Paris Je t’aime

There are so many good ho­tels in Paris th­ese days it’s hard to de­cide where to stay but the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, with its dis­creet ob­ses­sion for per­fec­tion, is a wor­thy con­tender.

Bespoke - - ESCAPE -

Once upon a time, Saint Honoré, and its el­e­gant con­tin­u­a­tion, the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, was just a long muddy lane that con­nected the walled city of Paris to the re­mote Forêt de Rou­vray. Nowa­days it’s one of Paris’ most pres­ti­gious streets, strad­dling the 1st and 8th ar­rondisse­ments, home to the city’s most fa­mous shops as well as the Elysée Palace – the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the Pres­i­dent of France. Yet there was al­ways a sep­a­ra­tion; the Faubourg side, in the 8th ar­rondisse­ment, has ben­e­fit­ted from hav­ing a per­ceived higher sta­tus and as a re­sult it has long been where you’d go to find the city’s finest lux­ury brands like Dior, Her­mès and Givenchy. The next ten blocks, from Rue Cam­bon to Rue des Pyra­mides is for some rea­son seen as be­ing more prim­i­tive, and as a re­sult it at­tracts lower pro­file and more mod­ish brands. Back at the be­gin­ning of the 21st cen­tury, Chanel was one of the first to break rank, when Coco de­cided to set up shop on Rue Cam­bon, in the 1st ar­rondisse­ment, just off Saint Honoré (where the brand has more re­cently opened a store ded­i­cated to perfumes and beauty), and over the years, oth­ers like Go­yard, John Gal­liano, Comp­toir des Co­ton­niers and Star­cow have fol­lowed suit. Of course, the two bright­est and long­est-serv­ing bea­cons of cool on Saint Honoré have been the Ho­tel Costes and Co­lette (which re­cently shocked the fash­ion world by an­nounc­ing it will close for good in De­cem­ber), which opened one af­ter the other in 1995 and 1997 re­spec­tively. Given the con­text, the fact that the Man­darin Ori­en­tal – one of the world’s most re­spected, but not nec­es­sar­ily trendy, ho­tel brands – chose to open in this neck of the woods, 70 me­tres be­fore Costes (and a short walk from the Ritz), demon­strates how this prop­erty wanted to mix it up and bridge the gap be­tween lux­ury and cool. The ho­tel it­self is es­sen­tially a new build ap­pended to a listed Art Deco façade. It’s cen­tred on a lush gar­den court­yard and en­com­passes 138 rooms that start at around 1,000 USD a night and cul­mi­nate with 40 suites, the most im­pres­sive of which is the 20,000-Usd-a-night Royale Man­darin Suite – a split-level, one-king suite with a large ter­race, gym, din­ing room, bar, study and steam room with views of the Eif­fel Tower. Pre­sum­ably in the hope of not de­ter­ring its ever-loyal cor­po­rate crowd, the over­all style is very risk averse, while it man­ages to be nei­ther de­sign-driven nor ul­tra-clas­sic. There may be a sprin­kling of Parisian ele­gance here and there but it’s all pretty safe. Where the ho­tel excels is in the de­tails. The beds are in­cred­i­bly com­fort­able, the bath­rooms huge, the food is out­stand­ing, the ameni­ties are well con­sid­ered and the spa is for­mi­da­ble, while Asian re­fine­ment clearly man­i­fests it­self through the im­pres­sively per­son­able ser­vice – for ex­am­ple all the staff know your name, from the clean­ing lady to the som­me­lier, which is no easy feat in such a large prop­erty. Also im­pres­sive is how the ho­tel goes over and be­yond in ac­com­mo­dat­ing fam­i­lies, of­fer­ing a ded­i­cated kid’s am­bas­sador and concierge, as well as 24hour babysit­ting. It may not be as cool as the four-star Costes next door but the Man­darin Ori­en­tal Paris is fun­da­men­tally a far bet­ter ho­tel, hav­ing even at­tained the sta­tus of ‘Palace’ – a dis­tinc­tion for ho­tels in France that are judged to be even bet­ter than their five-star com­peti­tors. Plus it’s strate­gi­cally lo­cated in the mid­dle of the ac­tion, close to all the best, art, cul­ture, and shop­ping des­ti­na­tions, which are of course the things that keep us com­ing back to the City of Light no mat­ter what’s go­ing on in the news. Most sig­nif­i­cantly of all, it proves the wis­dom of find­ing a mid­dle ground.

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