Travel: Paris is Always Paris

February 01, 2012

By Katrice L. Mines

Theatre De Champs-Elysees

Paris in the springtime sounds cliché until you spend a few days in the French city during the season of bloom. Is it possible for the air to feel fresher or the colors to be more vibrant according to your locale? I believe so. Could a traveler be romanced by architecture and cityscapes? I'd say, yes. Is there a chance that one pastry could change your palate for all desserts? Yes, it absolutely is. That is, if you're in Paris. Paris is everything you imagine, and then the more. It is the more that beckons jetsetters and leisure travelers time and time again. One visit to the centre of European culture and you know that it can’t be your last. Why? Because Paris is always Paris.  

Le Grande”

Intercontinental Paris - Le Grande is the essence of Parisian luxury. Built in 1862, and renovated in 2003, its rich heritage as the most prestigious palace hotel of its time is easily harkened today as plush décor acquiesces in every nuisance of the regal hotel. You feel both rich and right at home in the facility of 470 rooms, 72 of which are brilliantly decked suites with Internet connectivity, satellite television and 24-hour room service. The secret? Its history. Noted for its “Empire style borne of Napoleon’s love of grandeur,” Le Grande, as it is affectionately called, boasts a staff steeped in the quintessentials of hospitality. “Le Grande is a big hotel but it is still a hotel where it's nice to live. This hotel has history and I believe that guests can feel it. In general, the staff tries to give a little bit of themselves to each guest, which is unusual for a hotel of this size,” says one of its concierges.  

Central to the city's most prized attractions, including the renowned Opéra Garnier, Intercontinental Paris - Le Grande is 10 to 25 minutes by taxi to virtually anywhere interesting of a tourist's choice in Paris. Within the hotel, however, is enough to keep one lavishly occupied if it is respite they seek. Guests can drop their bags and head straight to the hotel’s one-of-a-kind retreat I-Spa by Algotherm for the Jetlag Massage, and end with the Douche Multi-sensorielle, a special shower cabin immersion of water sprays, fragrances, lighting and scents. For in-house dining, Café De La Paix – open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner – boasts a fine dining experience à la an inexpensive gourmet menu. List its brunch atop of your Parisian dining agenda. It is, in a word, decadent. Imagine the choice of fresh seafood, sautéed vegetables, breakfast meats and waffles, and an elaborate dessert buffet of fashion pastries. Perfectionné.

Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

Concierge tip: Try La fameuse soupe à l’oignon gratinée (traditional French cheese-topped onion soup).

The Opera District

Le Grande is neighbor to the historic Opéra Garnier and within a five-minute taxi ride to the Louvre Museum, while juxtaposed with modernities like Opera Metro Station and the famous Galaries Lafayette Department Store, Zara, vintage shops and, of course, a cathedralesque Apple store where passersby can stop in and use customary self-service stations. It is worth the price of admission to Paris, to spend some time on foot. Galaries Lafayette, in the heart of the city, is 753,000 square feet of retail bliss from American Apparel and Louis Vuitton to private styling appointments with leading designers in La Suite Galeries Lafayette. 

La Suite’s spacious apartment design offers lounge areas, a 180-degree view of the city skyline, dressing room and outdoor terrace overlooking Paris and Montmartre – all bonuses to its mélange of personalized services. Upon departure, regular guests of La Suite receive details on a selection of studios of up-and-coming artists, prime fashion boutiques and must-see exhibitions. A finishing touch that whispers: Luxury is in the details.  

Concierge Tip: Visit Le Passage. Built in the 19th century, the hidden treasure sits behind a door that’s easily missed. Inside, two buildings -- lining a tiny covered street -- house shops of antiques and quaint restaurants. For souvenirs, visit the streets in front of the Louvre.

Le Maison Blanche (gourmet)
Though it is surely the culinary experience that attracts Parisians and travelers alike to La Maison Blanche, one glimpse of the lit Eiffel Tower against the night sky as the outer backdrop to its minimalist but chic dining room will surely make it a favorite. Maison Blanche’s chef Sylvain Ruffenach interprets consulting chefs Jacques and Laurent Pourcel’s Michelin starred cuisine – producing  out of the essential values of “curiosity and instinct.” At the turn of each season, its menu changes naturally as only seasonal fruit and vegetables comingle with the chefs’ selection of fish and meats. “Our guests deserve the perfect plate, with just that right balance between colors, texture and taste,” explains Ruffanach. His credo: Precision cooking, the quality of the product, a purified presentation, the choice of the seasoning to unfold the flavors.

La Fontaine de Mars (bistro)

One of Paris’s oldest pubs, La Fontaine de Mars is charmingly Parisian as tables spill from its cherry wood paneled interior to the sidewalk in front of the bistro simply dressed with checkered red and white table cloths, and oversized stemware. The menu is surely varied enough to please any appetite, from roasted salmon on salt crust, fresh spinach and lemon to free range chicken breast, morels and morel cream. My choice: Grilled top of the beef loin, béarnaise sauce and French fries; and for dessert – strawberries with pistachio cream. Widely noted for hosting President Obama for dinner in 2009, I think it safe to say, La Fontaine de Mars’ rich and flavorful food had sealed its reputation before his arrival.

Concierge Tip: To achieve your ideal meal, consider what specifically you are looking for in a dining experience -- whether gourmet restaurant or a bistro. Determine criteria in advance, from your budget to dress code. 

Insider Experience

4 roues sous 1 parapluie is your answer to experiencing the breadth of Paris in a day. Offering individual and group tours, the 2CV (a Citroen-style) jaunt about the city can be nearly as specific as any traveler requests. During a three-hour guided excursion, planned to assure a robust and carefully curated effect, I took in Champs-Elysées, the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, Notre-Dame de Paris, Montmartre, the Arènes de Lutèce, Invalides, Place Vendôme and more than I could take note of while trying to photograph the stately stone facades that make the city so grand. 4 roues sous 1 parapluie’s Essential Paris packages are prime. The 2CV tour company is winning with knowledgeable and astute guides who are prepared for any and every question riders may have. Three-hour packages begin at about $100 per person. 

{View the full spread in Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine.}

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  1. I spent a summer in Paris 6 years ago, and I've longed to go back since I got on the plane to go home. Lovely post dear!!

  2. Thank you! I'm working with my travel agent on another trip this year. I can't wait to go back.

  3. Lord, I've got to make it to the Paris this year...

  4. Looks like you had a fabulous trip! Hoping to fly to Paris this year so I appreciate your tips.

  5. Looks like you had a fabulous trip! Hoping to fly to Paris this year so I appreciate your tips.

  6. This post makes me just want to pack up my life and move there!

  7. I've never been to Paris, but after taking 6 years of French....I plan to visit soon! Paris just seems so lively and romantic! Can't wait to visit there!

  8. Can't wait to visit this weekend! I'll definitely remember this post once I get there.

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