At the beginning of May, I was lucky enough to take a wee trip across the Channel to Paris. I think it’s amazing that you can hop on the Eurostar at St Pancras and find yourself at the Gare du Nord in Paris in a matter of hours. We really wanted to make the most of that opportunity before leaving London so on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago we boarded the Eurostar bright and early, and arrived in the French capital just in time for lunch. I’m by no means a Paris expert, but I thought it would be fun to share some of the things we saw, places we went and what we ate, over a few posts.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris for our first night, as I was researching a piece for one of the publications I write for. We were greeted with friendly smiles and a glass of Champagne – talk about a welcome! After checking in and gawping at our room (more on that later) we decided to tear ourselves away from the hotel for a while and make the most of our stunning location with an afternoon wander around the surrounding area.
The Mandarin Oriental is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Jardin des Tuilleries, which was our first stop for a stroll in the sun, admiring the views of the Eiffel Tower in the distance and pausing for a spot of people watching along its leafy paths. (We spotted this goat too – resident grass cutter perhaps?)
We then took a leisurely stroll along the street of our hotel – the gorgeous Rue Saint-Honoré, a.k.a. Paris’ fashion heartland. We wandered along to the Place Vendôme, peeping in the windows as we went. (Fun fashion fact – the Place inspired the shape of the iconic Chanel No. 5 bottle, and is still home to the fashion house’s Haute-Joaillerie boutique). Flagging a little by now, we stopped off at nearby Ladurée for a sugary treat.
We then fought our way through the crowds along the Champs-Elysées (seriously, it’s not even the height of tourist season yet!) towards the Arc de Triumphe. By now it was evening time and the setting sun cast a stunning silhouette, peeping behind the iconic monument. The symbol of the French nation stands on the highest point of the line running from the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense that links old and new Paris – making for some pretty amazing views. Our visit coincided with the daily, traffic-stopping ritual paying tribute to the Great Dead.
We then walked all the way back along the other side of the Champs-Elysées to the hotel, passing the Grand Palais (site of the most presitigious exhibitions and cultural events – bonjour, Chanel show). We were glad to make it back to our room after all that walking, and rested our weary tootsies on the biggest bed known to man! Here’s what our gorgeous room looked like…
Our lovely suite comprised a generously-sized bedroom (with sitting/ desk area), bathroom and dressing room (!). The room was fairly large and incredibly comfy, particularly for a city such as Paris where space is at a premium. Aside from the colossal bed, the bathroom was my favourite part of our suite – with it’s waterfall shower and TV in the bath (I kid you not) it was sheer luxury. And the accompanying his ‘n’ hers dressing room opposite – just wow.
We had a lovely view of the leafy courtyard below from our window too. The hotel had arty and fashionable touches throughout: embroidery by Lesage, Man Ray prints and a couture-inspired interior at Michelin-starred restaurant Sur Mesure Par Thierry Marx. Combined with the unbeatably stylish location, it was a fashion lover’s dream.
The following morning we were treated to breakfast, which was just divine. Breakfast is probably one of my favourite meals of the day (I can’t function without it) and on holiday it’s practically imperative to fill up for a day of tourist activities. Our breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, Camélia, had a selection of delectable options, from delicious tropical fruit to the finest local patisserie. Luckily we had an excursion planned and were able to walk off our breakfast…
We must have wandered the length of the Rue Saint-Honoré and back several times, but the hotel was in such a lovely area and we really wanted to take it all in. I was keen to visit department store Colette (also on the Rue Saint-Honoré) and it certainly didn’t disappoint – the epitome of nonchalant Parisian chic. I loved their carefully curated catwalk edit and impressive visual merchandising. I did a little squeal when I saw Man About Town magazine, produced by Show Media, on its glossy shelves (more on that soon).
We strolled down to the nearby Rue Cambon – home of Chanel’s world-famous apartment at number 31. There were more squeals when I caught a glimpse of that famous mirrored staircase peeping through the blinds… Or maybe I was just imagining it. There was a queue so we didn’t go in but I was content just to see where Coco had worked her magic.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel, where we had kindly been invited for lunch at the Camélia. We checked out and took in the views of the lobby, sheltering from the torrential rain outside while we waited for 12.30 to come round. Just check out those Cartier panthers!
Vegetarian dining in Paris can be a bit of a minefield to say the least, but Camélia was incredibly accommodating; there was a veggie option for every course and our waitress also said the chef could make anything I wanted without the meat. Usually I think that’s a wee bit of a cop-out but not here – the beautifully cooked seasonal veg was just impeccable. To start I had asparagus with quail’s eggs (perfectly fresh and flavourful) and for my main I had succulent seasonal vegetables with parmesan foam and truffle shavings – delicious. Al was perfectly content with his foie gras and pigeon, which I hear were perfectly cooked too.
For dessert we had a choice of pastries from the hotel’s stylish patisserie; I went for the rather appropriately named deliciously light Patisserie Saint-Honoré, while Al had an extremely chocolatey mousse. We even managed to squeeze in coffee and petit fours. Though it was incredibly indulgent, everything was so light and I left feeling satisfied but not overly full.
Following lunch we were taken on a tour of the hotel, peeping into the tranquil spa (pampering heaven) and some seriously palatial suites – the bathroom alone was probably the same size as our flat. It was all very discrete and incredibly chic; there was nothing chain-y or ostentatious about it. I definitely know where I would stay for my shopping trips to Paris if I won the lottery next week… And for 24 hours, I felt like I had (minus a serious Chanel spree).
We enjoyed our stay at the Mandarin Oriental immensely – thank you to the lovely team at the hotel, and to Holly at Ann Scott Associates who arranged our stay.
Stay tuned for part two!