Category Archives: Paris

Kisses from Paris…

How would you describe a city like Paris? Do you automatically think of a Robert Doisneau image of two lover kissing in front of the Hotel de Ville or is the Eiffel Tower lit up at night inscribed in your memory?  Paris is undoubtedly magical, but the beyond the confines of the tourist trails is one of the most multi-cultural, artistic and unconventional capitals in Europe.

The Paris Ile-de-France Comite Regionale du Tourisme has just launched a short viral film to promote the young and vibrant side of the city that many visitors end up missing.

The three and a half minute film entitled Kisses From Paris is directed by French actor/director Yvan Attal (who is also Charlotte Gainsbourg’s partner) and is sound tracked by Rufus Wainwright’s atmospheric Leaving For Paris.   The Paris tourist board loved his sketch in New York, I Love You so much that they commissioned Yvan to express his own creative vision of the “New Paris Ile-de-France”.

The film features two young lovers, played by Zoé Schellenberg and Pierre Perrier snogging their way through Paris, stopping only to marvel at the amazing sights around them.  In between declaring how much they adore each other, the couple study the art at the Beaubourg and the Palais de Tokyo, stroll along the Canal Saint-Martin, go to a gig at the Chateau de Vincenne and hunt for vintage treasures at the Saint Ouen flea market.

The film is intense, stylish and dreamy but in a more realistic than whimsical way. It reminds me of Before Sunrise and its sequel Before Sunset (shot in Paris), where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train and get to know each other in a day before going their separate ways, then meeting up in Paris nine years on.

Kisses From Paris does nothing to dispel the myth of Paris as a city for lovers and not all of us have a Louis Garrel look-a-like to kiss all over town, but it offers a new, alternative Paris to fall in love with.

To find out more about ‘le nouveau Paris’ and to win a trip to Paris, visit the website.

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Stylish sleeping on the Left Bank

The Left Bank is synonymous with literary cafes, the Existential philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, bourgeois art galleries and gauche chic designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Sonia Rykiel.  Nowadays, the philosophers may have decamped from the Café de Flore, but there are still plenty of students from the Sorbonne university and academic bookshops to keep up its ‘intellectual’ atmosphere.

On one of our many Paris visits last year, Steven and I stayed at the Hotel Design Sorbonne, which is just a few steps away from the Boulevard Saint Germain, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, the Seine and of course, the Sorbonne.

The hotel is tucked away on a peaceful side street and is accessed by a quaint courtyard. The reception/lounge area is a mix of a typical French salon interior and bold, contemporary colours, flock wallpaper and striped velvet seating.  There are a number of coffee table books, magazines and Paris attraction maps, as well as an iMac for web browsing. 

 hotel sorbonne lobby

The corridor looks like something surreal from a Jeunet and Caro film, with custers of quirky photographs and lines of poetry emblazoned on the carpet. 

hotel sorbonne

Our room had a dark, romantic atmosphere due to colour scheme of chartreuse, silver and black – even curtains and doors were black!  The bed was extremely comfy, with fluffy pillows, crisp cotton linen and a throw in complementing colours.

The bathroom had beautiful dusky brown and gold flock tiles but was pretty tiny, although I’ve heard that they have rooms with larger ones if you’re staying for longer and need more space.

Like most forward-thinking hotel, they have installed an Apple iMac in each room, so you can access the web and watch TV and DVDs without hassle.  It seems that hotels now want to give guests a more homely experience, rather than leaving us detached from the world, charging guests 10 Euros a day for using wifi. It also eases them off unnecessary concierge duties!

 hotel sorbonne

We ate breakfast outside and tried out the bakeries around the rue de Buci for a croissant and café crème, although the breakfast room at the hotel looked delicious.  

One thing that impressed me most about the hotel is that they have since kept in touch by email and regularly report on their fabulous meanderings around the city on their Paris newsblog.  I had serious food envy over their tasting session of mille-feuilles by legendary Paris pâtissier, Pierre Hermé and am planning to eat at La Bouche, a laid-back restaurant with innovative cuisine in Ménilmontant, which they visited and recommended.

hotel sorbonne breakfast

Hotel Design Sorbonne is part of the Hôtels de Paris Rive Gauche group, that runs three other boutique hotels on the Left Bank, with the hotly anticipated BJ luxury design hotel (formerly the Hotel Ferrandi) opening next Autumn.  If you want a ‘home away from home’ or a more private stay, they also have a designer studio in the Marais, a bijou apartment by the Canal Saint Martin for up to four people and a luxury apartment in the Mouffetard area.

Hotel Design Sorbonne is the perfect base for Paris newbies, as it is within walking distance of the chic designer shops on the Boulvard Saint Germain, the buzzy Latin Quarter, the markets on Rue Mouffetard and of course, the Seine.  The hotel is quiet at night due to its side street position, so if it’s all about getting up and out  in the morning, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good night’s sleep.

Photo Credit

Rates range from 100 – 350 Euros per night and a continental buffet breakfast is 12 Euros.

