Celebrating Paris: The City of Light Continues to Shine

Hotel de Crillon by Rosewood Paris Bar Les Ambassadeurs
Les Ambassadeurs bar is a hot new addition at the reopened, upgraded Hôtel de Crillon.

Your Paris-bound clients likely already have the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Notre Dame and such on their itinerary. However, they may not be aware of the myriad events that take place in Paris throughout the year, affording them the opportunity to immerse themselves in local experiences. Festivals and fairs focusing on art, fashion, music and cinema are just a few of the ways Parisians celebrate their culture and invite visitors to do so as well.

You should also let your clients — especially frequent travelers — know about the latest developments on the Paris hotel scene. While some Francophiles may prefer to stick with their favorite Parisian haunts, others may look forward to finding new digs from which to explore the City of Light — including the newly pedestrianized riverside quays on the right bank of the Seine River.

Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel

Perhaps the biggest news on Paris’ accommodations front is the recent reopening of Hôtel de Crillon following a reported $300 million renovation under the auspices of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. It emerged from a reconstruction that created virtually a completely new property. In fact, Crillon regulars who visit the hotel won’t recognize the lobby, which is now a series of elegant salon-style rooms, intimate in size. Builders excavated deep underground in order to add a spa and sparkling swimming pool lit from above by a skylight in the courtyard garden.

Rosewood’s brand mission is to reflect the soul of a place, and here, the focus is on the “French art of living,” says General Manager Marc Raffray. Case in point: Hugo Matha designed the chic staff uniforms; landscape architect Louis Benech did the courtyards and chef Christopher Hache oversees the restaurant, L’Ecrin. There’s more: Karl Lagerfeld conceived two top suites (Les Grands Appartements) and Buly — the 200-year-old French brand — customized the bath amenities.

In a highly competitive luxury hotel market — with 10 designated “palace” hotels and where the Four Seasons Hotel George V just opened a “five Michelin-star courtyard” for dining — how does the Crillon stand out? Insiders say it’s in the spaces you won’t find anywhere else, such as The Barber, an outpost of the trendy La Barbière de Paris, and a shoe-care service where you can sink into an Aston Martin chair with a cognac while your shoes are buffed.

Our favorite new addition is Les Ambassadeurs bar, which is reason alone to stop by the Crillon and is already a hot spot for Parisians. What to imbibe: The #10isgoing is one of the most popular cocktails, made with rum, Velvet Falernum, orange bitters, pineapple and raspberry. Or follow those in the know and order “Les Ambassadeurs” — a signature Port and Grand Marnier-based cocktail that isn’t on the menu. 

On a recent visit, the hotel was positively buzzing. Head Concierge Olivier Cambournac (formerly at The Peninsula Paris) talked with guests around the specially designated “calendar table,” where coffee table books illustrate cultural events currently taking place in Paris (such as the Christian Dior exhibit at Les Arts Décoratifs, which runs through January 7). The lobby is punctuated with fresh flower arrangements and cases of pretty pâtisserie. In Paris, pastry chefs are revered like haute couture designers, their creations ogled like fine jewelry behind glass. At the Crillon, the obelisk-themed sweet by Executive Pastry Chef Jérôme Chaucesse pays homage to the famous Egyptian obelisk that stands tall outside on the Place de la Concorde.

Other star attractions include the Hair Salon by David Lucas, (a celebrity Parisian stylist) and Sense, a Rosewood Spa. Overseen by Director Sophie Demaret, the spa seeks to revive ancient French beauty rituals with “Lost Remedies” like the “19th-century French detoxification.” There are also a number of “Sense Journeys” like the “World Class Traveler,” which starts with a foot bath in essential oils and includes a full-body treatment and acupressure head massage.

Hôtel Le Crillon, the grande dame on the Place de la Concorde, is a long-time favorite of U.S. clientele, not just because of its storied history, but also because of its proximity to the American embassy, a few steps away. Booking Tips: Of the 78 rooms, 36 suites and 10 signature suites, the Grande Premier room category has been most requested. In addition to the Karl Lagerfeld suites, the crème de la crème are the Marie Antoinette suites and the Louis XV, which has a terrace overlooking the Place de la Concorde. 

