08/20/2014 04:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Other Ex-Men

(Hotel Lancaster)

Stories about post divorce relationships with former spouses most often deal with acrimony and seldom address anything positive. My circumstances are slightly unusual as my ex-wife and I have always behaved cordially to one another and this has slowly evolved into what may best be described as a state of semi-reconciliation.

I take vacations with my ex-wife. We share two grown children, many good memories and are familiar enough with each others annoying habits that there are never any surprises when we travel together. Also, sometimes (like on a recent trip to Paris) we stay in separate hotels. On this particular trip my ex was able to secure only one room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which was just large enough to accommodate her and our two kids. My friend Andy was also visiting Paris (with his ex-wife) and they had a room at the Plaza Athénée, also fully booked and out of my price range anyway.

In need of a deal, I called American Express Travel and they told me about the Hotel Lancaster, a boutique hotel on rue de Berri, just a few steps from the Champs-Elysees in the 8th district. They offered a special rate that included breakfast, a one hundred euro food and beverage credit, plus one day free when you book five. Amex also provided a room upgrade when available.

Originally built as a private home, the Lancaster has 57 guest rooms and was home to Marlene Dietrich for three years in the 1930s. Clark Gable and Grace Kelly also frequented the hotel and after a recent remodeling, the rooms Dietrich once lived in are now the Marlene Dietrich Suite, furnished with reproductions of the period as well as a grand piano. Other suites (there are 14 of them) have been named after a number of well know painters, including Felix Ziem, whose work is on permanent exhibit at the Petite Palais Museum in Paris. During our stay, my son, my friend Andy and I visited the exhibit while the ex-wives shopped.

Ziem painting of Venice and Self-portrait

The Ziem exhibit is comprised of 171 paintings and watercolors and I was especially impressed because I was upgraded to the suite that bears his name. Ziem is personally described as having been "nomadic, unique and eccentric," but the suite was tastefully appointed and even had a small balcony. The Lancaster's restaurant, La Table du Lancaster has a Michelin star and the food is superb. The lighting in the small bar is very dramatic at night and a great place for a nightcap.

Our group visited most of the standard tourist spots but we also went on the Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon tour in Epernay, which was well worth the time and expense.

Six people staying at three different hotels may have complicated things logistically but it definitely made the trip much more interesting.

(Dom Perignon tour)