PARIS What’s haute and what’s not changes from season to season in
Paris as predictably as the couture shows and the Michelin
restaurant guide. Lately, hoping to banish Americans’ complaints
about small rooms, lack of air conditioning and persistent noise,
hotels are spending millions of euros on either upgrading or
starting anew. On a hosted trip to the City of Light, I discovered
three special hotels that are as stylish as Yves St. Laurent, yet
as comfortable as well-worn Levis.
Hotel Plaza Athenee
Currently enjoying a star turn is the 106-room, 81-suite Hotel
Plaza Athenee, whose lobby appeared in cameo roles in both the film
“Something’s Gotta Give” and HBO’s “Sex and the City.” Located on
the tres chic Avenue Montaigne and bracketed by high-end shops
Christian Dior, Escada, Valentino, Bulgari, Prada the Plaza Athenee
attracts serious shoppers as well as show-biz types. Its proximity
to the Champs Elysees only adds to its allure for Americans.
The hotel rooms resemble expensive Parisian apartments, so much
so that you almost expect to find Catherine Deneuve sitting on the
celadon green silk couch. Yet the modern world resides comfortably
here, offering Internet access, separate fax lines, video recorders
and stereo/CD recorders along with plasma wall-mounted televisions.
Special designer touches include soft floor lighting leading to the
bathroom (why don’t more hotels offer this?) and cymbidium orchids,
crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors and those obligatory fluffy
robes and slippers.
The two top floors are designed in the art deco style that began
in Paris in the 1920s. Lenny Kravitz and Mick Jagger prefer these
aeries for the stunning views of Paris.
Celebrated chef Alain Ducasse oversees both the
contemporary-looking Restaurant Plaza Athenee and the art
deco-style bistro Le Relais Plaza. Le Bar, one of the hottest
watering holes in Paris, attracts a crowd that’s fun to watch as
the room light changes colors and the illuminated iceberg-like bar
Services range from chauffeurs and interpreters to the “Parisian
Ultimate” a day on the town escorted by a fashion expert.
Of course, all this luxury does not come cheap: rooms begin at
about $600 (498 euros) a night, with suites at $960 (792 euros).
The hotel pays 8 percent commission on the room rate and 10 percent
on package rates.
Plaza Paris Vendome
If Louis XVI furnishings fail to impress, a smart alternative is
the contemporary 90-room, four-star Plaza Paris Vendome. A new
boutique hotel lodged in a 19th-century building, the Plaza Paris
Vendome sits between the gardens of the Tuileries and the Place
Vendome, close to the Louvre.
The location attracts both art lovers and fashionistas who
frequent the nearby Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. This is also a
perfect choice for women traveling alone since the hotel’s
all-women top staff emphasizes safety, while the intimate scale of
the hotel is both stylish and practical.
In contrast to the Plaza Athenee’s jazzy red signature color,
the Plaza Paris Vendome features subdued earth tones. Its
minimalist decor lends a Zen-like quality to study, sitting areas
and guestrooms. In the bar, however, Chinoiserie terra-cotta
statues, bold celadon vases and wall coverings in a
Chinese-horseman motif attest to the French love of Asian
Here again guestrooms feature the latest in technology: three
telephones, a flat-screen LCD television, CD/DVD player and DSL
lines, along with a direct phone line. Soundproofed rooms,
double-glazed windows and spacious, well-lighted marble bathrooms
cater to the guest’s comfort. The bedrooms themselves tend toward
Diners can choose small plates or full dinners in the cool
black-and-white ambience of Pinxo Restaurant, with modern cuisine
designed by Alain Dutournier, Michelin-starred for his nearby
restaurant, Carre des Feuillants.
Room rates start at $560 (460 euros) and $850 (700 euros) for a
junior suite, all commissionable at 10 percent.
The Paris Plaza Vendome may be the sophisticated new kid on the
block, but only a few steps away on the Rue de Rivoli stands a true
grande dame. How many hotels can trace their roots to 1835?
If your clients like soaking up history, they’ll find it in
every corner of the Hotel Meurice. Here is where Russian composer
Peter Illitch Tchaikovsky stayed while giving a concert.
Aristocracy dropped in often, from the King of Spain to the
Maharaja of Jaipur. Artist Salvador Dali spent at least one month a
year here, while other artists, writers and celebrities checked in
A two-year renovation has returned the 160-room hotel to its
original classic French Palace style. The Restaurant Le Meurice,
with its ornate gilding, crystal chandeliers, antique mirrors and
bay windows framed in rare marbles, as well as floral patterned
chairs and curtains, echoes the nearby Tuileries Gardens. The
restaurant is one of the hottest in Paris right now, with executive
chef Yannick Alleno recently earning his second Michelin star.
The unique rooftop Belle Etoile Suite offers panoramic views of
Paris from the 3,000-square-foot wrap-around terrace, a perfect
spot for corporate clients to entertain.
A bonus through Dec. 29 this year is a guaranteed U.S. dollar
rate of $580 per night for a single or double superior room and
$650 for a single or double deluxe. Commission is 10 percent.
By Maryann Hammers
We’ve all heard of celebrity chefs, but why should they get all
the attention? In our newest feature, TravelAge West shines the
limelight on the top concierges in the greatest cities. We ask
these unsung travel experts to share their stories and be our guide
as we explore their backyards aided by the kind of tips only a true
local would know.
Hotel Le Faubourg-Paris
Assuming we’ve all seen the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe,
can you suggest an attraction we might not find in a guidebook?
Our guests always ask about museums and attractions in the 8th
arrondissement [district], but other parts of the city are also
interesting. For example, there are the clocks of Dali [at the
Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali] in the Montmartre area. And Bercy
Village, which is a very old part of town that was used for storing
wine, has been completely rebuilt with restaurants, shops and
What’s a sure way to have a good time in Paris?
Many of our visitors are not used to walking, but that is the best
way to get to know the real Paris, which you cannot see from a bus.
When you walk to see one thing, you’ll discover something else even
more interesting. Paris is like that. If it is your first time in
Paris, I encourage you to begin your trip with a guided walking
Do visitors’ questions ever surprise you?
We sometimes think we’ve heard it all. For example, a lot of people
ask me where Harrods is. I reply, ‘Sir, it is in London.’ But one
guest did surprise me when he asked that I arrange to have his car
cleaned. His car was 100 percent leather interior and exterior! But
we found a leather-cleaning specialist and took care of it.