Hôtel Vernet, 25 rue Vernet, Paris, +33-0-1-44-31-98-00. 50 rooms from $399. designhotels.com/hotel_vernet
Deciding where to stay in Paris is as fun as it is fraught – do I splurge and stay in the 1st or 2nd arrondissements, or go for the gritty and chic northeastern neighbourhoods? And do I really want to spend the morning commuting in when I could, say, enjoy a leisurely café and croissant just a short walk from sights and shops?
When a hotel is in the midst of what Parisians call the triangle d'or (the golden triangle), guests will want for nought. Rue Vernet in the 8th arrondissement is a tiny street tucked behind the Champs-Élysées – turn left out the hotel's front door and you're steps from the Arc de Triomphe, turn right and you're a short walk from Louis Vuitton's flagship store and all the shopping you can stomach on the famous avenue. With two Métro stops nearby, it is easily reached (even toting luggage) from the airport, making it difficult to beat the five-star Hôtel Vernet, a member of the Design Hotel group, as a base for exploring the city.
Classic Parisian limestone façade, avant-garde stylings inside: A recent design overhaul hits you the moment you step into the lobby. Here, you'll discover the two styles don't compete but complement one another on the first-floor lobby – heritage features such as the ornate domed glass ceiling and lead-glass windows designed by Gustave Eiffel add a touch of gravitas to bright modern furnishings and striking pops of colour in the mural by French abstract artist Jean-Michel Alberola in the bar. The rooms, however, are all contemporary, sleek boutique – comfy king beds, spa slippers, warm robes, cordless phone, multijack plugs to recharge. You won't remember you're in a post-Haussmann building, circa 1913, until you pull open the French doors and lean out onto your Juliette balcony (there's not much of a view, but rue Vernet is so intimate you can practise your French by eavesdropping on the folks hanging out in the street below).
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
You might need to leave the French doors open to let in as much daylight as possible. The entranceway and bathroom are well lit, but the gorgeous cathedral-high ceilings in my room must have made it difficult to install task lighting in the living area. A floor lamp and dim bedside lamps were simply not strong enough – I shouldn't have to read my maps and guidebooks by sitting next to the closet.
If you ask my daughter, it was the large chocolate lollipops that appeared on our pillows each night. If you ask me, it was the service. Angelo, the hotel concierge, went out of his way to be helpful even when he was off duty. When I had to send an urgent e-mail but my computer was kaput, he graciously allowed me behind the front desk to use the staff's Internet access. (Luckily, no new guests arrived to check in as I struggled with the French keyboard; perhaps adding a guest computer in a corner of the bar or lobby would be a good idea.)
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
A tough choice in the morning – order room service, and your continental breakfast is the same price (€25, about $35) as in the restaurant. Then again, making an effort to get to the dining room means you can sup under the sunlit glass ceiling, and there may be no better way to prepare yourself for a day of admiring Parisian architecture than starting it under this Belle Époque beauty. It's difficult, however, to stay put for other meals since you are minutes from any number of cafés and restaurants.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Classy, affluent vacationers like yourself who relish the close proximity to Champs shopping and business travellers who trust the Design Hotels aesthetic to soothe their soul after a long day.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.