Hotel Design Sorbonne, 6,  rue Victor Cousin, 75005 Paris. £

Metro: Line 10 : Cardinal Lemoine, Cluny Sorbonne. RER B : Luxembourg.

Boutique hotels on a budget in Paris

Christmas time in London is always magical, with ice skating at Somerset House, German markets in Hyde Park and Covent Garden’s piazza all lit up, but after what feels like a lifetime since the last summer beach holiday, I’m just dying to get away for a few days.

Next month I’m going to Paris (my ‘third home’) for a few nights and now is the time when I obsessively search for the prettiest hotels in the area I want to stay in and then trawl the net for the best deals.  For most people may sound like a pain worse than death, not a secret indulgence, so if you’re planning a winter city break, I’ve done some of the leg work so you can pick the best affordable boutique hotels – I’ve stayed in all of them and would definitely visit again.

A while ago, I went to Paris with my mum and as we planned a night at the Opéra Bastille and particularly love the Marais, we booked to stay three nights the affordable design hotel Le Quartier Bastille Le Faubourg, an affordable design hotel in the 12e arondissement.

le quartier reception

The hotel is sleek and contemporary with retro features like curved leather seats, fringing and glass orbs in the reception/lounge.  When you arrive, you’re hit with the kind of seductive, wood and musk aroma that you’d expect from Hôtel Costes.

Neutral tones with bold statement colours are the order for the bedrooms and they have cool design touches like perspex chairs, a flatscreen TV and a very touchable fibre optic light feature.  The beds are so comfortable that you just can’t wait to curl up in the crisp, cotton linen and catch some zzzs after a long day walking in the city.  They also place delicious Granny Smith apples on your pillows each morning to help you get your five a day amid the steak and fromage overload.

le quartier hotel

The best feature of the hotel is its beautiful outside terrace with wooden decking and red tables, beautiful plants and flowers and gardening can watering features. Paris is full of secret courtyards and Paris fashionistas flock to them for brunch or drink with a bit of secluded people-watching.

le quartier hotel

We didn’t have breakfast at the hotel (although it looked delicious), but we found an adorable bakery on the Rue du Faubourg St-Antoine where you could sit and have a café crème and pastries.

Le Quartier are a small hotel group that used to own a property near République and now also run Le Quartier Bercy-Square on the nearby Boulevard de Reuilly.  The staff were friendly and talkative and there are plenty of coffee table books and magazines like Madame Figaro to keep you amused.

Rates seem to start at 110 Euros a night for a double classic room in November and December, but check around the web for the best deals (we paid 95 Euros when we stayed).

Le Quartier Bastille Le Faubourg is best suited to second-timers in Paris who are familiar with getting around on the metro.  The location doesn’t have the grandeur of the Louvre area or the Left Bank, but you get a boutique hotel with individual design touches without the sky-high prices of more central hotels.  It’s one of the best places to sleep in style and still have enough Euros left for late-night aperitifs.

Le Quartier Bastille Le Faubourg, 9 Rue De Reuilly, 75012 Paris

Frieze Week: Pavilion of Art & Design London

Last night, I headed down to the VIP Opening of the Pavilion of Art & Design in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, which will be the home of the hot pink palace until Sunday.

Pavilion is a reinvention of last year’s DesignArtLondon fair, with the new addition of contemporary art pieces.

Among the guests inside were the cream of the internation art community – the world’s wealthiest art dealers and collectors, distinguished art critics and mini Dasha Zhukovas clad in Hervé Leger and Louboutins (black, of course).

Pavilion art fair

This is a place where the buyer is treated like one of the family, sales are negociated over glasses of Ruinart champagne (I wangled a thimble full of fizz perfection) and the press are treated to an earlier lunch and preview, which I unfortunately missed.  

Pavilion features 45 of the world’s most prominent and influential dealers of contemporary art, design and decorative arts.  Galleries from Paris, London, Brussels, Milan, New York, Barcelona and Geneva are showing a covetable selection of fine art, antique jewellery, statement furniture and design pieces.

Skulls

As a self-confessed magpie, I spent a great deal of time pawing over exquisite jewellery created by some of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists presented by Louisa Guinness Gallery.

Jewellery has been a relatively unexplored medium in art and Louisa Guinness sought to change that by working with high-profile sculpters and painters to create ‘jewels of art’.

On display was a giant gold orb necklaces by Anish Kapoor, a ruby necklace spelling out ‘cunt’ by Sam Taylor-Wood, colourful geometric necklace by Meret Oppenheim and Louise Bourgeois’ silver Araña brooch.

jewellery

On the design front, Todd Merrill’s Studio Contemporary (New York) features some subversive, hand crafted pieces such as a feather-light molecular chair and Galerie Downtown François Laffanour mixes the functionality of iconic designers like Le Corbusier with more avant-garde pieces by George Nakashima and Takis.

velvet chair

 A highlight for me was seeing two mixed media pieces by Gottfried Helnwein – The Red Gun and a lucid, blue-tinted portrait  – represented by Friedman Benda.

