Is Paris always a good idea? The jury’s out as we chug through the city’s dreary outskirts, a sheen of grey drizzle coating the Eurostar’s windows.
But Paris doesn’t hide its charms for long, and as we pull up in front of Monsieur George, just off the Champs Élysée, the clouds part and the sun dances on the cobbled streets, the scene switching from dull to heart-searingly romantic.
Ah yes, Paris: City of Light, world capital of romance. The perfect place for a cosy weekend à deux – although, in my case, my cosy weekend à deux happens to be with my 10-year-old daughter. And the hotel, on first impression, isn’t necessarily what you’d choose for a kid-friendly holiday.
Housed in an elegant Haussman building on the corner of Rue Washington, the windows are dark and sultry, the entrance low-key and discreet. But then the huge brass doors swing open and we enter a bijou lobby as warm, welcoming – and beautiful – as a velvet-lined jewellery box.
Designed by Anouska Hempel, texture, here, is key. The floors are glossy with bottle-green tiles, the windows shaded by oversized black-silk fans, the huge wooden table in the lobby covered with fashion books big enough to knock someone out. Everything is tactile, the kind of place where you want to stroke the furniture and run your fingers along the walls.
And it smells good: a green-tea-ish signature scent that reminds me of Marrakech, as do the tiles and giant potted plants, come to think of it. There’s a Morocco-meets-Parisian-bolthole feel to the place that makes it immediately, effortlessly chic.
But it’s approachable too. Grown up, not stuck up. While the 10-year-old wanders about naming all the greens on view (‘dusky emerald’ for the walls, ‘deep teal’ for the floors, ‘smokey jade’ for the tables in the bar, a few steps down from the lobby) I’m meeted and greeted by the delightful staff; the concierge says hello with a little bow and promises my daughter he’ll teach her a word of French a day.
Up we head to our corner room on the fifth floor, with floor-to-ceiling French windows opening onto a long, wraparound balcony and whopping views over Rue Washington (which, incidentally, inspired the name of the hotel). My daughter proceeds to poke about, quickly discovering the minibar, coffee machine and fluffy robes, while I take in the enormous velvet sleigh bed, the grey-velvet curtains, the marble-and-brass bathroom.
The effect is warm, comfortable and light-filled – stylish yet liveable. The sort of place a 10-year-old can happily bounce on the bed, but you can also imagine would do very nicely indeed for a romantic weekend away with the other half.
We sleep like kings, in a bed thoughtfully made up ‘German-style’, which means separate duvets and better sleep. Next morning, I sit out on the balcony sipping my coffee, and watch as Paris does its thing below me. People clip-clop along the pavement on their way to work. Tiny old women walk their even tinier dogs. A van is unloaded with much shouting and arm-waving. The air smells faintly of cars and cigarettes and coffee and tiny dogs. It smells of Paris.
Then it’s time for breakfast, in the small, jewel-like restaurant with its pretty courtyard, for fresh croissants and scrambled eggs and more coffee, before we hit the streets. The wonderful thing about visiting a city you know fairly well with a child who’s never been is that you see it all afresh. We do all the headliners – the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Cœur, the Louvre, the giant Monets at the Musée de l’Orangerie, and she’s right: it is all incredible, it is the most beautiful city in the world, we should stop and eat more sorbet-hued macarons.
We eat steak-frites and drink hot chocolate so thick you stand your spoon up in it. We shop and we walk and we criss-cross the city by metro, and by the last evening, exhausted, we decide that the Asian-influenced tasting menu in the hotel restaurant is slightly beyond us, and opt instead for croque monsieur and linguine bolognese in the mirrored bar.
I have a last glass of wine at the little bistro table on the balcony while the 10-year-old goes to sleep inside, and realise, if I lean as far as I can to the right, I can see the tip of the Eiffel Tower, gleaming above the city’s rooftops. Below me, the pavements shine in the evening streetlights and people clip-clop to various nightspots and a tiny old woman walks her tiny dog. And I realise that yes, it’s true, Paris is always a good idea.
Francisca Kellett is the former travel editor of Tatler, and contributes regularly to the travel pages of The Times, The Telegraph, The Financial Times, National Geographic Traveller and Luxx. She is also the co-founder of Mundi & Co: a content agency for sustainable, luxury travel brands.