If someone were to ask me where to stay for their first, and possibly only, time in Paris, without hesitation I would insist on Le Bristol Hotel. “The moment you step into Le Bristol,” states President and General Manager Didier Le Calvez, “you step into Paris.” It is so much more than just a luxury Parisian hotel with all its haughty splendor. Le Bristol is a hotel of Palace Distinction, giving you the authentic French experience.
I immediately took notice of how light and bright and open the lobby area was. It was a pleasant surprise on that gloomy grey Parisian day of big crowds in the big city. However, it was a very inviting reception for more than this reason alone. “I brought Fa-Raon to the hotel a couple years ago,” Calvez explains of the fluffy white cat weaving through my legs in the lobby; the exact type of welcome I expect from a French cat, ? la Pepe Le Pew style.
“He is the house cat and has become very famous actually,” Calvez jokes. Still not as famous as the hotel itself and their well-known guests since the eighteenth century. People who have graced its presence in more recent times include Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Miranda Kerr just to name a minute few captured by paparazzi.
“It was quite an honor to be selected by Woody Allen as the quintessential palace hotel for his movie,” Calvez says proudly of blockbuster movie Midnight in Paris. The Panoramic Suite, a signature suite at Le Bristol, was where the hotel scenes were filmed for the 2011 romantic comedy starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. The suite is a sprawling 2,200 square feet “proper Parisian apartment.”
Le Bristol, with its Palace Distinction in luxury hotels of France, has 85 suites, “the largest inventory of suites in Paris,” Calvez explains which is host to celebrities and politicians from all over the world. “Well, it is famous because it does not reveal the names of the guests,” he answers when asked who exactly. Names I’ve mentioned here have been publicized though not by the hotel. “People come to Le Bristol because they do want discretion.” Note to self; perfect destination for a rendezvous!
The luminous hotel’s décor is floral and elegant, rich and opulent yet certainly not pretentious. Simply put, it is French. Located in the fashion district, the hotel is tastefully fashioned in classic Parisian décor of Louis XV and Louis XVI. “Every single room is different,” describes Calvez of the interiors, “all of the art is original, all of the furniture has been made in France, and not one room is like another.” Do not think for a second that this is a stuffy, old arrogant place to stay. On the contrary, Le Bristol has been recently remodeled and updated while keeping the authentic and tasteful décor.
The hotel is family owned and takes pride in being family oriented, and the entire staff was genuinely friendly. “Our clients are primarily here for leisure,” Calvez states, “we have a lot of families.” This explains the large apartment style suites. Even their newly open La Prairie spa now has a kids club where they can be entertained while parents can enjoy their treatments, guilt free. Le Bristol children’s program, lead by mascot Hippolyte the rabbit (no, not Pepe Le Pew) welcomes children with activities, their own apple and orange scented toiletries and hosted treasure hunts.
There are two fabulous restaurants within Le Bristol. Recently remodeled Epicure is a three Michelin star gastronomic restaurant where head Chef Eric Frechon dishes up gourmet French cuisines. “Eighty percent of our clients are French,” states Calvez. In other words, if you are interested in authentic fine French dining, well refined for even discriminating local palettes, then this is where you want to go. Once again, the elegant décor of Epicure mirrors that of Le Bristol; refined with an abundance of light welcomed in from the large windows facing the garden. For a proper and exquisite French meal in an equivalently superior ambience, it is a dining experience to be remembered.
Their latest restaurant, 114 Faubourg, is Epicure’s younger brother, so to speak. Lead by Chef Eric Desbordes, mentored by Epicure’s Chef Frechon, I would say this restaurant is more youthful in atmosphere and cuisine. Still French, yet a bit more contemporary and casual with international influences. For instance, the brasserie offers foie gras with a creamed artichoke soup, and the best cheese plate you could imagine, while other items you might see on the menu are a tandoori-style salmon dish, and seared tuna served with a soy-ginger vinaigrette. One warning though, 114 Faubourg is closed for the entire month of August. As an American, I admire and envy this French social right of a month long siesta. Although, I have cursed many on my journeys as this little common detail slips my mind.
Once the bellhop took me to my suite on the top floor, the Honeymoon Suite, and after a tour of the rooms within it, he handed me something I have never seen before: a large and heavy old-fashioned looking hotel key. No, not a plastic credit card looking thing to swipe at your front door that doesn’t seem to work half the time — at least not in Vegas after numerous cocktails and the one-hour hike back to your room at 4 a.m. This was a real key. Another charming detail that cannot go unnoticed, along with the toiletries which are none other than the premium of all French brands, Herm?s. So it goes without saying that there was an unnecessary amount of time I spent in my own Turkish bath in this suite.
Without exaggerating, the views of Paris off the balconies in the Honeymoon Suite were extraordinary. Stunning and breathtaking, I stood speechless just gazing over the city of lights during dusk as I said to myself “let this moment last forever.” The wind, a gentle blow. The big city, suddenly silent. We sip champagne and simply waited. Then, just as promised, the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower demand our attention for the next few moments.
And by the way, I did not mean to skim over the mentioning of La Prairie Spa at Le Bristol. A luxurious indulgence, the prestigious La Prairie treatments cater to individual’s needs to perfection. It was a holiday retreat for my body and mind. Be sure to add a treatment in their Russian Room. Trust me on this one; the signature treatment room is a first for all of Paris not to be missed.
Le Bristol is a French hotel of grandeur and luxury at its finest. It is a hotel all should aspire to experience. I often reminisce of my pleasant stay as I recall my very own rendezvous there, ? la française. A great big Merci Beaucoup to Didier Le Calvez and staff for their gracious hospitality and my memories that will carry me until my next visit with you. Le Bristol is part of the Oetker Collection of fine hotel properties, which will be adding Palais Namaskar in Marrakech this year.
“Where are you, my little object of art? I am here to collect you.” –Pepe Le Pew