Paris is expensive….hellishly expensive!
Particularly its hotels. And especially the five-star properties. Sure, if you stay at the Hotel de Crillon or the Ritz, you’ll enjoy a superior location, super-attentive staff (including, on certain floors, a private butler), as well as a well-appointed (though not necessarily large) room – but you’ll pay upwards of a thousand bucks a night!
We dabbled in this arena several years ago when our Parasole Culinary Team spent a couple of weeks in Paris and SPLURGED by staying at the HOTEL PLAZA ATHENEE (the rooms were much less at the time, and we got a group discount). It was a lovely property, with all the aforementioned attributes (but, still, a standard room for two was tiny by American standards – barely big enough for a bed, sitting chair and armoire). Of course, there was the bonus of having the world-acclaimed RESTAURANT ALAIN DUCASSE just off the lobby. Not only did we have the privilege of dining there, we also were treated to a personal and private tour of the kitchen, including lengthy conversations with the cooks and chefs.
(Alain Ducasse, of course, wasn’t there – he has an empire to run. But for those occasions when he is in residence, the hotel had constructed a glass-walled office/dining room for him adjacent to the kitchen, where he could watch his team work by looking up at a bank of wall-mounted CCTV’s.)
But here’s the deal: Joanne and I have been able to smoke out hotels in major European markets that share many of the attributes of the 5-star joints at a fraction of the price, while offering a more personal and engaging experience. Probably our favorite find is the HOTEL SAINT GREGOIRE in the heart of the 6th Arrondisement on Paris’ Left Bank.
More about the hotel in a moment…
First, the location: You’re just a few minutes’ walk from some of the most interesting and fun venues Paris has to offer.
On nice days, we love to while away a few hours strolling, sitting, reading and eating in the LUXEMBOURG GARDENS, the peaceful and spacious (61 acres of spacious) park famous for its manicured combination of French gardens and English gardens (which is sort of odd in that both were designed by Marie di Medici and supposedly inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence).
Kids can be engaged for hours here – riding ponies, sailing miniature sailboats on the pond, riding the carousel. And, at the end of the day, they can indulge in sweet treats by sitting outside at ANGELINA, one of the city’s premier chocolatiers. You’ll want to get the “little darlings” wired up on sugar, so in addition to a pastry treat, be SURE to order a cup of Angelina’s signature HOT CHOCOLATE. The best I’ve ever had in my life!!!
Another bonus of the location: You’re just two blocks from THE BON MARCHÉ department store – the best in the city (you heard me, Galeries Lafayette!). On every visit, I spend hours wandering its ground-floor FOOD HALLS.
Also, if you’re a fan of the writer, Dan Brown – author of The Da Vinci Code – then you’ll be compelled to visit the CHURCH OF SAINT-SULPICE, just a ten-minute walk from the St. Gregoire. There you’ll find “The Rose Line” that Silas the monk used as a reference point in his quest to find the Holy Grail. A small opening in the south transept allows the bright sunlight to illuminate the brass rose line embedded in the floor of the cathedral. Not familiar with the significance of “The Rose Line?” Well, read the book.
The Saint Gregoire is an 18th century mansion that has been re-purposed as a guest house-style boutique property by the designer David Hicks. The hotel resides on a quiet street a few blocks from the metro station, SAINT-PLACIDE. Not only are the rooms sound-proof, English is fluently spoken by the lovely and professional receptionist, Alice.
The best part of staying at the Saint Gregoire: Descending into the basement and entering the medieval “stone-arched cave” breakfast room every morning for freshly squeezed juice, buttery warm croissants, orange marmalade, yogurt, and more. Along with pots of hot coffee for you, there’s hot chocolate for the kiddies. A continental breakfast is always included in the room rate.
And now for the pièce de résistance – Get ready! – the room rates on our recent stay hovered around $250 a night, which is REMARKABLE for the hotel’s quality, style, and location. In a city of $500-$1,000/night hotel rooms. This is a “FIND”!!!!
Je vous en prie!