Friday, October 22, 2010
A week ago I received an email inviting me on a press trip to Paris. Given my love for the city, it I didn’t hesitate to accept. But even if the trip hadn’t been to Paris, I would have jumped at the chance to go. Why? It was a press trip to Hotel Le Bristol, one of Paris’ top five-star hotels, and one of the only European family-owned hotels of its caliber in the city. With a three Michelin starred restaurant, an amazing spa, and gorgeous decor, I couldn’t wait to experience the hotel first-hand.
On Tuesday morning I boarded the Eurostar with the other press trip members. After a pleasant journey, we arrived in Paris and were taken to the uber-fashionable Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, Le Bristol’s unbeatable location. Once there, we we were greeted by the communications manager and shown to our rooms. Well, suites. Mine was on the seventh floor of the original wing of the hotel, and came with two enormous rooms featuring beautiful classic decor, and a large bathroom that was all white marble.
I settled in a bit, enjoying some of the petit fours and fresh fruit in the sitting room before taking the stunning 1920′s elevator back down to the lobby for lunch at the bar. On the way down, I wondered if I would see any celebrities, with whom the hotel is a popular place to stay in Paris. Recent guests included Leonardo DiCaprio, Woody Allen, Jude Law, and supermodel Natalia Vodianova.
The bar was a spacious, bright room with large comfortable chairs and sofas. Hotel guests and local Parisians were dotted throughout, enjoying light lunches and coffee. Our lunch started with a glass of Champagne, which was followed by a delicious lettuce soup, raviolis with chevre, and a sumptuous raspberry tart. This was of course followed by petit fours, which we couldn’t resist trying. When we found out that the chef from the 3-star restaurant supervised all of the food in the hotel—from the bar to the new restaurant 114 Faubourg to the signature Restaurant Gastronomique—it was no wonder our lunch tasted so good.
As we ate, the communications manager explained to us that the massive portrait of Marie Antoinette that hung above us was original, as were all of the hotel’s paintings and mirrors. She also told us about the Fashion High Teas that the hotel bar regularly hosts. Like Pret-a-Portea at the Berkeley in London, Le Bristol serves cakes and pastries that are inspired by the season’s fashions. But it takes things a step further by bringing in models, who show off the collections of the top fashion houses in Paris as guests enjoy their tea.
Over the course of the next two days, we were able to explore the hotel in greater detail. On the ground floor we got a tour of the beautiful garden, which hosts sculpture exhibitions and is the perfect place to relax in the summer months. Moving up from there, we were shown the hotel’s new wing. It blended seamlessly into the old one and housed rooms (starting at € 770/night) and suites (starting at € 1,100/night) of various sizes, all refurbished to a high standard and many of which featured large private terraces and balconies. We were even shown the € 7,000/night suite that Woody Allen stayed in last summer while he filmed his upcoming movie, Midnight in Paris, parts of which were filmed in the hotel.
Apart from the rooms, Hotel Le Bristol had one of the most amazing fitness centers I’ve ever seen. Located on the sixth floor, there were great views of the beautiful buildings on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore from the workout machines. But the real treat was the swimming pool. Designed to look like it was on the deck of a ship, the pool was surrounded by a wood floor and had a beautiful nautical-themed painting behind it. Outside was a large terrace that had excellent views of the Sacre Coeur. That’s to say nothing of the views of the Eiffel Tower from the opposite window.
Heading back to the lobby, the Anne Semonin spa beckoned. The spa is famous for its facials, massages, and other beauty treatments, and as we entered we saw that the rooms were decorated in beautiful neutral colors with soft lighting. The place was popular with local Parisians as well as hotel guests, and as part of our stay, each of us was given the hotel’s signature made-to-measure facial.
Having never had a facial before, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I knew that I would enjoy it as soon as the therapist brought me a glass of water and two delicious macaroons to start. The facial itself was relaxing, and the therapist was very knowledgeable about skin types and treatments. The foot massage that came with it was a great bonus. It ended on another high note as I learned that there are plans to expand the spa with more treatment rooms and a daycare center for children.
It wasn’t just Hotel Le Bristol’s interior and luxurious spa treatments that won me over, though. The staff and the service were impeccable, and the restaurants and special offerings (think a private after-hours tour of the Louvre and a half-day adventure with a personal shopper in Paris) were both deserving of a post in their own right. So much so that’s exactly what I will do for them. To be continued…