PARIS PICKS : 4-star boutique hotels

One of the questions I’m most often asked is “Where to stay in the City of Lights?” My answer often includes a boutique hotel in the rive droite, my side of town. Even though I live in a charming Parisian apartment in the North Marais, I have an affinity for hotels designed for sophisticated travelers with style and comfort in mind. In the last few years I’ve experienced a few of these luxurious gems, first hand. Here are my top picks.

Hotel Bachaumont-©PAUL-BOWYER

Under the design direction of Dorothée Meilichzon, Hotel Bachaumont re-opened in September 2015. Steps away from the pedestrianized market street rue Montorgueil, this art-deco hotel composed of 49 rooms and complete with an uber trendy bar and restaurant, is one of Paris’ latest hotspots. Read all about my experience in Bonjour Paris. (Photo by Paul Bowyer)

Hotel Bachaumont // 18 rue Bachaumont 75002 // + 33 (0) 1 81 66 47 00

Hotel Fabric

A hotel set in a former textile factory? Welcome to Hôtel Fabric. This designers’ haven is located in the Oberkampf neighborhood, steps away from a slew of trendy eateries. Thirty-three rooms are equally stylish and spacious, featuring industrial decor combined with vivid prints by luxury design house Pierre Frey. Here’s my complete review in France Today.

Hôtel Fabric // 31 Rue de la Folie Méricourt 75011 // +33 (0)1 43 57 27 00

Terrass Hotel

Eiffel tower views, anyone? Head to the historic artists’ quartier of Montmartre for both comfort and a vista. From the 7th floor bar and restaurant of Terrass’’ Hotel, the panoramic views will take your breath away! Refurbished and re-opened in June 2015, find refuge in the hotels 85 contemporary rooms and 7 suites, some with private balconies. Read more in my feature in Bonjour Paris.

Terrass’’ Hotel // 12-14 rue Joseph de Maistre 75018 // +33 (0)1 46 06 72 85

Hotel Providence 4

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In the trendy Strasbourg Saint-Denis neighborhood, Hôtel Providence takes center stage. This recently opened circa-1854 hotel contains 18 rooms and 3 suites, each exhibiting vintage furnishings, walls clad in velvet prints, and well stocked bars. While I haven’t yet stayed overnight in this chic setting which attracts quite an A-list crowd, I have admired the design of the rooms and the cozy bar and restaurant, perfect for a night cap.

Hôtel Providence // 90 rue René Boulanger 75010 // +33 (0)1 46 34 34 04

state of sunshine

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“The days are long but the years are short.” This quote by Gretchen Rubin articulates well how quickly days become years. And within them we must try our best to use the time we have, wisely. (One of the reasons I decided to travel the world for a year, and continue to travel and experience all that I can in the days I have been granted.) Yet as so many of us do, I easily become wrapped up in my work, constantly doing and in turn, becoming. That topic I’ll save for another post… But is this what really matters the most in life? No, it’s the time we share with those we love, and how we treat others. So I decided to surprise my mom for her birthday, a day long journey (which became quite an adventure with an expired passport and a delayed flight) from Paris via New York to West Palm Beach. Needless to say, she was shocked and elated. What greater joy is there?

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Mom and I are enjoying these long days in the sunshine state, with dinners at home, a trip to neighboring Palm Beach (these photos capturing those moments), and of course birthday celebrations coming up. You can follow along for daily updates via instagram. Enjoy each day before it becomes a year… and see you back in Paris!

date with Paul Klee

Those who read my blog know that other than travel, art is my greatest inspiration in designing my bags, and simply, in living. Those who know me well, know that Paul Klee is one of my most revered artists. When I found out that he, I mean his work, was coming to the Pompidou for a retrospective, I was elated. I freed my calendar for an opening night date with the master. The last time we “met” was almost 6 years ago at his last exhibition. This time 230 of Klee’s pieces are on display, as his work is examined through the prism of irony. According to Klee’s son Felix, “He always had a great taste for satire, for irony, for everything that isn’t quite serious.”

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This show will be going on for quite some time, until August 1st to be exact. But for those unable to make it, here are a number of works that I carefully selected to share with you, many from his museum in Bern. Each one provoking unique thought, causing me to stop and stare. And often to smile. Enjoy the show!

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St. Germain near Tunis. 1914

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Green x Above Left. 1915

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Chosen Boy. 1918

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Adam and Little Eve. 1921

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Fire at Full Moon. 1933

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Snake Paths. 1934

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Intention. 1938

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High Spirits. 1939

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Following the exhibition I stood for a while and admired the view. Knowing Klee would have approved.

overcoming fear

Fear is defined as “a very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger”. Being a rather courageous girl, there are few things that provoke this feeling. As a child I was fearful of a fast driver, until I became a driver myself and the thrill of speed enticed me. During my around-the-world travels I overcame my fear of water by learning to scuba dive in the temperate waters of Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi. I never feared heights and confirmed this by sky-diving in New Zealand. But skiing? This sport terrified me. It had been three years since our last alpine adventure, and still the fear was intact. And still I was determined to overcome it. With good friends by our side, we headed 2,200 meters up to the Dolomites, the stunning peaks of Madonna di Campiglio to be specific, where I would learn to glide back down… fearlessly.

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Day One. I had to ski down a red piste in order to arrive to the blue pistes. Panic! Somehow I managed to make my way down the mountain, my body recalling what it had learned during my last three attempts at skiing. I fell. I became frustrated. I felt uncomfortable. I got back on my feet. I was ready to call it quits.

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Day Two. My patient teacher met me in the morning and I very clearly expressed my fear, evident in the rigidity of my body. “Breathe” he told me. And so I did. Eagerly awaiting après-ski at the spa.

