I fell in love with Paris around the same time I fell in love with Ronald. My first visit to the city of lights was with him 30 years ago. And since we have moved to Bordeaux we try to take a trip to Paris at least once a year. I also have an annual date with my sister for a long weekend in Paris in January. She takes the train from Amsterdam and I rail in from Bordeaux. In July 2017 Paris will be literally at our doorstep because the new High Speed Train line will reduce the current 3 hour trip to a mere 2 hours. I can hardly wait.
Planning a trip to Paris can be challenging, especially when it comes to finding a place to stay. I remember the first times were I didn’t get it right and we ended up in hotels that were cramped, noisy, hot or out of the way. Not a very relaxing base for a romantic trip. But I have figured it out and now I know exactly where to stay for an enjoyable trip.
For me a hotel within walking distance is the most important factor to take into account when planning our Paris stay. After all I go to Paris to experience the city of lights and I am not necessarily here for a hotel experience. That means that a hotel in any arrondissement numbered higher than 9 is to far out of the way for me. And in arrondissement 8 or 9 I want to be close to the center. The first arondissement, Les Tuilleries is my favorite choice. This chique neighborhood is located on the Right Bank (Rive Droit) of the Seine, and is home to many beautiful historic buildings, the Louvre Museum, the adjacent Jardins des Tuileries and the elegant Place Vendome. Being in this area always makes me feel like a Parisienne.
Hotels in the 1st arrrondissement tend to be more expensive. You can go all out and book a suite in the Ritz or Georges V. But a little research will help you find more affordable accommodation in the First arrondissement as well. Ronald and I enjoyed our stay in Hotel Brighton very much. Under the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli you are literally on the doorstep of the Louvre and the Place Vendome.
A few blocks closer to the Place de la Concorde in the same Rue de Rivoli you will find the St. James Albany. I stayed here with my sister in January and we enjoyed the spa and large indoor pool.
From the Rue de Rivoli I like to wander through the Jardin de Tuilleries to arrive at the banks of the Seine. Crossing the river via the small pedestrian Passerelle it is only a few minutes walk to the the Musée d’Orsay. I love this museum that is based in an ancient railway station for the trains to and from Bordeaux. My favorites rooms hold the impressionist paintings by Renoir and Van Gogh.
If you walk up the de Rue de Rivoli and cross the Place de la Concorde you’ll arrive at the Champs Elysee. If you happen to be in this area around lunch or dinner time check out the restaurant in Le Mini Palais in one of the wings of the Grand Palais. High imperial columns mark the entrance overlooking the Alexander the 3rd bridge. I like to get a table outside under the colonnades. Waiters in black and white will serve crisp white wine while I contemplate the menu options. Another favorite Parisian restaurant of ours in this area is the Pavilion Elysée Le Notre. The Pavilion is an elegant glass building constructed in 1900 to mark a universal Exhibition. I enjoy a tea break in this isle of green serenity near the bustle of the Champs Elysee. This most famous street of Paris must be on your list when you visit Paris. However you need to approach your visit with care to avoid the tourist traps like over priced bars, tacky restaurants and uninteresting shops. The last couple of years the shopping experience on the Champs Elysee is improving with high end flag ship stores like Abercrombie & Fitch or Banana Republic. A treat for a provincial girl from Bordeaux like me. If you live close to New York this will probably not excite you and you’ll prefer to shop the Rue du Faubourg – Saint Honoré just behind the Champs Elysée. Here you will find famous French designers like Chanel, Baccarat, Dior. I like to take the subway to the far end and visit the Arc de Triomph. Every evening at 6.30 PM you can assist at a moving ceremony in honor of the Unknown Soldier who is buried where. Be prepared for pomp and circumstance like the French love it. Then Ronald and I stroll hand in hand back to the Place de la Concorde while the lights start to go on. For me there is nothing more romantic than a stroll in Paris with the man I love. Before we return to our hotel we take a picture on the Pont Alexander the 3rd with the Eifel tower in the background