TRAVEL: PEACE IN PARIS
Known as one of the world’s most bustling cities, search and you will find a quiet, romantic corner...
It was Hemingway who wrote that there are only two places to live happy – home and Paris. I read A Moveable Feast in university many moons ago and throughout my early 20s, before visiting, I lived vicariously through the writer’s early 20th century musings. Paris, in my mind, sizzled. It was dark and gloomy with smoky jazz cafés and glitzy theatres where creatives, artists and writers roamed and lived a carefree, bohemian existence.
When I scrambled enough money together for a EuroStar train from London after graduating, I remember chasing literary nostalgia along the Seine where Hemingway famously sat, and getting a bus across the city just to walk by Gard du Lyon. Nowadays, of course, fleeting trips to the city of light play out differently. They marry work with rushed shopping trips or a stolen morning at the Louvre before throngs of tourists arrive. But every time I visit, the city generates a new story in my mind. There is always something else to discover in Paris. Behind its grand palaces and boulevards, there’s always a hidden gem: an intimate courtyard or garden; a local craft and food market that has sprouted up behind a historic gallery or building. Every time I return, districts have changed or been restored and new areas like Seine Rive Gauche have been built, or the old artsy hipster hangouts in Montmartre have been elevated by Michelin star restaurants and luxurious boutique hotels. There’s always a bar or restaurant to dine in, a new delicious bakery, the latest gallery.
This time around, I dedicated 24 hours to exploring Le Marais, the quaint Jewish district where a myriad of dinky cafés, wine bars, museums and galleries have now made the neighbourhood
one of the busiest places to stay in Paris. Small independent boutiques, pâtisseries, and cheese, bread and wine shops line the crooked medieval lanes while rustic, artsy hotels dot every corner. Place des Vosges - the old square that was once home to Parisian aristocracy – is a five-minute walk away and at the heart of it, is Pavillon de la Reine. You don’t get much more peaceful than this quaint refined mansion. It’s hidden behind marble gates and nestled amongst towering trees and shrubbery and yet you still get a feel for Marais’s romantic 17th century architecture. The décor is grand and elegant but not stuffy, revamped by interior designer Didier Benderli last year. The lobby and restaurant combine antique grandeur with flashy contemporary touches like yellow velvet armchairs scattered among marble fireplaces and maple book shelves. It feels warm and sumptuous - a homely, countryside vibe despite being smack bang in the centre of Marais. The service too is attentive but not overbearing – rare and wonderful nowadays for a five-star property. The hotel’s pièce de résistance now is Anne – its new and much anticipated gastronomy restaurant, which has attracted a chic, buzzy crowd who can be seen dining on the hotel’s terrace courtyard when the weather is sunny. The perfect anniversary or birthday night out – or even if you simply feel like splashing out on a Saturday evening in ‘Gay Paree’.
■ Stays at Pavillon de la Reine cost from €330 per room per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis. To book, visit pavillondelareine.com or call 0033 140 291 919. Anne is open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Saturday, and for Sunday lunch. A la carte menu from €68,
The Pavillon de la Reine is a stunning boutique hotel in the heart of Paris’s La Marais district