VOLANTE Travelling to Paris, it pays to go off the beaten track, as Stanley Moss goes across the river to the 7th arrondissement, with two recently opened and very chic properties near the Tour Eiffel
Photographed by Paula Sweet
Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.
Ask your travel agent to recommend a Paris neighbourhood and inevitably they’ll suggest the Place Vendôme or close to the métro Franklin Roosevelt. Expensive nabes, high-profile, in the thick of the action, BTDT. So why not consider the surprising 7th, an easy ride across the river to the zone just west of Invalides at the foot of the Tour Eiffel? It’s clean, quiet, spacious, uncrowded and has great shopping. The arrondissement compares to Manhattan’s Murray Hill, home to chic apartments, embassies and consulates, plus it has many grand views, not the least of which is the nightly lightshow, hourly until 1 a.m. Two intruiging new properties are of interest, each with its own particular allure.
Le Narcisse Blanc, a boutique palace of 37 rooms and suites, dares to have definite ideas of who it wants to be. Certainly not like home, more like the way I wish I could live at home. Privately held, there’s a real air of discretion and high-end luxury present. This is, at heart, a small luxury business hotel, fully booked every weekend, by people who value privacy and time. An audacious, classical style takes its 19th-century inspiration from the Nadar muse Cléo de Mérode, nicknamed ‘pretty little narcissus’, a theme emulated in refined textiles and floral motifs. The team has five-star attitude and savvy. A sumptuous private spa with 13 m pool, sauna and hammam, only for the use of guests, underscores the theme of exclusivity. There’s also a private room off the entry, suitable for parties up to 10, wired for the digital age, often booked for meetings and meals.
Public areas offer comfortable sofa groupings with a bright window lounge overlooking the street, and an atrium terrace with glassed-in salon, adjoining the Cleo restaurant, where all-organic breakfast is served. Chef Zachary Gaviller keeps the sophisticated menu lively, changing the bill of fare from day to day, according to what the market offers, mostly local, biodynamic and organic. You’ll find an excellent 2014 Bourgogne blanc on the wine card, perfect accompaniment to your crab salad or guinea fowl. A bountiful cheese platter or a compelling dessert ought to happily round out any culinary event.
The fifth floor is the secret here, where the most-booked rooms are located, all with traditional beam ceilings. No regrets if you sleep in 501 ‘Aurore’, with its Tour Eiffel view, capacious bedroom, invisible salon, garden–terrace–shower, which could boast the best bathroom in Paris. Chambre 502, Cleo’s, has a working fireplace; 503 has a huge window, no exaggeration.
A recent guest, commenting on a weekend escape, may have said it all about Le Narcisse Blanc, ‘Finally I get what I deserve.’
Le Cinq Codet, in the same residential quarter, boasts 67 rooms and suites. Occupying a corner space, its curvaceous art-déco façade reminds you of a big, white ocean liner from the 1930s, recollecting a time when travelling was an art and entertaining a culture. What really distinguishes this property are the public spaces, where a large enclosed terrace and a lively restaurant turn the place into a living design hotel, styled unisex, woman-centric, metrosexual. Rotating exhibits of eco-themed work by young artists embellish the property, the vision of an expert curator. It’s an ideal place to do business, equidistant to all the action in town. There’s an imaginative breakfast served from a slow kitchen, during which you’ll no doubt discover that the guests are an international lot. You’ll overhear many languages spoken, by 20-something fashionistas or 60-something voyagistas split between professional and leisure travellers. A très cool futurismo spa has hammam, sauna, massage and treatment rooms, and an outdoor Jacuzzi you will love.
Architect Jean-Philippe Nuel emphasized comfort and modern design in his renovation. He’s capitalized on the property’s huge windows, which open to let in the fresh air. Think light, airy spaces. Generous presidential suites complete the lodging choice. This quiet area of narrow streets has no noise, and no traffic jams. Your only distraction might be the déco motifs visible on adjacent building cornices. Cinq Codet’s next door neighbour is France Télécom, whose telephone exchange formerly occupied the hotel’s space. But this property’s not suitable for groups, since there are no meeting rooms. Room 316, a two-level duplex accessed at the end of a psychedelic hallway, might appeal to young adventurers. Its yacht-like plan has a bathtub upstairs in the sleeping loft, and a bathroom downstairs facing the blond wood-panelled built-in seating area.
A stay at this property feels like you’re voyaging on one of those big star ships in the sci-fi movies, complete with whooshing automatic doors that open seconds before your nose hits the glass. That’s hardly a deal-breaker for interstellar road warriors in search of new worlds to conquer. •
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