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Paris, France

City of Light

Think about how you get around a city and you get an instant sense of place. In London, for instance, you hail a cab; in Los Angeles you drive; and in Tokyo you take the subway. In Paris you stroll, which is the only pace for appreciating the city's richness and detail and for discovering the surprises– a monument, a square, a quay, a fountain– at every turn of a corner. Paris is after all not just a grand metropolis. It is a series of small villages. On our first visit to Paris as a young student we asked a native to locate the center of the city. "There are many centers here," was the reply "and each neighborhood (arrondissemont) must be explored on foot."

On a recent visit while retracing old paths we made some new discoveries:


For one of the best excursions outside of Paris head to the Trianon Palace hotel in Versailles, and sign on for one of the many packages at the Givenchy Spa. The spa is for the exclusive use of hotel guests who stay at least one night, long enough to work up a sweat in the marble Moroccan hamman, the prettiest steamroom this side of Marrekesh. As befits a Versailles address, both the hotel and the spa are spectacular.

Spa at the Trianon Palace


Unlike many famous French executive chefs Gérard Vié does not guard his butter and cream with vengeance. In fact, he's rather proud that his lighter versions of traditional fare are so tasty. The menu changes weekly with several choices at each meal. Three cheers for his decalorized versions of duck breast and salad, pigeon and mushrooms and lobster with carmelized turnips.

The treatments are glorious, too–relaxing massages, soothing facials, hydrotherapy and a mud bath to almost die for (you fall asleep instead) and more. Since Europe is catching on to American-style spas, exercise classes and sports are part of the program. There are several suggested two- three- and five-mile routes on foot or by bike to explore Trianon Park with its magnificent gardens, statuary, fountains, canals and chateaux. These paths (parcours sante or health course) are also parcours beauté because of the lovely area they traverse. Beats jogging on a city street!

Trianon Palace, 1, boulevard de la Reine, Versailles 78000. Tel. 33 (1) 30 84 5000. 888-625-5144. Rates start at $320 per room. www.starwood.com/westin

Where To Stay

Paris is inarguably the greatest hotel city in the world. From tiny hideaways in quiet neighborhoods to grand palaces in the most popular areas, the choice is enormous.

Inter-Continental Paris

There is so much history and legend attached to the Inter-Continental Paris that it takes a beautifully illustrated magazine to tell the story. Written by the chief curator of the City of Paris Museums, Histoire et Tradition à l`Hôtel Inter-Continental Paris starts in the 1600s and includes all the intrigue of church and state. The building has the stature of a national monument with heavy iron doors and elaborate candelabra at the entrance and a double-columned courtyard opening on a fountain and gardens. But it isn't one of those fussy old places. An international crowd fills the lobby where the action is ongoing. Christian La Croix and Yves St. Laurent hold their fashion shows here.

Courtyard at the Inter-Continental


The service is just what busy Americans expect. "Large doesn't mean impersonal," a guest relations representative told us as she greeted a French couple. "We know what everyone wants. That couple likes two double beds, a walk-in closet, a windowless bathroom and accommodations on the courtyard." Although the rooms that face the Tuileries Gardens provide a lovely view of the city, they are also noisy because of the traffic on the Rue de Rivoli. When booking at the Inter-Continental Paris request an inside room.

Le Castille

It's not bad to have Chanel as your next door neighbor and Nina Ricci and Valentino on your street. Castille on the rue Cambon in the heart of the fashion district is as chic as the nearby haute couturiers, but its decor draws its inspiration from another great center of design, Italy. The look is Venetian with both a glass-enclosed dining room that brings the outdoors inside and a patio like one you might find in a small palazzo on the Adriatic.

We found the staff extremely helpful, answering our every question and responding promptly to requests. The hotel is a few years old, having been renovated from an existing space. But the patina is definitely 18th century with marvelous old engravings, oil paintings and an ancient-looking mosaic wall. Rooms are comfortable and decorated in cheerful yet soothing colors and have all the right amenities. Try an aromatherapy bath, but don't soak too long for the lobby is also an inviting place. Guests linger in the three friendly and intimate parlors. Who knows, you might just make a new friend. Le Parc Victor Hugo

People wait for months to get a reservation at Alain Ducasse, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Paris. If they stay at Le Parc Victor Hugo, where the restaurant is housed, Joseph, the concierge, might just be able to convince the maître 'd to give them a dropout's table. And if he can't deliver, they can at least try the renowned chef's absolutely divine pain, brioche and croissants, which are on the breakfast menu and are served in the Le Relais Du Parc, resembling a porch in a French Colonial home. The breakfast room's windows overlook a brick-tiled private garden surrounded by five townhouses that make up the hotel. Paris's elite once lived here. Two years ago a stunning renovation took place.

The hotel is small, but well thought-out. For example, there are several duplex suites with loft beds that are particularly suited to guests who wish to conduct business in their rooms. Decorated by the celebrated British designer, Nina Campbell, the property has the ambiance of a great manor house in the English countryside. The wood-paneled lobby, designed like a library, is filled with leather-bound books. Yes, guests do read them and also play backgammon here.


