Disclaimer: I hate flying. Despite travelling for a living, I’m always nervous before I board a plane, so it’s a huge relief to me that for our recent trip to Paris, we travelled via the Eurostar. Not only does it end up being quicker than the plane – clocking in at just over two hours, vs. an hour in the air and travelling to and from the airport – it’s also more comfortable, especially in Premier Economy, where you’re served a meal and drinks, too. So, two hours and twenty minutes after leaving London, we’re stepping off the Eurostar and into the bustling freneticness that is Paris’s Gare du Nord station, nerves intact. A short metro journey later and we’re transported again, this time to the rather swanky environs of the 8th arrondissement, which for the uninitiated is one of the capital’s most affluent neighbourhoods (Rue Fauburg St Honore is a stone’s throw away, housing Chanel, Dior, and just about every other designer fashion house). Our destination is the Pavillon des Lettres, a boutique hotel with just 26 bedrooms – each named after an author, from Baudelaire to Woolf (lettres = literature, gettit?). Books play a big role in the hotel, from the free tome you receive in your room, to the ones lining the bookshelves of the communal area, where breakfast is served. After all, many famous authors – from Ernest Hemingway to Samuel Beckett – made their homes here, while several more were born here, including Emile Zola and Voltaire.
The joy of boutique hotels is that you never know what to expect – there’s no catalogue picture of every room, because each is totally unique. We stayed in the ‘Z’ room, which featured very Parisian views from the shuttered windows, twin wardrobes, a mini bar, writing desk, flat screen television and waterfall shower, not to mention a soft, fluffy robe each and slippers. Toiletries are from Parisian-based brand Codage, which we’re not embarrassed to say we took with us, Ross from Friends-style. If you’re looking for a little more space, opt for one of the suites on the top floor – A or B – which give you an armchair and bathtub to wallow in, too. (But really, why are you wallowing, you’re in Paris?)
What We Ate And Drank
The hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant per say, but having visited a few years ago, we were cheered to discover that a new addition to its offering is the serving of complimentary tapas from 5pm to 7pm – a very welcome addition indeed. Comprising cold cuts of meat, including salami, chorizo and Parma ham, as well as cheese (something the French do very well, naturally – think melt-in-the-mouth brie and eye-wateringly strong blue), bread and other crudities, guests are invited to take a drink from the honesty bar while they eat, with suggestions including champagne cocktails (we obliged – it would be rude not to). Breakfast is a similar take what you want affair, with a plentiful buffet of all the continental classics, which you can also handily have served in your room for brekkie in bed. If you’re feeling even more lazy for any reason, you can also order room service from local restaurants, dependent on kitchen opening times.
What We Did
While the hotel is only a stone’s throw from some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees, we opted to head off the beaten track slightly when it came to our tourist activities. We started with the Yves Saint Laurent museum, which currently has an offer on with the hotel which includes queue jump VIP tickets. The beautiful house tells the iconic fashion designer’s story from his career beginnings as a protégé of Christian Dior to his lasting legacy and influence, with plenty of beautiful pieces to swoon at (not to mention archive footage of the man himself and countless sketches and other ephemera). Feeling suitably cultured, we next opted to explore Montemarte and Pigalle, settling on two local-heavy bars: La Cave des Abbesses and Marlusse et Lapin, both of which sated our appetite for red wine and cheese. On day two, we decided to go even further afield and booked a bottomless jazz brunch at historic venue La Bellevilloise, which more than lived up to our expectations, with never-ending food supplies and a buzzy, chic atmosphere. Plus, if you’re feeling emotional after all the jazz (and champagne) you can head to Pere Lachaise cemetery and leave a kiss for Oscar Wilde.
How To Book
Stays at Pavillon des Lettres from €199 per room per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis. To book : www.pavillondeslettres.com; +33 (0)1 49 24 26 26. We travelled via the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Tickets are available from www.eurostar.com or 03432 186 186.