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Day Three. Another lesson. I almost felt at ease. Could I not stay on the blue pistes forever, please? I tried to meditate high up on the mountain, telling myself that discomfort makes us grow. Doesn’t it? Still not feeling it.

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Day Four. Suddenly my body took control. I could turn. I could begin to ski parallel. I could glide down the mountain, my Italian and our friends’ kids supporting me along the way. I could do it! And I actually loved it.

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Day Five. I felt one with the mountains. Well, not exactly, but I overcame my fear and knew that I was in control. I felt proud and accomplished, having stuck with it, even against my own desire.

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This magical landscape and the company we shared it with, made all the difference. Now back to dry land.

a taste of Beaune

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Last spring I discovered Dijon and became enamored with the Burgundy region. This year it was time to visit the smaller town of Beaune. Our first stop was Hotel Le Cep, a historic mansion where King Louis XIV once slept. This family run 4-star hotel boasts 16th century courtyards with rooms and suites decorated in endless charm. My Italian and I immediately felt at home as we were warmly welcomed by gracious owner Jean-Claude Bernard, who spoke of his family hotel’s rich history. Just outside Le Cep’s doors, Beaune awaited to be explored. Where to go first? We headed directly to the Tourism Office to consult the experts.

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Our main objective being to discover and taste the local specialties, we headed straight to the prestigious wine cellars of Bouchard Père & Fils, once the ancient castle of Beaune. Touring their cave, we found select wines aged over 100 years! Needless to say, those we tasted were quite a bit younger. Here began a weekend of tasting some of the best wines in France.

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Saturday morning the sun shone brightly and we met our new neighbors at the local market. I’ve been to many markets all over the country, but this one appeared to be straight out of a film set. Were we the extras?

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Our next stop was mustard factory Fallot, the last independent family mustard mill in Burgundy. We were met by Marc Désarménien whose family had started producing Fallot mustard in 1840. The mustard making process is a fascinating one as we learned, being led through the factory, chewing on mustard seeds along the way. Afterwards, tasting the dozens of flavors of Fallot mustard was an experience! My favorites being the classic grainy variety with white wine, followed by walnut, and honey and fig.

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Wine and mustard aren’t the only gastronomic delicacies that have put Beaune on the map. This town too is a haven for haute cuisine. Where did we choose among the many options? Here’s my short list:

La Bussionière: Charming husband and wife run restaurant that recently moved into the center of Beaune. Selection of fresh local produce, creating delicious regional dishes.

Loiseau des Vignes: One of highly regarded Loiseau family restaurants, awarded a Michelin star in 2010 under chef Mourad Haddouche, adjacent to Hotel Le Cep. A gastronomic paradise, with 70 wines served by the glass.

Le P’tit Paradis: An intimate restaurant in the heart of the town for over 20 years, where seasonal tastes mingle with inventive dishes. Outdoor terrace for spring and summer dining.

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When not wine tasting or dining, we were educating ourselves to the history of Beaune. It was in a walking tour with history buff and wine expert Kim Gagné that we learned the most. She brought us to the famous Hospices de Beaune, also called Hôtel-Dieu. Built in the 15th century and once a hospital mainly for the poor, it’s now a museum. Every November, an important charity wine auction is held within this historic building.

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Before heading back to Paris, we decided a tour of the vineyards would prove the best lesson of all in wine culture. Our lovely guide Brigitte from Vineatours picked us up at Le Cep and into the villages and vineyards we drove, passing Pommard and Volnay along the way. We stopped at a private vineyard and tasted a small production of premier and grand cru, increasing our home collection of Bourgogne wines.

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This charming town had won my heart. Filled with the sensations of Beaune, and plenty of mustard and wine, we boarded the train back to Paris, a quick 2 hour ride. Next time we vowed, we’ll return for a biking tour.

Côte d’Azur

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Last week I joined Mediterranean travel aficionado Megan of Bella Vita Travels for a whirlwind tour of the Côte d’Azur, leaving grey skies in Paris for golden hues in the French Riviera. I hadn’t been down south for almost five years, since our journey to Bormes les Mimosas. Six hours via train, there I was in Nice, ready to discover just what makes this part of France so enchanting. Our first stop was the Medieval village of Mougins.

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I was immediately smitten by this hilltop artists commune, once inhabited by creative elite including Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Yves Klein, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, Catherine Deneuve, Édith Piaf & Jacques Brel. This too is where Picasso spent his last 12 years of life.

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From there it was a short drive to Cannes, where many of today’s film stars can be found strolling along the boulevards, particularly during the famed film festival. Did we spot any? None that I could recognize…

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The next stop was Antibes, a charming old town enclosed by 16th-century ramparts. Here we spent a glorious afternoon with a glass of rosé and views of the town Juan-les-Pins. Picasso too made his mark here; the castle where he stayed is now the Picasso Museum.

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Not far away was a small medieval village perched atop a cliff, 1,401 feel above sea level to be exact. Thus, Èze is often called an “eagle’s nest”. Again, I was smitten.

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Before returning to Nice we stopped in the harbor town of Villefranche. Now I understand why so many choose to make this colorful spot their home while visiting the riviera.

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Back in Nice I was eager to explore this Mediterranean city, feeling very much at home on the French Riviera. With the sun leading our path, we discovered delicious farm to table dining at Le Canon, and local cooking school Les Petits Farcis, should we choose to take a market tour and cook our own Niçois meal. Next time!

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I could have easily spent more time exploring this city of art and culture while savored more sunsets in the south, but it was time to return north for adventures in Burgundy. Next stop: Beaune.

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