In the latest of an occasional series, interior designer David Bentheim revisits his favourite hotels in the city of light.
It might seem a bit late for “springtime in Paris” but as long as you avoid July and August you should be fine. I always think of Paris as being the home of the boutique hotel – and however horrific they were back in the 70s, a cheap chintzy attic room with a bidet on a flexi-hose felt quite glam – well maybe a bit bordello – but still boutique.
So, falling downstairs into a grand café where with a pocket of soft pack cigarettes and a coffee to last the morning, you felt nearly, nearly Parisian. Surely the point of boutique hotels is to help you to feel part of the life-blood of wherever you are.
From the cheapest places to stay I graduated to hotels around St Germain – still fairly modest, but with quite glam entrances and bars. After that, hubris, and every room in my price range had the same flat pillows and mattresses, dark brown-hessian walls, a faded Renoir print and non-cat-swinging bathrooms.
Despite any of the above I am still addicted to left bank hotels where rooms are too small and bathrooms even smaller. Now they have to be smartly appointed, friendly and very comfortable.
Below is a list of my favourites. Yes, I have missed out your favourites – but chacun à son gout.
“Je m’excuse, madame, for not taking you to the Ritz, but I have a feeling for the Hotel Montalembert just now, that it will suit your mood this morning,” says Fabrice to Linda in Nancy Mitford’s pre-war classic, The Pursuit of Love.
The Montelambert just creeps over into the fifth. It is supremely 5-star chic boutique. You will be confined to very smart close quarters – but supremely comfortable – unless you lash out for the ultracool suites-with-a-view on the top floor. The bar and restaurant are very glamorous, however breakfast in hotels is usually not for me. I prefer to escape to an adjacent café where I can sink into the joys of anywhere. To sit and gape at street life is a joy.
Mrs Bentheim’s recent favourite of favourites is Hotel Le Recamier just under the The Da Vinci Code’s slightly menacing St Sulpice. The Madam’s favourite handbag shop, chocolatier and parfumier – Josephine Bonaparte bought her scent here – are all close by. We did stay for breakfast, in the wonderful lattice-mirrored salon where excellent eggs, toast and croissants are served up to the select few. Later in the day after your feet have turned to jelly, there is a complimentary afternoon cup of tea served with tiny cakes – bliss.
On the subject of embracing a springtime breakfast or a winter’s log-fire-whiskey, do run to Hotel de l’Abbaye which is found in the smartest little black books or near the Jardin de Luxembourg. It’s not the décor here that grabs me so much as that perfect Parisian courtyard garden where breakfast will trap you into lingering long.
Lastly, but not on the left bank, I would go for Hotel Bourg Tibourg. Star designer, Jacques Garcia who created the supremely decadent Hotel Costes, has crafted this nearly affordable little sister hotel in a tiny street not that far from the Hotel de Ville. And by little, I mean little. You have the same bed, bedding, super soft pillows, bathroom, fragrant lotions and potions as its much more expensive sister. It has the same mysterious and under-lit interiors, gorgeous fabrics and furnishings. However, there is a catch. Don’t be too tall or too wide and don’t travel with anything but the tiniest of onboard cases. Expect to sidle into bed after clambering over your extravagant purchases. This place is perfect for assignations when only the minimum of packing is needed. It’s not for everybody, but I love it. It does everything that a great boutique hotel should do – it captures the essence of the city – and is sexy!