Paris, Je t’Aime :: What’s new & hot in the city of light...
Paris is a fabulous city. Of course for gay and lesbian travelers, it’s also one of the biggest clich�s in the world- I mean, just thinking about being there brings up images of sitting at a little outdoor cafe smoking Galoise cigarettes and drinking espresso, with fabulous (reusable) shopping bags filled with baguettes, cheese and wine at your feet while little poodles prance up and down the street. And the best thing? That’s exactly how Paris is in spring and summer. (Well, sans the poodles perhaps...)
And that’s why I love it.
Paris is the perfect combination of old and new. On one hand, you’ve got the architecture, history, and traditions going back hundreds of years. I mean, you could spend an entire week exploring beauty that existed before our country even had a name! On the flip side, Paris is also at the cutting edge of modern design, technology and thought. True, they missed the chance to be one of the first major players to elect a female president, but hey, we all make mistakes. Perhaps they held back in order to give us that honor.
Paris is my favorite city in the entire world; whenever I go to France- no matter when I go or what my ultimate destination is- I spend at least a few days in the City of Light. And although the dollar is weak, there are still deals to be found; quite a few in fact. Plan ahead, use the web, and make smart choices. You’ll find that you can do Paris as easily as New York. Plus, it’s so much more glamorous (with better shopping!).
There’s always something new and fabulous in Paris; museums, shops, hotels, exhibitions, and things to do. Of course, there are also dozens of fabulous things that have been there for years. Here’s a little peek at what’s hot in Paris right now- so get planning!
In the last two years, Paris has wholeheartedly embraced small designer boutique hotels, and we’re loving it. The perfect contrast to the architecture and history of the city, these modern marvels of design are bright, brilliant, and refreshing. With clean, simple lines, luxury linens and amenities, and staffs that are ready to cater to your every need, they’re not always the least expensive option, but they are worth it.
Murano Urban Resort
True to the old-meets-new style of Paris, walking into the Murano Urban Resort can be a bit startling, not simply because the lobby is blindingly white, but because the fa�ade of the hotel is classic Parisian, and it’s surrounded by Belle �poque architecture on a very nondescript street, blending into the surrounding 3rd Arrondissements perfectly. The fa�ade, however, is about the only thing classic about the hotel.
"Fabulous design" doesn’t begin to describe the incredibly chic, sophisticated, and stylized interiors. Stepping into the elevator is like jumping between the folds of one of Cher’s early Mackie creations- dark, red, and glittery. Cool urban modernism and high-tech style combine to create an ambiance that has to be experienced to be understood. The 52 rooms and suites are contemporary, furnished floor-to-ceiling in white, and decked-out with the most modern touches, including keyless doors (they use fingerprint scanning technology), lighting that can be adjusted to match your mood, and 24-hour room service that’s a far cry from the standard burger and fries (smoked salmon with a potato waffle, lettuce soup, or limoncello minestrone anyone?).
Standard rooms are good sized, and if the devil’s in the details, Satan lives here. From the double-layered sheer drapes (one crinkly square lattice, the other a luxurious faux ostrich feather) to the slate and river rock bathroom, the dual modern pedestal sinks to the quirky little amenities, every detail has been attended to. The high-end toiletry products from Anne Semonin are glorious, but that’s just a warm-up for the black toilet paper, "sensual eye mask for lovers," and range of branded- and just plain cool- products all available for your use and purchase.
If you stay at the Murano, don’t rush out too early; breakfasts here are lavish and fabulous...
Hotel Bel Ami
Slightly smaller, but just as extraordinary, the Hotel Bel Ami tops my list of Parisian hotels when it comes to service, hands-down. The staff- especially the charming concierge and his dedicated team- are the perfect blend of friendly, professional, sophisticated and knowledgeable. The Four Seasons George V has nothing on these guys.
The Bel Ami is a boutique designer hotel, but the rooms here- while still very contemporary- are warmer and more colorful than the Murano. Of course the linens are luxe, bathrooms large and gorgeous, and the amenities high-end. I also happen to think that the Bel Ami offers one of the best simple self-serve breakfasts in the city, in a dining room that could just as easily be in LA, New York, or Milan.
Another thing that sets the hotel apart from others is the fact that they’re always changing things to keep the d�cor fresh and interesting for repeat visitors... like me! They also have a new fitness room and spa, with three treatment rooms for massage and skincare services.
And while I stated earlier that you’d usually pay more for modern boutique hotels, this is one case when that’s not true. The Bel Ami is extremely reasonable for Parisian hotels, especially considering the service, style, and location (they’re just down the street from Louis Vuitton and Dior). They also offer fabulous packages- and you know I love packages...
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Castille. Located in one of the best neighborhoods in Paris, it’s blocks from the Grands Boulevards (fabulous shopping), Opera Garnier, Place Vendome, and the Louvre. It’s also next door to Chanel- not the store mind you, but the atelier that Coco herself established in 1910. If you want a room here during Fashion Week, you’ll need to book way ahead of time. Request one with a view of the workshop to catch glimpses of models being fitted, and if the drapes are drawn, you know that Karl’s inside...
The Castille is a wonderful blend of old and new, occupying what used to be two "Hotel Particuliers;" private mansion residences of the rich nobility. They’ve kept much of the architectural style while adding contemporary touches and luxury amenities. The restaurant, Il Cortile, is also one of my favorites, offering modern haute Italian with a twist, by an extremely talented young chef, Vittorio Beltramelli.
Next :: Where to eat, shop, and have fun!