I found myself in Paris for a brief 24 hours last week for work. It is easily one of my favourite European cities, and I am awestruck by its beauty every time I visit. With its wide tree-lined boulevards, its impressive melting pot of architecture (ranging from Gothic to postmodern), iconic sights (including the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame), and the designer boutiques along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré; all lining the banks of the River Seine, it is easy to fall in love with this city.
My first stop was lunch and a site visit at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand. My tummy grumbled as the Eurostar pulled into Gare du Nord. I was very much looking forward to this meeting! Taxi queues at Gare du Nord are really hit and miss. Unless your train is empty (and let’s face it, when does that happen nowadays), or you are the first one off the train, expect delays as your queue for a taxi. That said, it is always safer to take a registered metered taxi and avoid the illegal drivers that approach you as you come off the train; 20 minutes later I was on my way.
As an event planner, I often view properties so that I can keep them in mind for future events. I was keen to see the InterContinental Paris Le Grand given its 5-star rating, central location and close proximity to our local office. The historic hotel first opened its doors in Paris in 1862, to emulate other iconic properties of the era. At the time of its construction, it was the largest hotel in the world. Throughout its history, the hotel has hosted royalty and other esteemed guests. It was also the set of Roman Polanski’s thriller, Frantic with Harrison Ford.
My contact greeted me as I arrived, and showed me around the property taking in the 470 bedrooms (of course we didn’t visit them all!), 72 suites, 2 restaurants (including the legendary Café de la Paix), spa, bars and meeting rooms. The sheer size of the property is impressive; they boast to have over 30km of corridors! Whilst the property is a picture of old-world luxury, it also feels somewhat tired and in need of a little bit of love.
After our tour, we made our way to Café de la Paix for lunch. The menu was as you would expect; quintessentially French. I had the 1862 French onion soup (which was absolutely divine), followed by a traditional Mille-feuille. My host parted with me some very helpful Parisian knowledge. Have you ever tried to eat a Mille-feuille before, only to be covered in flakes of fine pastry by the end? Well no more! The trick to eating this delicious dessert is to flip it over onto its side and to slice it right down the middle. So simple, yet so effective.
After lunch, it was time for me to head to Les Salons Hoche, home to the Parisian art fair, Asia Now; to set up our client reception. The gallery, set within an event space was the perfect venue to complement the contemporary Asian art collection. The marbled rooms and Baroque richness juxtapose the modern works of art giving it perfect contrast.
After the event, at the end of a very long day, shortly before midnight (when there was every chance I might turn into a pumpkin); the cabbie took me on the tourist route via the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Champs de Elysee. Though it took longer, I didn’t mind at all.
Despite having cravings for Ferdi (only the best burgers in gay Paree, just ask Kimye), I gave in to my fatigue and called for room service. Being in Paris I thought it would be rude not to order the local delicacies, and thus 30 minutes later the most delicious croque madame and French fries appeared at my front door.
The next morning, I headed to the Le Grand Capucine Café for a traditional French breakfast. The café first opened its doors in 1875 and is a local favourite. In true Parisian style, its street-side terrace overlooks the colourful streets of Opéra. My yummy Parisian breakfast did my waistline no favours, but it was totally worth it. I had a delicious baguette, croissant (I hear you…you can never have too many carbs!), a fruit salad, a fresh orange juice AND a café au lait. I would definitely recommend stopping by for a visit.
After breakfast, I headed into the local office to meet with colleagues to view their garden for an upcoming event. Our colleagues are very lucky indeed, having spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower from their windows. I may need to consider putting in a transfer request!
With just one more official stop on my itinerary, I made my way to the infamous Four Seasons George V for a site visit. This breathtaking property is opulently furnished, offering its guests elegant rooms, fitness and spa facilities, bars and restaurants. In fact, they proudly hold five Michelin stars between their three restaurants. Be warned; don’t go looking for a cheap meal. A cup of tea set me back €15! This is such a beautiful property that you must see. They actually spend €1.8m annually on flowers to decorate the hotel. Also, expect to run into celebs during your stay. The Rolling Stones were staying whilst I was there, and I bumped into Keith Richards in the fitness studio. As I left, the paparazzi was starting to gather; sadly, not for me!
Feeling a little peckish after my grand Parisian breakfast, I headed to the iconic Hôtel Costes, a celebrity and fashionista haunt, for a final spot of people watching. Walking via an opulent den of intricate detail, I was seated on the outer edge of the courtyard cafe, overlooking the other glamorous diners. I helped myself to melon served with Parma ham and a side of freshly baked baguette. Delicious after my heavy breakfast.
Alas, my short trip to the French capital was drawing to a close. I made my way back to Gare du Nord to meet my Eurostar. Well, that was the plan. Despite checking in online, I was not allowed to board the train even though it was still in-station boarding. All because I arrived 28 minutes before the allocated departure time. When they say arrive 30 minutes before departure, they mean it! All said and done, I was easily accommodated on the next departure, so not the end of the world.
If you have a little bit more time than I did when you are next in Paris, you might like to check out some of my favourite places in the capital, on your next trip.
- Montmartre: is a beautiful hilltop neighbourhood with panoramic views out over the city. It is home to the spectacular Sacré-Cœur. Both are an absolute must. Take some time to stroll the winding streets lined with boutiques, cafés, market stalls and artists.
- For Sex in the City fans: follow in Carrie’s footsteps and stay at the grand Plaza Athénée. Across the road is Dior’s flagship store, where Carries stumbles and falls in season 6. The Eiffel Tower is also a short stroll away. Whilst in Paris, Carrie meets with Aleksandr Petrovsky’s ex-wife at KONG Bar and Restaurant. Head there for drinks or food with incredible views of Pont Neuf.
- Crazy Horse: forget the tourist trap Moulin Rouge. Head to Crazy Horse, an iconic (and tasteful) cabaret show that dates back to 1951. Each dancer in the show is selected to be indistinguishable on stage in height and in breast size and shape. They are all incredible dancers and the production is flawless. Crazy Horse has hosted celebrity acts over the years including Dita Von Teese, Carmen Electra, Pamela Anderson and Kelly Brook.
- Ferdi: is a neat little find my amazing friend Georgia put me on to, knowing that I am a burger connoisseur. Situated in a quaint area near the Seine River, Ferdi is one of Kimye’s go-to restaurants in Paris. They love the signature cheeseburger and fries, and Kim often has the Churrus nuciola for dessert.
- Buddha Bar: an oldie but a goodie. The Paris bar and restaurant was the first of the Buddha Bar dynasty created by French-Romanian restaurateur Raymond Vișan and DJ and interior designer Claude Challe, in 1996. The chain now has more than 15 sites around the globe. They invite you to taste their menu and exceptional cocktails and to travel to distant lands, through the exotic cuisine.
Until next time, safe travels.
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