Paris, like any other big city, may seem quite expensive, but in actuality it caters to all budgets. I chose the luxury side for this trip for research purposes. Gotta experience it to sell it right? Full disclosure, my trip wasn’t high end all the way; I didn’t get a private transfer nor used a driver in and around Paris. But, I didn’t want it that way, one of my favorite thing to do in Paris is wander around aimlessly and make new discoveries, and I cannot get that being chauffeured around now can I?
Planning to go
First things first, for us girls, it’s what to wear to stay warm and dry (after all it’s springtime in Paris) and not look like an obvious tourist while maintaining the hairstyle (this is especially relevant to us black girls who do not want to have to hunt down a stylist who knows what to do with our hair) So what did I pack? Let’s start with what I did not pack:
- Running shoes
- Shorts (walking nor short shorts)
Why did I highlight those three things? Well, to me they look too touristy in Europe but to each his own. So what did I pack for the 40-60 degree range and possibility of rain?
- Mini umbrella
- Light jacket & waist length water resistant poncho
- Ballet flats (amazingly comfortable Cole Haan flats), wedged booties & sexy closed toe black stilettos suitable for taxi rides and cobble free pavements
- Shades, scarf and wrap (did not use the wrap)
- Flat iron & my Weather Girl Blow Pro (anti-frizz serum)
Now what do I wish I’d packed?
- Gloves! It was freaking cold!
- More long sleeved tops and/or sweater – seriously did I think it was summer?
- Cash! These taxis drivers are no joke! Word to the wise, always ask if they accept credit cards prior to boarding
I woke up March 22, 2016 to the horrible news of the bombing in Brussels. Damn, how will this affect my trip? Should I sit this one out as everyone was advising me to do? Nah, this is our new reality – terrorism, how can I give them power over my life? I’m going, I will be on high alert but I’m going nonetheless. And so I went.
Ok, let’s get on with the report. I landed in Charles De Gaulle airport at 12:35 PM (flight was scheduled to arrive at 1:20 PM) breezed through immigration and was out the door in less than 30 minutes, thanks in part to Sky Priority, grabbed a legal taxi and a few pleasantries later was on my way to the Peninsula Hotel in Paris, situated of course, on the right bank:-). Lucky for me there were no strikes no traffic, just a pleasant 40 minute taxi ride to my hotel.
Just a side note – beginning March 1, 2016, the flat fee structure by taxi to/from CDG is €50 to the right bank and €55 to the left bank. Cool right?
So in case you missed it, I was staying at the Peninsula Hotel. This luxurious hotel is located on avenue Kléber in the 16th arrondissement, and while not centrally located, it is a mere 5 minutes walk to the Arc de Triompe, Avenue des Champs-Elysees, the metro and trains. This trip was not about being central, I wanted to experience their gorgeous property and legendary service while taking in Paris in the spring time.
Checking in at the Peninsula
Lasvit Crystal Leaves structure
I’d already communicated my arrival time to the reservation department and requested early check-in. After being greeted in french, we spoke in French until I reached the limit of my proficiency at which point the guy checking me in graciously switched to English after seeing my blank stare of incomprehension. Bottom line, check in was quick, I felt really welcomed and was escorted to my room and every feature explained and amenities discussed.
Room upgrade & Welcome gifts
Maybe it’s because I’m a new travel adviser, maybe it’s because I’m a Virtuoso travel adviser or maybe it’s because I’m lucky, but I got a double room upgrade to the Grand Premier (junior suite). I could truly live there! The room was spectacular! If you have stayed at a Peninsula before then you can relate to my reaction. I was beyond pleased, the suite was huge, elegantly designed but with hints of Asian inspired decors (looking right at you commode and bed), amenities that I didn’t even know I needed (nail dryer & valet box) and the best bathroom & dressing room I’ve ever experienced. Clearly, you can tell I’m new to this level of luxury! And to top it all off, if the free VOIP international calling or the ubiquitous interconnected tablets didn’t seal the deal for me, I had a balcony overlooking avenue Kléber. Life is good.
Restaurants & Bars
This is an investment into my knowledge base so I tried out their restaurants and bars. They have three restaurants and two bars – I will only discuss the ones I experienced.
Let’s start with the main bar – it had an understated sexy yet scholarly feel and though the selection wasn’t exhaustive, the bartender was amazing and he became my whisky whisperer. Now, I get it, this is a high end hotel so I definitely and luckily price checked before ordering the 18 year old Yamazaki single malt – that would have been an extremely expensive mistake.
The Lobby Restaurant serves breakfast, but I spent more time admiring the room than enjoying my overcooked eggs. Yes, all was not perfect, my over-medium eggs got lost in translation.
Gastronomic Cantonese dining – Lili
7:30 PM dinner reservations for two (had a friend join me) and from the moment I entered until I politely declined the “doggy bag”, I was enthralled. The service was excellent, the food was delicious (but surprisingly on the larger side, this is Paris after all). Our waitress warned us about the serving size of the Peking Duck option but I can safely say all the portions needed a warning or perhaps skip the entrees and sides and only take the main plate. €450 later, gasp, I’m promising myself to never eat or drink so much money, I mean food again.
Sneaking in work (Peninsula site inspections)
I captured a few pictures while on the site inspection but more interesting were the factoids shared with me like the storied past of the building (former hotel built in 1906), and the 6 year conversion to becoming the Peninsula Paris. The Spa and indoor pool is a welcome retreat after a day in the city, well that is if your spa option in the tub doesn’t quite cut it.
My first “visit” was to the concierge desk. Here I got maps, information, advice and tickets to Versailles and Rodin museum, oh and my dinner reservations.
Versailles – The Château de Versailles is breathtaking at first sight, and keep getting better the closer I got to the building. The site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Standing in the Hall of Mirrors and looking out unto the gardens took my breath away and is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen.
Rodin Museum – This museum is best experienced on a cool and dry day, why you ask? Because the life-sized exhibits are outdoors. Now this day was neither cool nor dry, en fait, it was cold and drizzly and so my hair was not happy and I had no need for my shades but wear ’em still I did (ignore that deceptive picture, that’s the only time I saw the sun). In case you are wondering why this museum and why now, I chose it because I’d been to all the other popular museums and it houses two of my faves: the kiss & the thinker and also because Rodin was a bad-ass.
Luxembourg Garden – I’ve been to most of the sites before but despite several attempts both the Jardin du Luxembourg and Chateau de Versailles have proven elusive, well not this trip. I’m somewhat of a planner but something always came up and those sites got missed; and to be quite honest, I almost missed the Luxembourg gardens this trip because I spent too much time meandering around Montparnasse, then I got lost and had to rely on spotty french directions and even spottier street signs. But I persevered and finally got my selfie in this beautiful garden.
This was a brief yet great trip; and, as usual, Paris did not disappoint. The Paris Peninsula has set the bar for 5* luxury travel and the subtle touches like changing out the floral arrangements in public areas every couple nights, to the almost invisible yet attentive bellhops and security made for truly a magnificent stay.