lutetia was renamed Paris and became the capital of the Frankish king Clovis. Hence the name given to the magnificent, belle epoch Hotel Lutetia, built in 1910. Located in the heart of the St. Germain de Pres, near the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, it became the core of the artistic revival during the war years, accommodating numerous notable painters and writers including Picasso, Matisse and Andre Gide. It prides itself on being the first hotel in Paris to get rid of the Nazis and to welcome the GI’s.
Today the hotel’s 231 guestrooms still attract international celebrities who elect it as their favorite meeting place, and one can see why. The tradition of art is kept bright and alive at every turn. On permanent display is an amazing collection of sculptures by well-known artists such as Phillipe Hiquily, Arman and Cesar. The Art Deco interior is decorated in warm reds and grays, with subdued lighting and stained glass windows.
With this prevailing sense of the artistic encountered at every turn, when we opened the door to our room and saw the Eiffel Tower -- framed in our window, alight and sparkling, we could hardly believe it wasn’t a wonderful illusion. Its magnetism drew us back to the street for a challenging, enjoyable walk until after midnight.
An added attraction of our spacious room was a miniature library area where you could work at a mahogany desk besides a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with a collection in several languages. Another was the fantastic bathroom with, undoubtedly, the best spa-style shower in Paris. With two spouts on both sides and the traditional one on top, the water was strong and the temperature could be gauged to perfection. This is not to be taken for granted in Paris, where, with a seeming abundance of knobs, one has to figure out just how the shower works before taking a chance.
With its glassed-in brasserie terrace, gourmet restaurant, modern fitness center and famous jazz evenings, The Lutetia, a Rive Gauche Deluxe Grand hotel, stands in a world of its own and is an experience not to be missed. This unique setting adds to the total “joie de vivre” of Paris.
Check out www.lutetia-paris.com for more information or call 33-1/49-54-46-46.
Our first stop on our adventure of discovery in Paris was the Hotel Ambassador. Coming from Charles de Gaulle Airport, my niece and I rolled our suitcases from the Roissy Bus stop at the magnificent Opera Garnier, past the Galleries Lafayette, down boulevard Haussmann and in five minutes we had arrived at the lovely Hotel Ambassador. Standing next to a magnificent floral arrangement, jet-lagged and weary, we received a wonderful welcome from the manager, Herve Le Berre. We were shown to a fabulous suite consisting of two spacious rooms. Designed to create a warm and personal ambience, a sitting room with its own television and reading area and a bedroom. Our jet lag seemed to disappear as we delighted in this perfect start to our introduction to Paris.
What makes this hotel unique is how the designer has taken Haussmann designs from the 19th century and transfigured them into the 21st. Later, in a meeting with the manager and assistant manager, they talked about renovations to the hotel.
“When the present is juxtaposed with the past, the atmosphere becomes more intimate and convivial; the space becomes playful and filled with joy.”
It truly is joyful because it is daring, especially the ambience in the famous 16 Haussmann, a gourmet restaurant with a cascading rainbow of color and a lively play on stripes. On a sad note, both men also spoke of the relationship between our two countries and how heartbroken they were on 9/11. “We felt as though we were American.”
The Hotel Ambassador’s salons are unique in style and here again you see the design of retaining the old and beautiful ceilings with a play of color through special lighting and bold, wide, vivid hues on striped carpets. Any conference in one of the eight salons would be dynamic and lively. The cozy, intimate Lindbergh Bar is where he was celebrated in 1927after his historic Atlantic crossing.
The Hotel Ambassador represents the Paris of strolling, of shopping and because of its proximity to the Opera Garnier it lies at the musical heart of the city. It would be the perfect place to stay during the opera season starting in October. The staff is efficient and congenial, and the concierges are particularly helpful, gracious and humorous.
For more information visit www.hotelambassador-paris.com or call (33) 01.44.83.40.40.
Hotel De Crillon
The famous Hotel De Crillon rightfully belongs to the palace category of hotels in Paris. Commissioned in 1758 by Louis XV, the Count of Crillon acquired the palace in 1788. It remained in the prominent Crillon family until 1907 when the Societe des Grands Magasins et des Hotels du Louvre transformed it into a magnificent hotel which opened in 1909.
The hotel stands nobly overlooking one of the most beautiful sites in the world, the famous Place de la Concorde. One look in the guestbook recounts its own history of the 90 guestrooms and 57 suites. Being a palace, of course, it caters to kings, queens and the rich and famous of the world, ranging from Richard Nixon, George Bush, Herbert Hoover, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, to Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna.
The hotel’s 90 guestrooms and 57 suites “Grand Apartments” are exquisitely furnished and decorated with Aubusson carpets, Baccarat chandeliers and Wedgewood china.
Our rectangular shaped, luxurious room, with three windows and high ceilings, is decorated in cream and gold, with three chandeliers and a large marble bathroom, It is filled with natural light. The entire atmosphere throughout this luxury hotel is bright airy and spacious.
With its own Michelin two star restaurant, Les Ambassadeurs, featuring award winning chef Dominique Bouchet, it is one of the most prominent restaurants in France.
The new Ecole des Fleurs, a master class under the direction of Christian Tortu, one of the most celebrated florists in the world, is a unique opportunity exclusive to the hotel. Special packages including 90-minute classes are available.
See www.crillon.com or call Concorde Hotels at 800-888-4747, or dial direct: 33-1/44-71-15-01.
Chateau Hotel Mont Royal
The Chateau Mont Royal is a fabulous discovery just outside Paris and some 15 minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport. Located in the heart of the Chantilly forest, it is 45 minutes from Paris by RER train.
This is where you come to take a deep breath and reconnect with nature. The 18th-century chateau is so beautiful, so refreshing and so comfortable, it is a hotel to fall in love with. Rooms are spacious with great views of the countryside. From our terrace overlooking the forest, my niece and I would return from a hike and sit in tranquility, watching the sun set --a huge ball of orange fire slowly sinking below the tops of green trees, splashing soft colors in a semicircle across the sky.
We swam in the indoor Olympic pool, worked out in the modern fitness center, and sang, while playing squash, in enclosed courts with their wonderful echoes. We wallowed in the Jacuzzi and were revitalized in the sauna.
Breakfast, in the magnificent dining room overlooking flower-filled gardens and a wide terrace, was a special treat. The café au lait was the best I had in Paris, and the variety of fruits, cheeses, eggs, bacon and sausages were excellent. Dinner in Le Stradivarius, however, was a little disappointing, with a menu not as varied as one might expect. Tiring of traditional French cuisine, which I find lacking in vegetables and greens, my craving for a good salad was accommodated by the gracious waiter, Eric, who without much ado presented a refreshing green salad with tomatoes, onions, herbs and seasonings.
A visit to the nearby Conde Museum is a must, within walking distance from Chantilly and a 20-minute drive from the Chateau. The museum is a miniature Louvre established by the Duke of Aumale. With a collection of 800 paintings, it is a mecca for historical French painting, which can be viewed leisurely, as the museum is not crowded. The quiet village of Chantilly has some excellent restaurants including La Ferme.
A stay at the Chateau Mont Royal is an exercise in total relaxation. The professional staff is dedicated to the care of their guests, as well as the unique grandeur of the setting.
For more information see www.chateau-mont-royal.com or tel: 33-3/44-54-50-50.