I’m sure you’ve been out somewhere, looked around and thought to yourself, “I love this room”. For me, to qualify for this designation, it has to spark all the senses. Most importantly is the cocooning factor… that softness that quietly wraps around you. Often this comes in the form of luxurious textiles from draperies or rugs that drown out disagreeable background noise. For a night room, the light must come from real candlelight or muted lamp light that is complementary to everyone! Beautiful, tall windows that allow a room to soak up the light and warmth of the sun are a must for a daytime room while providing an incredible view. Plants, flowers and scented candles are gifts for the nose. Your favourite music playing in the background and, of course, the company of your most cherished people or animals are a must.
I will start with the rooms I love in Paris, my favourite city. There are many fabulous rooms in Paris but, I have chosen the following because they truly are special….to me.
Hotel d’Angleterre: 44 Rue Jacob
This hotel so conveniently located in the 6th arrondissement was the British Embassy many, many years ago… possibly why it seems to attract mostly English speaking guests. You do hear other languages spoken, but from my experience, there seems to be a lot of British and American accents. Ernest and Hadley Hemingway spent their very first few nights in Paris at d’Angleterre in Room 14. It is always a special treat if you are lucky enough to stay in this room. This is where I call home when I’m I’m in Paris. The breakfast room across from the lobby is my favourite room… where I always start my day. Fabric covered walls and heavy brocade drapes provide a buffer from the activity outdoors as the city awakes. The room buzzes with excitement as everyone is happy and enthusiastic about their plans for the day. There’s a familiarity with the management and staff and I’ve noticed over the years that there is very seldom a turnover. The same elegant woman is always in charge of this room ensuring that everything is just right. Heavenly scents of freshly baked croissants greet you at the entrance. A baby grand piano serves as a buffet where the “petit dejeuner” is set. Best of all is the endless supply of cafe au lait! As I look at this picture, I can almost see myself sitting at that corner table!
Le Dali Restaurant at Meurice Hotel: 228 Rue de Rivoli
This room is rich in history ( home to many high ranking Germans during the occupation of WW11) and luxury, named after artist Salvador Dali. Many years ago I had afternoon tea here but in recent years it has been a tradition to stop by for a very decadent glass of champagne after a day of sightseeing or shopping. There is always a lot of activity in this room. It skirts the hallway off the lobby en route to the restrooms and elevators making it a perfect vantage point to watch the “beautiful” people pass by. On one occasion I was with my daughter and we saw the “KGB” strategically seated here and there providing security for some high ranking diplomat, their briefcases loaded with?…close at hand! On another visit, we happened on a fashion show, models sashaying throughout, wearing magnificent Spring fashions during “Fashion Week” which is held every September. This room is lavish with marble pillars, heavy Persian carpets atop intricate mosaic tiled floors and floor to ceiling mirrors. Very traditional and over the top … really… but at the same time so modern. A feast for the eyes!
Le Grand Colbert: 2 Rue Vivienne
Some of you will recognize this bistro as the one shown at the end of the movie “Something’s Gotta Give”. If you ever go, make a reservation ahead of time and ask for the “movie table”. It is the best place to watch the hustle bustle of the waiters and has a direct view of the front door to catch the comings and goings of both tourists and mostly locals. The room glows gold with soft lighting and an art deco interior. There is a long bar that runs along one side and mirrors on the opposite wall that reflects the soft lights and tall potted palms that are everywhere. The maitre’d and waiters are fun and yes, the chicken that Erica (Diane Keaton) highly recommends is delectable. The movie, “Something’s Gotta Give”, plays on a monitor in the ladies room. It’s so entertaining always making for a memorable evening. A “must go” for me whenever I’m in Paris.
l’Hotel: 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts
l’Hotel is the oldest five-star hotel in Paris discreetly tucked in down the street from the Ecole Beaux-Arts. If you don’t know where it is you may walk right by it without noticing This is the hotel that Sabrina runs away to in the movie, “Sabrina”. Oscar Wilde lived here until he died after he was exiled from Britain. Although the entire hotel is exquisite, it’s Le Bar that I love. As in the past, this is still a favourite hideaway for the artsy crowd. It’s very tiny with little-hidden nooks where it is said that secret trysts occur…often. Being dark and dramatic makes it a great spot to “be” without being “seen”. Luxurious with heavy velvet fabrics and elegant furnishings is the ultimate in cozy. If you plan it just right there may be live jazz. One time I was treated to an impromptu “concert” when a gentleman played what I’m sure was the whole repertoire of Billy Joel’s music. Everyone in the bar joined in, around the piano, for a raucous sing-along. Champagne expertly poured with panache by a handsome waiter makes time stop for those few seconds and suddenly the bubbles come to life making for one of those perfect moments in life!
Chanel: 31 Rue Cambon
Although not the original location, it is where Chanel first featured her fashions and presented Chanel #5 perfume (created to compliment the clothing she designed). The boutique itself is beautiful and always crowded. The most interesting room, however, houses the mirrored staircase. This staircase leads up to Chanel’s private apartment. Whenever she showed a new collection the buyers and guests were assembled on the landing at the bottom of the staircase, a very tiny area. The models would parade up and down from the second level wearing her latest collection. Chanel would sit on a step closer to the top (the fifth one down I believe, her lucky number) and from there she could see, unnoticed, into the mirrors what the response was from the crowd assembled. This “no entry” area is under the careful watch of a very distinguished doorman. It was good fortune for my daughter and me to be permitted onto the staircase with a very charming salesperson for an unforeseen photo op. This sacred enclave excites those who love fashion and history: a thrill to be where Coco Chanel spent many long hours almost every day of her adult life.
Dior: 30 Avenue Montaigne
Christian Dior’s first collection, “The New Look”, was launched at this boutique in the spring of 1947. It was after the WW11 when fabric restrictions were lifted. The new silhouette with nipped- in waists and full skirts made with yards and yards of luxurious fabrics marked the return of haute couture. My favourite area in the boutique is the perfume and cosmetics room. It is intimate, beautifully lit, sparkling with mirrors everywhere. The salesladies are impeccably groomed and identically dressed in a Dior fashion from that season. They are so approachable, not intimating at all; their only mission to is to make you feel pampered and special. The scent of “Miss Dior” wafts throughout the entire boutique. Seeing exclusive parfum in its original bottle is precious for those who truly love perfume. I bought my first bottle of “Miss Dior Originale”, Dior’s first fragrance, here some years back and to this day I love it. I will never discard that empty bottle!
As I write this post I realize that all these rooms have similar characteristics. They’re beautiful, feminine, and rich in history and tradition. Oh to have been that fly on the wall…to witness all that came before and now to have the opportunity to make your own history within those same four walls! All are public spaces yet intimate at the same time. At one time I wrote to a friend after a trip we took together to Paris, “Is it possible to miss a city as much as a person?”. I’m not sure … but I do know that, with so many treasured memories, reflecting on these rooms makes for wonderful daydreams!
What rooms do you love? And have you thought of why?