If you want to stay somewhere central and special in Paris then add Hotel Balmoral to your list.
I stayed here for one night in September on my way to the north of France from the south. It was late, a hot sticky Paris night and I had just completed a 4 hour train journey. I didn’t want to waste any time in the city but I did want to chill out.
The four star Hotel Balmoral is literally yards from the iconic Arc de Triomphe and in my room I could hear the low hum of the never-ending city traffic scooting round the Arc, but the minute I shut the window I was cocooned in tranquillity. I must admit I had had every intention of going for a moonlit walk to take photos but the lovely deep bath and comfy bed lured me in.
In the morning I woke up refreshed and reinvigorated, I looked out of my hotel window and over the rooftops of the gorgeous buildings in the streets around, it was one of those perfect Paris moments as the sun came up and the city started to come alive. I popped out to the newspaper kiosk on the corner, I can’t resist them in Paris and came back for an excellent breakfast that set me up for the day. I had a chat with the concierge about places to visit close by. I wanted to see authentic Paris even though I was right in the centre of touristic Paris. The owner of the hotel, Francois Dapremont overheard me and introduced himself. I told him I loved the décor and we got talking and he told me a little about the history of the place.
It is a Haussman designed building dating back to the end of the 19th Century. Monsieur Dapremont told me he had bought the hotel from an old lady who had run it for 40 years and he had been worried about changing anything as he didn’t want to upset loyal customers. I’m so glad he went with his heart and his conviction that this gorgeous hotel deserved to be given some attention, because this ex restaurant business manager has the most exquisite taste. He bought in architects and artisans, retained original features and some of the furnishings to create a stunning 4* hotel that feels boutique, personal, luxurious and very welcoming. He is passionate about the hotel, views the staff as family and the guests as the most important thing there is – he is the perfect hotelier in fact.
The rooms are classically Parisian, elegant, modern and luxurious; there are also suites and apartments which can take two couples (and a child). Internationally renowned architect Michel Jouannet was instrumental in helping to create the new look for the hotel, his work is known in Venice, Rio de Janeiro and all around the world but this Paris hotel has to be one of his best projects. Monsieur Dapremont came to Paris 40 years ago he told me and it was “love at first sight” even though he was just a boy. “I will never forget seeing the Eiffel Tower” for the first time he says and I think it is this understanding of what makes Paris great, what tourists and visitors love that make him so good at running his hotel. He spends Sundays walking in Paris and just “getting to know the city” saying that Paris is like a series of small villages and indeed it was pre-Haussman. He loves to share his knowledge and has great pride in Paris so I told him, I want to see Paris and I have just a few hours. With the Arc de Triomphe literally a minute’s walk away I want to see real Paris, places where people who live here go every day.
He gave me a map and urged me to walk to close by rue Poncelet, “there’s a lovely authentic market there” he said. That was it, authentic, market in Paris, magic words to me. He also told me that the croissants and bread I had for breakfast came from star baker the Maison Kayser and that I would discover a number of lovely patisseries and bakeries on my walk – sold! Although I was checking out, the hotel was happy to look after my luggage and arrange a taxi for me to get to my station later that day.
I wandered to the market and there, just a few side streets away from the centre of Paris and the busy Etoile of the Arc de Triomphe was real Paris. Old ladies trundled trollies from market stall to market stall. Small dogs were being walked on leads. Stall holders called out what they had that day to tempt the punters; fruit and veg were laid out beautifully in this little pedestrianised stretch. I passed a stunning little boulangerie and asked if I could take photos of their cakes. As usual I was asked why “for my friends on Facebook, they love the cake photos from France” I said. The girl behind the counter looked as if she wasn’t sure she believed it but told me to go ahead and turned away bored.
On the corner of rue Poncelet, Berthillon, the famous ice cream store (rue du Fauborg Sainte Honoré) was an ideal coffee stop and I sat and watched the world walk by before heading off for the Champs Elysée a short walk away. Golden leaves were falling from trees, the sun was shining, the city was abuzz with the vigour of a Monday morning – it really was a perfect Paris moment.
Check out the Hotel Balmoral website and book direct to get up to 15% discount on the price and special offers like free VIP tickets to museums, free breakfast etc. All the staff speak English and they’re happy to help with directions and recommendations.