“My favorite places to hang around are le Marais (in the historic center) and the Latin Quarter (in the 5th arrondissement, near the Jardin du Luxembourg)”, says insider Alain Constant, a journalist at the city’s Le Monde newspaper. “I recommend that visitors not limit their visit to only the classics like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre or Champs-Elysées. Come into the center, to the east of Paris, and walk in the small streets around the Hotel de Ville, Bastille, or perhaps, take a break in the big Bois de Vincennes.”
When asked to create the perfect Parisian day, Constant has his favorites. “I would start by having tea and a fresh croissant in a typical French café on Place des Vosges, while observing the tourists visiting the art galleries and the Parisian fashionistas shopping around. I would then walk through the historical and trendy 4th arrondissement, Le Marais, stopping by the boutique, Mariage Frères on rue Bourg Tibourg to buy the best teas of the world, and then venture to the Centre Beaubourg, the modern art museum.”
He goes on to share, “After wandering around those collections and exhibitions, I would spend as much time in their library, which has one of the best selections of art and design books. For a casual lunch, I would continue towards the 2nd arrondissement, rue Montorgueil, to eat some delicious Italian pasta at Little Italy, or share a table with complete strangers at Le Pain Quotidien―a wonderful way to meet new faces. Afterwards, I would walk down to Place de la Concorde to witness the frenetic Parisian traffic meeting the ancestral Egyptian Obelisque, step into the Crillon hotel and visit the Champs-Elysées. Le Jardin du Luxembourg would be my next stop to have a rest on the benches, watch the kids playing with the sailing boats on the lake and look at the statues paying tribute to famous artists such as Verlaine, Baudelaire or Delacroix.”
“Going out at night is just as glamorous an endeavor. To start the evening, why not pop in for an aperitif at the Experimental Cocktail Bar where they serve excellent drinks, go to the theater and finish with a late dinner in one of my favorite restaurants, perhaps at Hotel Costes? Then, stroll along the Seine river to look at the most beautiful city of the world: the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais, Alexander III bridge, the Louvre, the Orsay Museum, and Notre-Dame. Other notable areas I discovered in Paris, through insider recommendations, include Le Marais, Saint-Sulpice, Avenues Montaigne and Saint-Honore, Sevres-Babylone, Place des Victoires, Les Halles and Saint-Michel–all sublime French experiences. Interesting to note, nobody really shops on the Champs-Elysees, unless they want to find the quintessence at the same boxy chain stores easily found at home.”
While in the city, in between exploring to your heart’s desire, there are a myriad of hotels from which to choose. All dazzling. The usual five-star grand hotels, such as the Georges V, Plaza Athenee, or the Ritz are always top choices for any serious traveler.. I chose the Hôtel de Crillon, a unique and opulent hotel in the heart of the city―the most sought-after location in Paris. The Crillon is next door to the American Ambassador’s residence on the world-famous Place de la Concorde, at one end of the Champs Elysees boulevard that leads directly up to the Arc de Triumph, and near the Seine River. The Hôtel de Crillon, which recently went through a years-long renovation, is within walking distance to the luxurious boutiques of the Faubourg St.-Honore and the Avenue Montaigne, as well as the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens and many more of this famous city’s most acclaimed attractions.
Like everything in Paris, the hotel is steeped in history. Commissioned in 1758 by Louis XV; the Crillon family acquired the palace in 1788 where it remained in the family until 1907 when the Societe des Grands Magasins et des Hotels du Louvre transformed it into a palace hotel catering, in part, to the American industry tycoon families and their daughters visiting to find European titles to marry. Other prominent guests through the years read like a Who’s Who: Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Sir Winston Churchill, King George V, Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and even, the Dalai Lama.
“My intention is to revive the magnificence and grandeur of this world-famous hotel: a true gem in the heart of Paris,” says acclaimed designer Thierry Despont, who is also a knight of the French Legion of Honor. My grand suite, one of the 44 grand apartments in the hotel, that also includes over one hundred guest rooms, was fit for a prince, or at least, a prince of good fortune.
Decorated in tasteful shades of golds and plums, Cole Porter or Cary Grant could easily have enjoyed these rooms in another, elegant era. With a king size bed, couch, several posh occasional chairs, as well as large walk-in closet, the features of the suite also include marble bathrooms with telephone, flat screen televisions, a mini-bar and full valet service. On another design note, all suites are furnished and decorated with Aubusson carpets, Baccarat chandeliers and Wedgewood medallions. Should you want to tear yourself away from such luxury, the property’s on-site restaurants and lounges, Les Ambassadeurs, L’Obelisque, and the Winter Garden Tea Room, located just off the lobby, offer wonderful elegant meals and cocktails, or the jet set favorite, the Crillon Bar, decorated in shades of claret, reflects the namesake drink served there that is so popular.
It is well known that the French love colorful Texans and any opportunity to collaborate is a welcome one. How best to end several days in Paris? On your last evening, try Café Marley where, in the moonlight, the stars shine brightly, as the glistening horizon beckoned the last day in paradise on what was certainly a trip of a lifetime to the City of Romance. Until next time, anyway.