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February 20, 2015 / oneworld82

Three Days in Paris (plus Hotel Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero & InterContinental Le Grand Hotel)

Oh, Paris…

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What a truly a romantic city, even during the gloomy wintertime you are…! Your history, your monuments, your museums, your food – everything you says speaks about Romanticism.

I had visited the city many times before, but this was my first time as an “adult” – which means, as someone able to afford nice hotels, nice restaurants, nice shopping. And that, let me tell you, made all the difference in this World.

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The last time I visited Paris, in fact, was a few years ago, right out of college. Not much money then, and visiting Paris meant primarily visiting museums and other attractions while skipping the other little pleasures of life – such as a nice break at Laduree or a nice dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I had of course enjoyed Paris very much already back then, but I now realize that my visits lacked important elements truly indispensible to fully appreciate Parisian life.

And so here I come again, this time equipped with a nice plan to visit the main attractions of the city while also indulging in the little pleasures that this fantastic place has to offer.

We started from our hotels: Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero and InterContinental Le Grand Hotel. Two hotels to sample different flavors but also to enjoy different parts of the city.

The Renaissance is housed in a building where once Alfred Nobel used to live. We really enjoyed this hotel – service was excellent, location was great (merely minutes from the Tour Eiffel), and rooms were outstanding in terms of décor and comfort. While the lobby is small and the rooms themselves are not very spacious, this is a very solid hotel (not a Ritz-Carlton, but certainly up there).

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A little surprise ;)

A little surprise 😉

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The feature I enjoyed the most of the hotel  was the bathroom – stylish and ample. We did not have the chance to try the restaurant of the hotel, but it’s supposedly a place with good food particularly enjoyable in summertime given its outdoor patio on the hotel’s inner courtyard/garden.

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The other hotel – where we spent the last night of our short trip – was the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel – one of the historic hotels of Paris. Perfectly situated in front of the Opera Garnier, this gem of a historic hotel boasts great architecture with very nice interiors.

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Service was outstanding, and as a IHG Platinum member we received a complimentary upgrade to the Opera Wing; our room was literally facing the Opera, giving us a really dramatic and spectacular view!

Room view from Le Grand Hotel

Room view from Le Grand Hotel

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The room itself was amazing. This is an old hotel, and the management has done a great job in ensuring that the original charm of the place is maintained. The rooms are spacious and extremely well-appointed, which more than makes up for the small bathroom. The only negative of the room was the temperature control, which was not working properly; the room got extremely hot at night, and we had to leave the window partially open to lower the temperature of the room.

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Another little negative of the hotel was that porters and other personnel in the lobby were not so keen in helping guests out. No one helped us while arriving at the hotel, and in general no one seemed interested to really help out (same applies to other customers). But the front desk employees were extremely professional, friendly, and affable, and really went out of their way to ensure we had a great stay.

Also, kudos to the hotel for arranging a surprise Champagne bottle for us as I had mentioned this was a special occasion for us. Little touches matter – and this hotel definitely won me over with this one.

Overall, the InterContinental is a great hotel – mostly due to its charm and perfect location. I would definitely consider staying here again if back in town.

Staying at the Renaissance had one, big advantage: we were 15 minutes away from the Arc de Triomphe and 10 minutes away from the Tour Eiffel. The hotel is in an affluent neighborhood, and the walk to the Trocadero Palace is quite easy and enjoyable. From there, you can definitely get the best view in town over the tower, which always looks majestic – no matter how gloomy the weather could be.

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We were particularly lucky because, even though it was January, it wasn’t particularly cold. A jacket and a scarf did the trick nicely. From the Tour Eiffel we made our way to the Ard de Triomphe, which is always a great sight. Throngs of tourists were walking up and down Avenue des Champs Elysee, an always nice boulevard with flashy stores lining it.