Toshio Shibata’s Japanese bondage photographs at Michael Hoppen Gallery were intriguing and enigmatic and I marvelled at the two Francis Bacon paintings at Faggionato Fine Art.

Art

A great start to the art world’s version of London Fashion Week, but if you’re actually in the market for an artwork, you better get there quick, as some sales were reportedly made before the fair even opened!

Pavilion of Art & Design London is on from 14 – 18 October in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6ES. 

Tickets are £15, FREE for students and children under 15.

Bon café @ Beaubourg

Ok, so Café Beaubourg is hardly off the beaten track – it stands in a square of sublime artiness, neighbouring the Centre Pompidou – but it has become my favourite place to stop for a coffee in Paris. 

Often described as a haunt of the ‘fash pack/jet set/fashionistas’ or whatever you want to such privileged folk, Café Beaubourg is more BCBG than bobo, but don’t worry, there’s no sectioned off, limited view area for ‘civillians’ (thanks for that, Liz Hurley).

Cafe Beaubourg terrace

A café crème on the terrace feels divine after a long day wandering around the city and it’s in a prime spot for watching art students, Marais hipsters and chihuahuas (with their owners, of course) going about their day.  In the winter, keep warm on the other side of the red velvet drapes and cosy up on a banquette amidst vast concrete columns and bookcases.

Café Beaubourg’s logo-emblazoned sugar lumps and cool soundtrack give away that it’s another outlet from that old paragon of  good taste, Hotel Costes, but I was completely in awe of their amazing lightning bolt cups – kleptos, control yourselves!

Cafe Beaubourg

But most importantly, the search for the best croque madame is temporarily over, as Café Beaubourg’s is a traditional béchamel-smothered 2 slicer, complete with a delicious french salad and bowl of crisp fries.  In future posts, you will understand my utter contempt for dry and flimsy pain poilane rip-offs, and believe me, there are many of them in gay Paree.

Wherever you go in central Paris, you’re likely to pay upwards of 3.50 Euros for a coffee and Café Beaubourg doesn’t seem to be any more expensive than usual if you’re sticking to the lunchtime menu. 

Café Beaubourg, 100, Rue Saint Martin, 75004 Paris, France

Nearby: Centre Pompidou, Fontaine Stravinski, le Marais, la Seine,

Metro: Rambuteau or Hôtel-de-Ville

Mama knows best…

After years of searching for that perfect Paris hotel, I never thought the answer to my prayers would be found way out in the 20th arrondissement! Le quartier Saint-Blaise may not have the elegant appeal of Hausmann’s linear boulevards, but it is a charmingly untouched and arty area that is sure to be heralded as ‘the new Belleville’.

I am a huge fan of Marie-Antoinette decadence and usually seek out hotels decked out in the most elaborate toile de jouy, but the Hackney girl in me screamed out for more postmodern adventures…

Mama Shelter reception

A ‘luxury industrial refuge’ seems like a rather abrasive contradiction in terms that, but Mama Shelter does have a sense of humour and a surprisingly warm and vibrant atmosphere – no snooty model/receptionists peering down their noses at you.

After getting used to the exposed concrete walls and dangerous-looking giant power switch, the Phillippe Starck-designed rooms feel like a home away from home (albeit a très stylish abode). They feature a multi-purpose Apple iMac, kitchenette with a microwave, more-than-travel-sized Kiehls shower gel and shampoo and those dreamy beds that make you sleep in and miss your alarm!

Mama Shelter room

Mama Shelter is all about affordable luxury and has clearly been tailor-made for design-conscious folk who don’t want the cultural experience to end when they head back to the room for the night. It’s a real labour of love created in pain-staking detail by French hotel powerhouse the TRIGANO family (co-founder of Club Med) and philosopher Cyril Aouizerate, whose intellectual presence is very much sewn into the fabric of the hotel.

Mama Shelter restaurant

But the real jewel in Mama Shelter’s crown is the buzzing but cosy restaurant and terrace. Hotel guests seem to get priority, but you still need to book ahead as it gets pretty busy. The bar staff are painfully good looking but friendly and a little bit flirty (well, why not), oh and the food is rather fantastic too, but more about that later.

There is now a guide to all the coolspots in Saint-Blaise that you can download from the Mama Shelter website and they’ve recently opened the rooftop terrace for lazy, summer BBQs – what more can you want? Well, maybe a spa, but I’m not going to push my luck!

Stroll along to:
Gambetta, Belleville, Ménilmontant, Cimetière Père Lachaise, Rue Oberkampf.
Drink in: La Fleche D’Or, Le Gambetta, La Bellevilleoise
Put on your iPod: Friendly Fires ft. Au Revoir Simone, Paris (Aeroplanes remix)

Mama Shelter, 109 Rue de Bagnolet, 75020, Paris.
Rooms start at €79 a night and the best deals are on their website.