Evok’s Nolinski Paris

Another new favorite on the City of Light’s hotel scene is the Nolinski Paris, a five-star residence that opened just over a year ago on the Avenue de l’Opéra. The property radiates impeccable taste, from the décor by design darling Jean-Louis Deniot to the covetable in-room amenities such as Dringme smartphones. (Guests get free calls, and all of their history is erased when they check out. The touch of a button gets you the concierge or a taxi.) 

Nolinski Paris Suite Josephine

Nolinski Paris’ Suite Joséphine can be connected to its neighboring rooms and suites.

Nolinski Paris is the first property from Evok Hôtels, a new brand from French industrial magnate Pierre Bastid, which will open the Philippe Starck-designed Brach Paris in the 16th arrondissement next year. Nolinksi has 45 guestrooms, decked out in Carrara marble and cool, custom furniture. Perched on the fifth floor, Suite Josephine can be connected to the neighboring rooms and suites to make a divine private apartment. Nice Perk: The suite’s D-Vine wine machine pours a perfectly aerated glass of wine without the pop of a cork. 

Nolinski isn’t just a visual feast; its first arrondissement location is just a cobblestone’s throw from the Palais-Royal for convenient vintage shopping at Didier Ludot. Guests can see the gilded Palais Garnier opera house from their room, but quadruple-glazed windows completely insulate them from the traffic below. If your clients are out carousing all night with Le Tout-Paris, Nolinski will cure their hangover with the lendemain de fête breakfast and a treatment by Swiss brand La Colline in the subterranean spa. 

Fun Fact: The Réjane brasserie has become a beloved neighborhood institution — packed for lunch and dinner — and now it also has an épicerie for gourmet take-out items.

Coming Soon: Lutetia

Mark your calendars for the March 2018 reopening of the Lutetia, regarded as “the palace on the Rive Gauche.” The historic hotel facing Le Bon Marché department store is currently undergoing a major facelift. It’s owned by The Set Hotels group, which is also behind Hotel Café Royal in London and the Conservatorium in Amsterdam. 

Originally opened in 1910, the hotel has long been a popular spot for celebrities, artists and politicians alike. The revamped Lutetia will offer 184 rooms and suites, a spa, fitness facilities, and jazz and cigar bars. Its restaurant, Lutetia Brasserie, will have a bar, terrace, show kitchen and a private dining room.

New-Look Relais Christine

The newly made-over Relais Christine is one of those lovely Left Bank hotels that is Parisian to its core. Housed inside a hotel particulier (townhouse) with a courtyard garden, Relais Christine is tucked away on a quiet street in the very heart of the Saint Germain district. Named for Henri IV’s daughter, the boutique hotel has been welcoming guests since 1979.

In-demand designer Laura Gonzalez was commissioned for the room-by-room renovation that lasted four years and touched all corners of the hotel. Inspired by the history of the site (the ancient College of the Austin Friars Abbey, which no longer exists), Gonzalez also mixed decor and styles from different periods; think 18th century chinoiserie, designer chandeliers and furniture from vintage markets. The goal was to showcase the finest French craftsmanship.

Each of the 48 guestrooms was individually decorated and feature Carrara marble bathrooms plus fabrics and wallpaper by renowned French brands (Pierre Frey, Hermès, Le Manach and Braquenié). Note that there are suites large enough to accommodate families, and some open onto the garden.

Relais Christine Suite

Relais Christine’s 48 accommodations include two 430-square-foot terraced Garden Suites.

A hotel highlight is the Spa Guerlain, situated in the vaulted cellar that dates from the Middle Ages. This oasis has a completely new look thanks to designer Laura Gonzalez. Think Ananbô panoramic wallpapers, natural woods and wall-mounted lighting with shades by Dedar for Hermès. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the Relais Christine is the sister property to Saint James Paris — a chateau in the 16th arrondissement with an excellent restaurant, garden parties and decor by designer Bambi Sloan.

