Who doesn’t dream of a French luxury adventure – and a few “under the radar” Parisian secrets?
Let’s start with the Shangri-La, Paris. Since 1933 when author James Hilton wrote Lost Horizon, the name Shangri-La encapsulates the serenity and hospitality for which the brand is renowned worldwide. If you are a luxury aficionado, The Shangri-La, Paris, should definitely be on your radar screen.
That’s “Hospitality” with a capital H. When I checked into my impeccable room at the Shangri-La Paris, it featured a bouquet of fresh flowers, a bottle of champagne, a fruit basket – and a special coconut-chocolate cake. The Shangri-La did not disappoint; indeed, our five-star suite was as luxurious as luxurious gets, including an ultra-comfortable feather bed that will have you napping in no time. Shangri-La group’s tradition of service excellence started with the opening of Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore in 1971 and is based on the core values of sincerity, humility, helpfulness, respect, courtesy, and selflessness. That’s what sets the Shangri-La apart. Once you stay at a Shangri-La, there’s no going back.
Baverez Hotels: Three Hidden Treasures
I also discovered three hidden French hotel gems that had never been on my radar screen before: The Baverez Hotels. This family-owned business for four generations is owned by the Baverez family, and what sets this hotel brand apart, among many things, is that, unbelievably, all three of its hotels are five-star luxury properties. That’s an impressive statistic, and you will undoubtedly be thrilled with all three Baverez Hotels.
Let’s start with The Majestic, a luxurious, palatial property where rooms go for at least 1200E per night. The Majestic has been home to numerous photo, TV and movie shoots featuring Bruce Willis, Catherine-Zeta Jones, and Rupert Everett, and 40% of its customer base is repeat guests. One of the highlights is the spa where I enjoyed an extraordinary facial of French-made Matis products.
Baverez Hotels also include the 83-room Raphael, another five-star showpiece hotel, which was constructed to resemble a private house.
A member of Leading Hotels of the World, the Raphael features rooms whose attention to detail, and whose décor and design, will transport you. Rooms are the Raphael start at about 900E per night and can go up to 2,000E per night. The Eiffel Tower Suite, where Hollywood actor Ryan Gosling once stayed, is #609, and it is also actor Frank Langella’s favorite suite. It’s palatial, decorated in a classic style, and its huge outdoor stone terrace is a great place to view the city.
Then there’s the unquestionably lovable Regina hotel, ideally situated in the heart of Paris on the Rue Rivoli and across from the Louvre, and within a short distance from the Opera and the “Grands Magasins” (Galeries Lafayette and Printemps).
General Manager Valentino Piazzi at the Regina Hotel, oversees the stately operation of this Grand Dame. Filled with charm, the Regina is a delightful haven, that, says Mr. Piazzi, “is part of the most authentic and unique hotels – a family hotel group – which has been owned by the same family for 150 years. There are more family values that come into every decision,” he added. “It’s a unique property, whereas corporate-run hotel properties lack the human touch,” he added.
Head For The Hilton
The beautiful, newly renovated Hilton Paris Opera offers guests an elegant blend of history and Parisian chic, set within an iconic building which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. In the heart of the city, next to Paris’ Gare Saint-Lazare, the Hilton boasts 268 rooms including 29 suites across five floors, each of them designed in a sophisticated, refined and contemporary style. This hotel also offers an executive lounge and state-of-the-art fitness center, plus six meeting rooms with natural daylight, and the Baccarat Ballroom, featuring vintage chandeliers from the famous crystal maker. We were also delighted with the Executive Club Lounge, as a great place to savor a snack – especially Nutella crepes!
For something completely different – and under the radar – I made my entrée to the Palais Royal, with Elaine Sense. Elaine is an American who has loved living in Paris for the past 20 years, and her newly launched business, Elaine’s Paris offers curated, insider’s shopping trips in Paris that you won’t find anywhere else. At the Palais Royal, just one area where she took us, designer shops abound and you can find exquisite merchandise that is oh-so-French and unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. Our first stop was Gabrielle Geppert at #31, a shop where you can find secondhand luxury designer merchandise such as Chanel and Hermes.
Traction Optician is the place to find European eye frames that will make you a standout. This family-owned business features eyewear that is all handmade in France.
Serge Lutens Fragrance
At Serge Lutens, ready yourself for a rich experience into the world of fragrance. Mr. Lutens, who formerly was the artistic director of Shiseido, has created an unparalleled world of fabulous aromas. Today his shop offers more than 70 fragrances and also a makeup line. The lipsticks, which are refillable, cost about 70E each, with #7 hailed as being the perfect red.
The shop is dimly lit so that you can focus specifically on the perfume and the sensation of smelling it without any distractions. In short, call Elaine for a first-class, private, French luxury shopping trip – and make sure to say that Upscale Living Magazine sent you!
The World’s Best Dinner
For a once-in-a-lifetime treat to an unforgettable meal — look no further than the 114 Faubourg restaurant at the elegant Le Bristol Hotel that was recently named The Best Hotel In The World 2015 by the prestigious Gallivanter’s Guide.
Let me say this upfront: I’ve had many fabulous meals, all over the world – but I have to say that our dinner at 114 Faubourg at the five-star Bristol Hotel, is hands down, the best meal I have ever eaten in my life. Anywhere.
The amuse bouche, which was fantastic, set the stage for the elegant meal that was to come. It consisted of morels that epitomized the true essence of what a mushroom should taste like, complemented with wine, asparagus, and foam. The mesclun salad featuring shavings of aged parmesan. The black-truffle vinaigrette was luscious and paired with a Vaillons Chablis Premier Cru. We started with blue lobster steamed with fennel, chestnut, and celeriac, paired with Alsace Riesling that was dry crisp and fruity.
Now let me talk about the cod – Oh my God, the cod. It came in a light beef broth – I know that may sound strange – but it worked because it was paired with cardamom, and I could have made a meal out of just that sauce. This meal was a culinary thrill. Do yourself a favor – don’t just dine here – but also book at least one night at the famed Le Bristol Hotel as a hallmark – and highlight — of your trip. And make sure to make your reservation for 114 Faubourg for the best meal of your life.
See It All With The Paris Pass
If you’re traveling to a city such as Paris, the trick is how to find a way to experience as much as you can – in the shortest timeframe. The Paris Pass solves that problem – and we even found a way to make the experience even better (Read on). The Paris Pass comes in several varieties, and we chose the two-day pass (122E) that offers 48 hours of unlimited metro use, the ability to ride on the hop-on-hop-off bus, free entry to most museums (for example, Opera Garnier and Musee D’Orsay but not the Eiffel Tower) and in some cases upgraded quick entry into museums and attractions. Take our advice – make a list of what you want to see, give it to your hotel concierge, and have them map out an itinerary for you that shows you how to schedule it all with your free Metro pass. The Paris Pass was well worth the price of admission, especially when you consider that we visited not only the usual suspects but also the Fragonard Parfumerie and the Chocolate Museum. A first-class trip to Paris couldn’t be any more delightful.