Travel like royalty—and experience the best of arts and fashion—at Le Meurice and Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.
Ah, Paris. The City of Light—or, for you and your betrothed, the City of Love. Perhaps you’ve been to Paris before, but you’ve never experienced it quite like this. And because we expect you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in your, ahem, room, why skimp on the accommodations? Plan on booking at two hotels: Le Meurice and Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Both are Dorchester Collection properties, but each has a distinct feel.
SWEET SUITE: A junior suite at Le Meurice is the perfect setting for romance.
Le Meurice, on Rue de Rivoli, overlooks the Jardins des Tuileries. Step out onto your balcony and look left to see the Musée du Louvre; straight ahead, beyond the Tuileries, you’ll notice Musée d’Orsay, just across the Seine. The proximity to some of Paris’ most famous museums suits Le Meurice, which celebrates arts and culture. Philippe Starck designed the hotel’s main level, and his muse was Salvador Dali. The effect is whimsical but not over-the-top, because the details are subtle: the arm of a chair in the form of a bird. A gold chair with shoes for feet, taken directly from one of Dali’s works. More evidence of Starck’s whimsy is the frozen mural in the lobby, where guests can “scribble” their initials right into the frost.
But let’s talk about the rooms. They are a mix of old and new; beautiful woodwork and gilding is juxtaposed with modern amenities such as iPod docking stations and flat-screen Samsung TVs hidden behind decorative doors. The bath is both classic and contemporary, with old-world marble and state-of-the-art audio. Here the best of both worlds collide.
When you’re honeymooning, you want the royal treatment, and VIPs get it here: a bouquet of roses and plate of macaroons upon arrival; at turndown, a pair of complimentary slippers placed beside and a bottle of Evian on the nightstand. After a day of sightseeing, a visit to the cozy Valmont Spa—for a Discovery Treatment facial, perhaps—puts you back in the mood for romance.
After your lesson in art appreciation at Le Meurice, head to Plaza Athénée, on Avenue Montaigne, where fashion rules. Everyone streaming through the rotating doors is ridiculously chic, which is hardly surprising considering the couture on the street. Prada, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Ralph Lauren—every major label is represented here, both on the avenue and on the guests.
Sex and the City fans know the Plaza Athénée as the place where Carrie Bradshaw dumped Aleksandr Petrovsky during the show’s series finale. But never fear. Your relationship can only flourish at this beautiful property, where most rooms have a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower. (In case you’re wondering, Carrie and Aleksandr stayed on the sixth floor, where the suites have the largest balconies.)
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, a Paris must-see, buy your tickets from the concierge so you can skip one of the dreaded, hour-plus-long lines. (They also sell tickets to some of the other city sights. Just ask.) The concierge also offers spot-on dining suggestions. On your way to the Eiffel Tower, stop at Chez Francis for a light lunch; for dinner, head around the corner to Chez André (see “Bon Appetit”). Both hit the spot without putting too much of a dent in your pocketbook. And you’ll want to save your money for the hotel’s amazing amenities.
Should you decide to live more like Parisians, everything you need is on the premises. In the arched Gallery, people enjoy drinks, light lunch or dinner, or magnificent pastries and teas. The Gallery has been a hot spot since the hotel opened in 1911. Another option is the sexy Bar du Plaza Athénée. While hotel guests often enjoy an aperitif here before dinner, locals can be spotted until 2 am, sipping expensive drinks from the bar’s magnificent list of martinis, shots, and gimmicky fruit cocktails with little popsicles. (Try a black cosmopolitan or a Champagne cocktail with fresh raspberry purée.) Also served in the bar are beautiful little savory puff pastries and wildly imaginative nibbles such as pineapple “sushi” with homemade pina colada-infused marshmallow, pina colada reduction, and shredded coconut.
Another must-do is a spa treatment at the Dior Institut. While you wait for your therapist to retrieve you, settle into a white leather chaise and flip through the latest issue of Time or watch the Dior runway shows on the giant screen. Choose an anti-aging facial—you can never start too early, girls—and you’ll be pleasantly surprised that it begins with a massage on the lower back, shoulders, and neck. Afterward, settle back into a chaise and enjoy the beverage of your choice, perhaps a bottle of Vittel water, presented on a silver platter with a little muffin.
Relish this moment, ladies. While we know your new husband is a prince, this may be the last time you’ll be served on a silver platter—at least until your anniversary.
A few suggestions for where to dine while you’re in Paris.
Alain Ducasse at Hôtel Plaza Athénée
Dinner reservations here are difficult to attain, not to mention it could set you back a mortgage payment. However, hotel guests can enjoy breakfast in this stunning dining room. Feast on a mind-blowing assortment of pastries: pain au chocolate, chocolate brioche, croissant with hazelnut glaze and honey—every one more magnificent than the last. Even poached eggs and bacon are a work of art.
Angelina 226 Rue de Rivoli
This little cafe serves breakfast and lunch and a beautiful assortment of pastries. But the thing to get here is the drinking chocolate—Le Chocolate l’Africain—which is so rich you’ll swear you’ll never finish it. (But somehow you do.)
Chez André 12 Rue Marbeuf
This solid, classic French bistro excels at straightforward and satisfying dishes. Think Dover sole meuniere, endive with Roquefort, escargot steeped in garlic and butter, crusty bread, and profiteroles.
Chez Francis 7 Place de l’Alma
Here the views of the Eiffel Tower are as important as the food. While you could certainly enjoy a bountiful platter of shellfish on a white-tableclothed table, we suggest sitting on the more casual side of the patio for “snacks” such as croques madames with a side of lightly dressed greens.
le Dali at Le Meurice
After a glass of pink Champagne, feast on dishes that are classically Parisian (curly endive with bacon and poached egg) or globally influenced (tagine of free-range chicken with dried fruit and nuts). Do not miss any of the creations by celebrated pastry chef Camille Lesecq.
Le Relais de L’Entrecôte 15 Rue Marbeuf
Most likely there will be a line to get in, but we promise you’ll want to wait. The menu is essentially salad, steak frites, dessert, and wine. It’s all-you-can-eat, which is a weird concept in France, but you won’t be able to turn down a second helping, thanks in no small part to that famous—and addictive—gravy.
Le Relais Plaza at Hôtel Plaza Athénée
While the hotel’s other restaurant, Alain Ducasse, gets most of the press, this is a famous restaurant in its own right. Expect duck foie gras, artichoke and mushroom “carpaccio,” veal “filet mignon,” sea bass filleted at the table—all capably executed and served by an extremely charming staff.