Thursday, June 30, 2011
Paris’ Right Bank is synonymous with the establishment. From the Elysee Palace to the elegant shops on Rue du Faubourg St Honore, it represents all things traditional. In a city with as much history and culture as Paris, tradition can often mean great things.
However, my own traditions on the Right Bank have gotten me into a bit of a rut over the past few years. My stays at the same hotels and dinners at the same restaurants needed some mixing up.
After my amazing time at Hotel Le Bristol last October, I was excited to try some new Paris hotels on the Right Bank. The first of these came in the form of Hotel Beauchamps in the 8th, which invited me to stay for a night.
The hotel was ideally located right off the Champs Elysees, only a few blocks from where I lived when I worked in Paris. The staff was friendly and welcoming when I arrived, and the room was a spacious corner room with contemporary decor, and a large bed, desk, sofa, and armoire.
The bathroom had a sink and a tub shower with a head that came with a somewhat mysterious neon light that changed colors as the shower progressed. Overall the room was great, particularly the amazingly comfortable bed and the quiet ambiance.
The lobby had a large sitting area, a library and business center, and a restaurant called Velvet. I was invited to dine there with a friend on my last night in Paris, and I was thankful that the window-walls on all sides were open to alleviate the heat of the day.
My meal consisted of a cold green pea soup with lemon ricotta and hake, followed by hand cut beef tartare with lettuce and homemade fries. My friend had an excellent octopus salad and a steak with fries. All of the food was delicious, and I was sad that I didn’t have time for dessert before running to catch my train back to London.
Speaking of the train, I tried another new Paris Right Bank restaurant-and-hotel combination right after my train from London pulled into Gare du Nord. The new Shangri-La Paris opened late last year, and I was invited for a tour and lunch in their La Bauhinia restaurant.
The hotel was housed in a palace in the 16th that formerly belonged to Napoleon’s grandnephew. It had all of the French opulence one would expect from such a residence, and the hospitality that Shangri-La hotels are known for.
I took a tour of one of the rooms, which was split between two levels and offered a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower across the Seine. I also saw several beautifully restored function rooms, the secluded lobby bar, and the fine dining restaurant, L’Abeille.
I met a friend for lunch at La Bauhinia, a gorgeous light-filled space decorated in a blend of French and Asian schemes. We started with blue lobster salads with green beans, peaches, and almonds. They were divine.
Our mains were Asian-inspired steamed codfish with yellow curry paste and coconut milk, and classic grilled Black Angus beef. We both had the lemon pannacotta with red berries for dessert. The meal was thoroughly enjoyable, and the service attentive.
Beyond eating in restaurants, my Paris Right Bank food experience included a picnic lunch in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. The beautiful hilly green space was filled with people enjoying the summer sun. As I watched the world go by, I enjoyed my baguette, cheese, ham, and apricot tart, all of which came from the shops and bakeries on my beloved Rue des Martyrs.
Nearby that street I explored Montmartre’s famous Sacre Coeur and the little side streets that alternate between being packed with people and deserted by all but the locals.
When I wasn’t exploring the hills of the Right Bank, I stuck to the flats. Starting in Parc Monceau, my favorite park in Paris, I walked down to the Rue du Faubourg St Honore. I continued along it, passing all of the luxury goods stores and the presidential palace until I came to the Palais Royal in the heart of Paris. It was beautiful in the summer sun.
Close to there was another of my favorite parts of Paris: the Marais. I spent two of my nights in the city in a Paris apartment in the neighborhood, compliments of Airbnb. The apartment was ideally located right on the Rue Vieille du Temple, and was a spacious one-bedroom with a balcony. While it got loud with the nightlife on the weekend, it was a great place to stay, and a nice alternative to a hotel.
In fact, it was so comfortable that it made me want to move in and stay forever. But while I love the neighborhood and the Right Bank, I’m not sure I could ever choose between the two sides of the Seine.
While my trip to Paris gave me ample time to decide whether I liked the Right Bank or the Left Bank better, I think I might need a lifetime of trips before I come close to knowing which I prefer.