Design Hotels’ Vernet

Another Paris boutique experience can be found at the Hotel Vernet. The once traditional hotel has been transformed by Design Hotels and interior architect Francois Champsaur into a quirky, contemporary 50-room property. Among the Vernet’s public spaces is The V, an avante-garde restaurant housed under an ornate glass dome designed by Gustave Eiffel. The kitchen is visible through a large window and the dining space is adorned with many original works of art from contemporary artists. Executive Chef Richard Robe’s traditional French and international dishes ane designed to highlight the origin and quality of the chosen ingredients.

Rooms and suites at Vernet all have either king-size or twin beds, as well as a bathroom in Carrera marble, wood, brass and mosaic. Top accommodations are the 560- to 807-square-foot Prestige Suites and 1,076-square-foot Presidential Suite. These all have separate living rooms and some of the Prestige Suites also have a private terrace, while the Presidential Suite includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

A Toast to Two Bars

Are your clients looking for a happening place to have a night cap in Paris? Two new design-centric hotels are getting lots of buzz for their bars. Sister to the Bachaumont Hotel, the Hotel National des Arts et Métiers has one of the best rooftops in town, while The Hoxton — which was one of the city’s most Instagrammed spots when it opened in late August — has a speakeasy called Jacques’ Bar. In this Morocco-themed space, order up a Tikiztate cocktail, concocted with Altos Tequila, pineapple juice and ras el-hanout, or try the Jacques Snapper, a gin-based drink accented with harissa. 

On Site in Paris: La Réserve Hotel and Spa

Paris’ La Réserve Hotel and Spa is at 42 Avenue Gabriel, just a few short blocks from the busy Champs-Élysées. However, it’s set back behind the Élysées gardens, which makes it a discreet location, but still close to the Grand Palais, the Pantheon and the Concorde obelisk. From our Deluxe Suite (No. 102) on the first floor, we could see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night through the treetops. We loved walking the area, which is close to the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the President of France, some very chic shopping and what we would call “the” art scene in Paris. Top name galleries abound just steps away, making the hotel a mecca for aficionados of fine art. 

La Reserve Paris

La Réserve Hotel’s 645-square-foot Deluxe Room has a separate lounge area.

“Most of the art galleries near the hotel are located on Avenue Matignon; my favorites are Hopkins, Shchukin and Christie’s,” says Marie-France Grégoire, the head concierge. 

Her other suggestions? For a meal, there’s none other than Le Gabriel, the two-Michelin star restaurant directed by Jerome Banctel, housed in La Réserve. Otherwise, Grégoire suggests Aux Près, the modern bistro of Cyril Lignac on the left bank and Chez Georges (1 rue du Mail) “for any authentic, traditional French cuisine.” 

Grégoire is also a master at arranging the special moment. She and her team can arrange a champagne toast on the roof of the Grand Palais that is not open to the public, or a visit to a local perfumer to create a custom scent. Then there’s the option of stopping in at a couture fashion house to coordinate a dress or a tuxedo for a night at the opera. 

La Réserve is a 19th-century mansion built during the Haussmann era, which means the ceilings are high in every room. Once owned by Pierre Cardin, the historical building has been a hotel for just two-and-a-half years and all of its internal infrastructure is state of the art, from Wi-Fi to TVs to the Japanese Toto “smart” toilet in the guest bathroom. 

Nice Touch: Our “minibar,” included in the room rate, was a constant source of delight, not for its alcoholic beverages but for its exquisite natural juices in flavors that included strawberry and mango, as well as all sorts of Evian water with natural flavoring, not easily found in the United States. 

We also loved that guest relations asked ahead of time what some of our special interests were; we replied, “fashion illustration,” and our suite was thoughtfully provided with tomes on the history of couture; all the better to snuggle up with for a great read in the super comfortable beds. 

La Reserve Paris breakfast room

La Réserve’s chic, elegant La Pagode de Cos serves breakfast and lunch.

Top accommodation at La Réserve is the Grand Palais Suite. Here, the Eiffel Tower and the glass roof of the neighboring Grand Palais can be seen from nearly every angle of the suite, which has 14 floor-to-ceiling windows leading to balconies. The views are also fab from the free-standing bathtub in the Carrara marble bathroom. Nice Touch: There’s an original fireplace in the suite, which is decorated with Napoleon III antiques.

