"Paris in Spring." These words, evocative of floral gardens, sidewalk cafes, and wide boulevards, remind us that Spring is one of the loveliest seasons to visit this grande dame of cities. Knowing that I've lived there, when relatives or friends are planning to visit Paris, they often ask me for recommendations of places to stay, see, and dine.
To friends visiting the luminous city on the Seine this Spring into Fall, I suggest the following:
I prefer flying Air France, which has the best cuisine, departs from most major American cities, and arrives at Roissy-Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Airport. From CDG, airport buses, shuttles, taxis, and regional trains (RER) are available to take travelers into Paris.
Where to Stay
Opened in 2009 and located in the Trocadero, a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, the Dokhan and the Metropolitan hotels offer both luxury and intimacy.
For travelers who prefer sleek, cool contemporary design, the Metropolitan on Place de Mexico is ideal. Located in a Haussmann building, it has forty-eighty rooms and ten suites, of which five offer unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower framed by windows, like paintings. Each room features a Zimbabwean granite tub in a marble bathroom and amenities, like complimentary, unlimited WiFi. The Metropolitan offers a wellness center that features a white Thassos marble massage room with fireplace, and indoor swimming pool with jets. For dining, the hotel restaurant offers a neo-classical Mediterranean menu and views of the Trocadero's vivacious street life; and a bar that looks onto the floodlit Eiffel Tower at night.
While offering contemporary amenities, the Dokhan, with its old-world charm and hint of mystery seems to whisper "love affair." Located on rue Lauriston, in an 18th century building with a restored Haussmann exterior, it is the perfect setting for a romantic weekend. Inside, the Dokan's, neo-classical furnishings, original art collection, and candelabras with low lighting transported me to another time; and the reception desk staff made me feel like a welcomed guest in their home. Even in the elevator, I was charmed to stand between walls created from a vintage Louis Vuitton wardrobe truck.
The Dohkan's forty-five rooms, including ten suites, are sumptuously appointed with the designer, Frederic Mechiche's, signature striped motif throughout. Each room features canopied beds and linens as soft as silk. Two beautifully draped French windows in my room each led to a wrought-iron balcony overlooking the surrounding, narrow streets.
The Dokhan features Paris' first champagne bar in a room featuring walls imported from Italy, of celadon, wood panels with gilt trim enhanced by soft, low light from tapers on wall sconces and chandeliers. Open every night from 6:30 pm to midnight -- and requiring reservations -- the Dokhan Bar hosts a champagne tasting where each guest can select one white, rose, and vintage champagne; and choose from a selection of glasses including ones named for Marie-Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour. (I leave it to the sommelier to explain these names: a hint -- think breasts and bosoms!) Once a month, the bar hosts an evening of jazz and champagne.
Getting Around and What to See
Place d'Iéna where several streets converge and traffic circles around a statue of George Washington is well worth visiting. Place d'Iéna is a gem not because of Washington's statue, though, but because is within walking distance of four distinctive museums: The Guimet, Paris's Museum of Asian Art at 6, Place d'Iéna; the Museum of Modern Art and the Palais de Tokyo, the national museum of contemporary art, across the street on Avenue President Wilson; and the Palais Galliera, Paris's Museum of Fashion History, down the street on Avenue Pierre I de Serbie are no more than a five minute walk from one another. (Unfortunately, the Palais Galliera is closed for renovations until 2012.)
Place d'Iéna, also, has the advantage of being on the #63 bus route, one of the most scenic bus routes in Paris. A ride on the 63 to Porte de la Muette leads to the enchanting Musée Marmottan, a former private mansion that is devoted to the works of Claude Monet and his contemporaries.
Ubiquitous and easy to follow, Paris' buses and Metro, the underground rail, are part of an efficient network that moves millions of people around the city with relative ease. Paris is a walking city, but taking the bus can help you to get a sense of how the city flows. For visitor transit passes go here.
From Place d'Iéna, moving toward Gare de Lyon, the 63 stops at Alma-Marceau from which one can walk one block over and stroll along the houses of haute couture on Avenue Montaigne. From Alma-Marceau, the 63 crosses the Seine at Pont d'Alma overlooking spectacular views of the river.
On the Left Bank, the 63 follows Quai d'Orsay along the Seine, passing the Pont Alexandre III, Les Invalides, home of Napoleon's tomb; and the Assemble Nationale before turning onto Boulevard St. Germain to the medieval church and legendary cafes at St. Germain des Près -- the Deux Magots, the Flore, the Lipp -- and the Bonaparte.
Further on, the 63 stops at Cluny, steps from Notre Dame -- before it proceeds to stops en route to Gare de Lyon. On the return trip, the 63 passes St. Sulpice Church. Sitting on the Café de la Mairie's terrace, facing St. Sulpice's Fountain, is an inexpensive pleasure. From there, you can take the 63 bus back to Trocadero, a short walk from the hotels.
For a memorable dinner, I suggest the newly opened Bistro Parisien. Inspired by French brasseries, with a contemporary flair, the Bistro Parisien is truly a movable feast, a restaurant cruise on the Seine. Embarking at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, diners step onto the floating, two-terraced bistro whose cuisine offers different "formula" throughout the day and an all-casserole menu at night. Only a food writer could do justice to the excellent quality of the meal. As for enchantment, floating along the Seine surrounded by the dazzling lights of Paris is, well... heavenly.
After disembarking, you can either walk back to the hotel, as we did, or take a taxi; and then, slip between the soft sheets, and the next day see everything you missed the day before. Bon voyage.