Paris is unquestionably one of the world’s great cities, yet doing it justice requires an equally great access to food, wine and accommodation. But having the right hotel also makes the total difference to your enjoyment of even the greatest city. And I found the perfect Paris hotel in Hotel Saint-Paul Rive Gauche.
At least in my view.
I want to recommend a place that did two things very well indeed: one, it was superbly located so as to provide access to not only the food and wine but of equal importance, to some of the best precincts in this beautiful city.
Second, it was warm, comfortable, well equipped and with top service. Now that might all seem a little over the top and gushy, but the truth is I have stayed in Paris when the staff have been as abrupt and unhelpful as a weary gendarme after a night in Belleville.
Let’s cut to the chase. The hotel I thoroughly enjoyed for all these reasons is the Hotel Saint-Paul Rive Gauche.
The hotel itself dates from the 17th century so you have all the style and ambience that the French do so well they have the English word for it. Well, the French word, we’ve appropriated.
The smallness and quaintness conceals a quality and style ranging from its delightful cellar to its clean and well equipped rooms. As mentioned, the staff go out of their way to assist and offer advice, but you’re in the midst of some of the best parts of this wonderful city.
Go out of the lobby and there, to the left, is the walk to the Luxembourg gardens. It is close to the fabulous Sorbonne. The Notre Dame beckons? It’s close, too. Restaurants, cafes, galleries? Down the road.
But this is the Rive Gauche, for goodness sake.
Are we forgetting that this, the best part of all Paris, is the Paris we all learned to love – the place of writers, artists, thinkers – people who are so internationally celebrated we only need the surnames: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Sartre, Colette, Nin, Stein . . the endless list of romantics and artists who today paint the Rive Gauche in the colors that make it the most atmospheric of all the arrondissments that I can think of.
This may be Paris of another era, but it’s the best Paris of today also.
This is the bohemian Paris with the wonderful Boulevard Saint-Germain, the rue Bonaparte, the Boulevard Saint-Michel.
Isn’t this where you need to be when you visit?
And so our hotel provides the refuge where the weary part-time Parisiennes return after traipsing the boulevards and side alleys. Quietly situated and yet perfectly located for this, the best part of Paris, surely provides everything anyone could wish for here.
Too often the bland and soulless chain hotels provide little by way of personal service or charm and the local, friendly feel of a hotel like St Paul Rive Gauche is something that makes a holiday much more . . a
The charm of the hotel is partly its décor, but partly also its charming beams and Haute-Epoque furnishings. The rooms are different from one another, but also different from all that sameness that comes form the chain hotels with their rooms-by-number charmlessness. If you want the romance of four-posters or a ceiling of twinkling lights you get them here.
For me, the city itself and the proximity of St Paul Rive Gauche to that metropolitan excitement and character was enough. Bed was for resting without the four posts or twinkling lights, but having a hotel that felt like home and service that made you feel at home made the difference between a holiday in a foreign city and a foreign city that felt like home.
By John Bowie, LawFuel publisher.