Paris and the Hotel Montalembert
by Jan & Jeff Gordon
Paris makes a marvelous 5 day getaway. If combined with a night flight and a Monday holiday, it really is a mini-vacation with a minimum of time away from the office. I was thrilled to hop over to Paris on a spur-of-the-moment plan and get a "Europe infusion" over a beautiful autumn weekend. Well, actually, not so beautiful - it rained two out of five days, but tant pis! With so much to do in Paris, rain wasn't an obstacle... certainly nothing a hotel-supplied umbrella couldn't cure.
I was really hoping for a relaxed, romantic, casual experience of Paris without any agenda. I had no mission other than to get away. My husband and I stayed at the elegantly modern, stylish Hotel Montalembert in the heart of the St. Germain des Pres district. I was thrilled to discover the gallery-laden alleyways and cul de sacs of St. Germain des Pres. Just walking to a neighborhood bistro at night became a window-shopping adventure in discovering antiques, gazing at porcelains, or deciphering iconography in medieval tapestry. Thursday nights, we discovered, are champagne open houses at many galleries into which we accepted verbal invitations to join, qualifying either by dinner attire or soggy-looking umbrellas. In contrast to the antiquities of the tiny rues and alleyways, shops along the thoroughfare Boulevard St. Germain seduced us with colorful state-of-the-art contemporary furniture, kitchen, and accessory design shops and studios.
Having a weekend with no agenda in mind but what strikes one's fancy, we were free to explore outside or choose to just cozy up in our Hotel Montalembert suite. Even watching TV selections of familiar American programs with French dubbed over the original English was a hoot...J.R. Ewing and the Southfork family with French language internecine warfare dialogue! Grace Leo-Andrieu's acute blend of modern furniture design offset by sumptuous materials and fabrics created warmth throughout. The added hospitality of a gracious and friendly staff, outgoing Front Desk, and responsive Room Service and Housekeeping staff made the Montalembert a welcoming and nurturing hotel experience. What the hotel guides forget to mention about this wonderful neighborhood is that a gothic design Catholic church is right around the corner from the Montalembert. The mid-morning carillon ringing through opened French windows while I sat in my plush bathrobe and drank café au lait was just about nirvana.
Plain Old Tourists
As intended, we just wanted to be a plain old tourists with no agenda, no business to accomplish, no kids to expose to culture. So off we went to do embarrassingly touristy things we’d never done before: ride the Ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde after tea at the Hotel de Crillon’s Winter Garden Tea Room, visit the Musee d’Orsay, wander through Luxembourg Gardens on Sunday afternoon while children push wind-challenged bateaux in the pond, watch the roller-bladers in-line skating up and down the stairs of the Palais de Chaillot in the Troccadero, watch men playing chess in the Tuilleries, and stroll in and out of the elegant boutiques and shops of the Faubourg until, lost and tired, it was time to eat again.
We discovered some wonderful neighborhood bistro's: Entrecote, where the Maitre d'/owner treated us to his personal wine tasting experience as he enthusiastically joined us to sip and compare Sancerre versus other Loire white varietals….Bistro de Paris, a bustling neighborhood Sunday evening spot that seems to cater to chic local residents who all know each other but who reach out to the "young Americans" with menu recommendations.