Dining is a special occasion at La Réserve, even at breakfast, where the chic design at La Pagode de Cos includes red velvet banquettes, fireplaces and extremely hands-on attention. Lunch is served here as well and pulls in executives from government offices and sophisticated locals. Menu offerings range from items like Scampi Ravioles, Chinese Broth and Coriandre to La Réserve burger. 

Next door, Le Gabriel, helmed by Chef Jérôme Banctel (who also oversees La Pagode de Cos), is one of only 10 restaurants in France, and five in Paris, to receive two Michelin stars and yet we found the high level of service to be easy going and accessible. It was a completely bon vivant experience without any of the stiffness or stuffiness that can sometimes accompany dining opportunities of this stature. 

Downstairs at La Réserve is an intimate spa with just three rooms, a fitness area and a beautiful swimming pool, reserved just for guests over 14 years old. The vibe here is serenely surreal; you definitely don’t feel like you’re in an urban setting in the slightest. We loved the Nescens-Swiss anti-aging products, which are not used elsewhere in Paris. 

The top takeaway from our visit to La Réserve was that this is an urban resort; its ground-floor public areas have a great footprint where every room is distinctly elegant, yet nothing is too far away from anything else. The vibe here is high-end, easy and wonderfully embracing in the most distinguished manner. If not for the lure of the many attractions of Paris virtually at its doorstep, it would be tempting to never leave at all.

Paris Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year celebrations in Paris include three parades.

Paris Events: Winter/Spring 2018

Paris Winter Sales, January 10-February 13: Look for shop windows with signs that advertise “soldes” to take advantage of the deep discounts, which increase over the six-week sale period.

Paris Fashion Week, January 17-25: While the shows are by invitation only, many events take place at the Carrousel du Louvre. Passing by, you might just spot a top designer or the models coming and going.

Paris Carnival, February 11: This parade makes its way from Place Gambetta and winds through the streets of Paris accompanied by music, dancing and fun en route to the Hôtel de Ville. 

Chinese New Year Celebration, February 16: Paris’ Asian community celebrates Nouvel An Chinois with concerts, exhibitions and a trio of parades in the 13th arrondissement and Le Marais historic district.

Carnaval des Femmes, March 11: This colorful festival dates back to the 18th century, when the washer women working on boats along the Seine would crown one of their own queen for the day and dance all night. Women and men alike are welcome to enter the parade and join in the fun. 

International Tourism Show, March 15-18: The Salon Mondial du Tourisme at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles is the largest travel fair in France. More than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend.

Paris Book Fair, March 16-19: The annual Salon du Livre includes book signings, author readings, conferences, talks and exhibitions of rare items. It all happens at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. 

Printemps du Cinéma, March (dates TBD): This popular three-day film fest includes screenings at several small movie houses around the city. 

Pad Paris Art + Design, March 21-25: This annual exhibition of decorative art and design by internationally renowned collectors takes place at the Tuileries Garden.

Drawing Now Paris Exhibition, March 22-25: The works of 400 artists from around the world will be on display at the Carreau du Temple, a covered market in the 3rd arrondissement.

Paris Book Fair

The four-day Paris Book Fair takes place in mid-March at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.

April events include the Art Paris fair (April 5-8), Paris Marathon (April 8), Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, Foire du Trone fun fair, Rare Book & Autograph Fair, International Pillow Fight Day and Galloping Sundays

May highlights include Saint Germain des Prés Jazz Festival, European Museums Night, Great Paris Steeplechase, Spring Street Art Festival and French Open (May 27-June 10).

June welcomes Carnaval Tropical de Paris, Naturally Fair (June 1-4), We Love Green Festival, Champs Elysee Film Festival, Paris Jazz Festival and Fete du Velo (Bike Festival).

Dates for April, May and June events are TBA unless otherwise noted. For details on these and other happenings in Paris throughout 2018, along with other trip planning information, visit www.parisperfect.com.

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