Remember the Paris of the early days of the cinema? Men in top hats and tails. Woman in bustle skirts and plumage. Tout les mondes driving on the boulevards in horse-drawn carriages. The Raphael fits that mode. Surprisingly this grand old Edwardian-style edifice didn't go up until 1925, but it is belle époque to the moldings. The elevators are original like the ones that were used at the turn-of-the-century with wrought iron compartments fashioned like bird cages and glass doors that part in the middle on each floor.

It's all very ornate and spacious. The lobby takes up a full city block and the rooms and suites, with ceilings that look like they are 14-feet tall, just have to be the roomiest in Paris. So big, in fact, you could hold a salon in one of them. Your great aunt, the one who loved Oriental rugs, chandeliers, antiques, armoires and red damask would have decorated like this. A painting by Turner hangs in the lobby. Located in the quiet fashionable 16th arrondissement, Paris's most elegant residential neighborhood, the Hotel Raphael is close to the Arc de Triomphe. The monument is the perfect place to begin one of the town's most popular walks, a promenade along the avenue des Champs Élysées.

Hotel Inter-Continental Paris, 3 Rue de Castiglione, 75040. Tel. +33 1 44 77 11 11. Summer spectacular rates are $279 per room for two guaranteed in U.S. dollars and including full breakfast, tax and service. www.paris-ic.intercontinental.com Castille Sofitel Demeure Hotel Paris, 37, rue Cambon, 75001. Tel. 44 58 44 58. Rates start at $250. www.sofitel.com/sofitel/index.html Le Parc Sofitel Demeure Hotel Paris, 55-57 avenue Raymond-Poincare 75116. Tel. 44 05 66 66. Rates start at $250. www.sofitel.com/sofitel/index.html Raphael, 17, avenue Kléber, 75116. Tel. 866-823-9330 is a member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World. Rates start at $430.

Where To Dine

L'os à Moëll has the hottest tables in town. No wonder! The tab is quite reasonable for an exquisite six-course tasting menu, which changes often. A typical night's offerings might include pumpkin soup; shredded filet of beef with marrow in Bordelaise sauce (the signature dish); lobster, scallops, caviar and carrots under an open ravioli; duck breast with "lattice-style" potatoes as thin as thread; salad and cheese; and a choice of dessert, such as apple tart with prune and Armagnac ice cream or chocolate quenelles with crème anglais. Reservations a must! Parisians without reservations queue up hoping to fill in for no-shows. Tourists haven't discovered this spot yet. It's out in the boonies, but worth the taxi ride.

Le Petit Zinc, another Left Bank eatery, is charmingly decorated and filled with animated diners. The prix fixe dinner includes many delicious choices for starters: gravlax layered with tiny shrimp, briny fish soup and sparklingly fresh oysters. Fish, beef, chicken and veal kidneys, each in a unique sauce, and several desserts were on the menu the night we were there. Although this restaurant is listed in English guide books, many Parisians eat here. Again, good value and fine French atmosphere.

Le Soufflé is crowded with early diners and seems to be in every concierge's directory. The restaurant is attractive enough and the service is acceptable. English is clearly spoken here and that's O.K. The problem is the soufflés. All three that we ordered were tasteless. The cheese soufflé was bland, the smoked salmon overly salty and the chocolate was dry.

In Paris ice cream and Berthillon are synonymous. If you happen to be passing by while visiting Notre Dame or are on your way to the Marais (great discounted fashions at soldes time) do stop for some mandarine, which is as chunky as any Ben & Jerry's flavor. But at a couple of dollars for a scoop as big as a heaping tablespoon and a 20-minute wait on pleasant days, don't make a detour.

Most visitors need no introduction to the Lido. The city's most famous revue has danced its way into the 90s with a new $15 million Las Vegas-type extravaganza, "C'est Magique." Showgirls and acrobats entertain as they did in the old days. What's new are the glitzy sets–fountains, stages that move like elevators, an ice skating rink and a swimming pool. The food, simple bistro fare, is surprisingly good, which is a wise way to cook for 1200 patrons at once. A six-piece band plays nonstop for two hours during dinner. It's hard to tell who's having a better time, the band or the customers dancing to all those "golden oldies."

L'os à Moëll, 3, rue Vasco de Gama, 75015. Tel. 01 45 57 27 27. Inexpensive.

Le Petit Zinc, 11, rue Saint-Benoit, 75006. Tel. 01 42 61 20 60. Moderate.

Le Soufflé, 36, rue du Mont Thabor, 75001. Tel. 01 42 60 2719. Moderate

Berthillon, 31 rue St. Louis in l'Ile, 75004 and other locations. Tel. 01 43 54 31 61. Expenisve. www.berthillon-glacier.fr

Lido, 116 bis avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008. Tel. 40 76 56 10. Reserve for dinner and show or show only

Spring 1995