Last September, when I checked into the 5-star Hôtel Bel-Ami, on a quiet street on the Left Bank, my first thought was how happy my granddaughter would have been to have stayed in this oh-so-stylish, 108-room boutique hotel while we were together in Paris, because it’s so well-located near all the cafés, shops and boutiques in the St. Germain des Pres quartier (neighborhood).
An outdoor terrace is adjacent to the entry, which leads directly to the front desk on the right and the concierge desk straight ahead. It’s not a large space, but it is stroller- and people-friendly with a vibrant Mid-Century Modern décor that extends from the entry to the open, living room-style lounge, library and bar. The design boasts Silvera bubble chairs, a chrome-encircled mirror, plentiful seating on bright and bold fabrics, including the shocking pink chair backs in the windowed breakfast room, and Les Mots Passants restaurant, which also serves an organic Sunday brunch.
It’s an intimate and contemporary hotel. My room was small, well-equipped, comfortable and enhanced with geometric designs; custom-designed, built-in wood desk and cabinets; a wooden headboard; windows facing the street; a leather trimmed rug; and a nice bathroom. Connecting rooms and larger suites are fit for families; from some rooms, guests can look out upon the Saint Germain square and church. On the subterranean level, there’s a fitness room and a Carita spa with a relaxation lounge, sauna and two treatment cabines.
I vowed to stay in the neighborhood during my serendipitous three-night stay because I’d already spent five days in Paris the week before, and because I unexpectedly extended my trip and had NOTHING planned. I trusted the concierge to recommend nearby restaurants, cafés, shops, even the best hair stylist, which they did. And they greeted me by name every time they saw me.
The first evening, I crossed the narrow street to Chez Papa Jazz Club to drink wine, listen to wonderful music and eat dinner. Actually, it wasn’t until the next morning, when I set out to explore Saint Germain des Pres, I noticed the hotel was just a short block from Boulevard Saint Germain, the major Left Bank boulevard I frequented decades ago when I lived in Paris while I studied at The Sorbonne. The best-known cafés — Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp — that the literati — from Sartre and de Beauvoir to Hemingway — made famous are on the nearby corner. And, coincidently, it’s only a three-minute walk to where I took Emma on our first night in Paris. Le Procope is the oldest café in Paris, c. 1686, and filled with historic objects from the era when 18th-century intellectuals, such as Rousseau, Voltaire and Diderot, and some politicians, Napoleon and Franklin (Benjamin!), gathered there.
The Saint-Germain-des-Pres quartier is convenient to places children love to experience, including the boat pond in the Luxembourg Gardens and the batobus tourist boat that transports families from place to place along the Seine. I found friendly, American English-speaking guests at the bar (where I had dinner one night because it was raining) and at breakfast.
Many were returnees, as I hope to be.
Before you tick off the same sights on your Paris itinerary, consider adding one or more of these activities. Amusez-vous bien!
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