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We took a detour of Avenue George V and checked the Four Seasons Hotel out – one of the leading hotels of the World indeed – before heading to Laduree for a snack based on St Honoree and an amazing chocolate cake (and hot chocolate, which was literally hot, melted chocolate). The original Laduree café is an amazing place; art nouveaux architecture and furniture dot the place, giving it an incredible, end-of-XIX century feeling. I absolutely recommend a stop here.

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Given that we were making good time, we decided to catch the efficient subway to get to Montmartre – definitely one of my favorite sights in Paris. The Basilique is always a stunning sight – perched as it is on the Montmartre hill overlooking the rest of town. This Bohemienne neighborhood houses quintessentially-Parisian buildings, together with lots of artsy stores and galleries. To me, this is the Paris that everyone should want to see.

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From Montmartre it’s then an easy walk down to Pigalle, the adult entertainment hub of town. Just like the red light districts in Amsterdam or Bangkok, this place is a touristic attraction that is totally safe during both day and night. The Moulin Rouge is always a nice sight, and the many Northern African dwellers of the area mean that you will find affordable and tasty doner kebabs here (don’t miss them!).

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Day 2 of our sightseeing was spent visiting the “core” of town: Place de la Concorde, Jardins de Las Tuileries, Louvre palace, Musee d’Orsay, Seine River, Notre Dame… Everything and more has been said about Paris, so I will not add more to it – I will let the images speak.

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I will say though that the winter weather doesn’t make justice to what you’ll see, as the city always looks great – no matter what’s the weather like. It was a moderately cold day, but nothing really crazy given the time of the year. I will say that the walk along the river from the Louvre to the Musee d’Orsay is most enjoyable; and Orsay is by far my favorite museum in town, with its rich collection of XVII-XX century art pieces (it also houses a great little café at the very top floor, with killer views of the city from the clock window!).

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And then, well, there’s Notre Dame.

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Our last night was spent, like I mentioned before, at the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel; perfect location, attentive service, great rooms… A true gem of a Grand Hotel! We spent most of the last day roaming through Les Grand Magasins – Galeries Lafayette and Printemps; the scale (and quality) of the Sale in Paris – just like in Milan – is unheard of in the USA. Thuy was able to get a pair of Prada (that retail for over $650 in the US) for $270. Everything is on sale – from LV to Chanel – and the sales month is a true happening in this crazy city.

I feel also that I need to mention the terrorist attacks that hit Charlie Hebdo. People can be really crazy – and scary. But the people from Paris reacted in the best possible way – showing unity, strength, and willingness not to bow to terrorism of any sort. Many people I saw sporting the “Je Suis Hebdo” sentence painted on their body or attached to their clothes with pins. We went to church on Sunday, and the Cardinal of Paris expressed solidarity with all the victims and their family and strongly condemned any form of terrorism across the World. It would have been easy for people to start pointing fingers at the broader Muslim population, but that didn’t (generally) happen. It was a great expression of maturity on the part of the French people and the French institutions, and I kudos France for it!

Last but not least, the food. We ate so much. I am not usually a huge fan of French cuisine – but I generally love French ingredients. Trying haute-cuisine, though, made a difference. The culinary apotheosis of the trip was definitely dinner at Benoit, a Michelin-starred restaurant worth many praises. Everything we had was excellent – from the escargots, to the duck, to the steak, to the amazing dessert. It was hands down one of the best restaurant meals I have ever had, and at 200 EUR even for two people came out to be (almost) a bargain.

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But Paris is much more than only refined cuisine. From kebabs in Pigalle, to simple croquet monsieur, to mustard rabbit and babas, this city really has it all. If you visit Paris and don’t gain at least a pound or two, you have done something wrong. (By the way, special mention to Maison Berthillon – one of the best gelato I have had so far, even including my home country of Italy).

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So yeah, Paris was lots of fun. Great food, great hotels, great company. It was a very good trip – if short – but I am sure we’ll visit this wonderful city soon again. After all, this was only my 6th time visiting 😉

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