The wide boulevards of the inner arrondissements of Paris, lined with elegant 19th century buildings, are made for late summer strolls and drop-of-a-hat weekend escapes.
Though London’s evening air has started to chill, in Paris it’s still light and warm enough to wander the outdoor cafés in search of seasonal wines, and enjoy lingering, boozy picnics in the park. And for those still abuzz after London Fashion Week, the siren call of the French capital’s world-renowned shopping district is too loud to be ignored.
Where to Stay
Head to Paris’s most fashionable address, the Faubourg St Honore, which boasts more designer shops than you can shake a pussybow blouse at. Tucked between the likes of Chanel, Dior and Gucci is the modest façade of the five star Mandarin Oriental, whose marble lobby opens out onto an oasis of a city-centre garden. It features 138 spacious rooms, including 40 varying size suites, some with balconies and terraces. Expect Diptyque toiletries, arty coffee table books and generously proportioned beds. The wellbeing centre includes an indulgent Guerlain spa, swimming pool, and gym. It’s also dog-friendly. Hotel mascot Archie greets four-legged visitors personally.
Two-Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx oversees the restaurants here. Sur Mesure is the haute-cuisine offering, producing innovative dishes that look like works of art, from roast pigeon with truffle ravioli, to pan-fried scallops with truffle snow. Camelia serves more traditional French favourites, such as foie gras, while the sensuous contours of Bar 8 make the venue a pleasure in which to sample one of 80 champagnes, accompanied by my favourite new decadent nibble, truffled Croque Monsieur.
Guests staying in suites can experience a more personal taste of the city with the ‘Paris by Marx’ package. This tours the chef’s best addresses, from his favourite patisserie (Patisserie de Reves in St Germain, for otherworldly croissants, brioches and cakes) to coffee houses (Café Verlet, injecting caffeine into Parisians since 1880). This year, you can also delve into the secretive world of haute-couture, with a two-hour lesson at the school attached to Maison Lesage, which has produced the handmade embroidery for all the biggest designers since 1924. My attempt at stitching a bracelet was laughable, but the opportunity to gawp at the beautiful and intricate samples made for the likes of Alexander McQueen or Jean Paul Gaultier was priceless.
And After That
The boho neighbourhood of Le Marais is a few metro stops or a short taxi ride away. In the 19th century it escaped the remodeling by Napoleon and Haussman, who razed the majority of the city’s narrow, medieval streets to create its vast squares and thoroughfares. Today, it’s thronged with independent boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants, and home to cultural sites such as the Picasso museum. For a fragrant, and hi-tech, pastime not to be, ahem, sniffed at, the new Museum of Perfume (grandmuseedeparfum.fr) is an interactive journey through the history of scent.