The wrong airport, one missed flight connection and a case of baggage theft was how my trip to Paris trip almost started. Making my annual pilgrimage back to the UK from Australia – for two weeks of cycling through friends’ spare rooms with the odd hotel night snuck in between – I had opted for an entrée course of a stop off in the ‘City of Love’ due to it being significantly cheaper than flying into London. Travelling through Hanoi airport was where the first of my almost incursions started as we were rerouted to nearby Cat Bi following an hour’s circling above Vietnam’s capital unable to land due to bad weather. After landing, refuelling and taking off again we touched down in the city known as ‘the Paris of the East’ unaware of whether we’d make our connecting flight to the Paris of France. Luckily they’d held the plane for us and the second of my almost incursions was averted.
Settling into the 13-plus hours of flying I was looking forward to the day of luxury and exploring that awaited me when I stepped off the plane in France in the early hours of a Wednesday morning. After clearing customs, now requiring additional paperwork – thanks Brexit – I entered the baggage claim to see my inconspicuous green suitcase standing to one side of the belt. Sidling up to the case, I could see a large tag on it. Immediately presuming this was something the airport had put on the bag I was unable to read the ‘message’ as it was in French. After a confused lady plucked up the courage to inform me that it wasn’t my bag, across the hall I spotted my actual case nestled under some boxes on someone else’s trolley. Marching over I managed to reclaim what was rightfully mine and point the offender to their bag still merrily riding the conveyor belt. After over a day of travelling behind me, I set off on the train to centre of France’s well-loved capital.
Why I regale you with this longer then necessary tale is to set up my frame of mind when I arrived at the beautiful hotel stay I had in front of me. My relief at entering the utopic Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain & Spa, which the curator of this blog had so kindly set up for me to review, was palpable.
Situated between Parisian icons like the Seine and Cafe de Flore, the hotel is one of boutique luxury that silently screams understated elegance through subtle touches that don’t go unnoticed. Technically situated in the 7th Arrondissement, the location borders the chicer 6th Arrondissement and matches it more in vibe.
I was booked into one of the place’s Junior Suites with touches of sage green and wildlife featuring wallpaper, topping it off with a wrap-around baloney that looked out onto the bustling streets below. Sinking into the large bathtub, I washed off the remains of the aeroplane before a jet-lag-fighting jaunt around the streets of Paris.
Snaking through the bookshop-lined alleys of St Germain I queued up for a French breakfast of a croissant and hot chocolate at the famous aforementioned Cafe de Flore, where I sipped hot cocoa watching the world go by. Without a cloud in the sky, I proceeded to tick off several Parisian highlights I’d long been meaning to visit including the Louvre, Notre Dame and Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Whiling away the afternoon strolling on the banks of the Seine I took in the famous used booksellers and artists that pepper the pavement.
What better way to end the day than a nightcap in the hotel’s own Literary Salon where the library holds a collection of Éditions Gallimard volumes all with the exact same off-white and red cover design?
The personal touches and attentive service of the hotel meant that my travel dramas were long behind me. Book lover, or not, Pavillon is certainly one of the best and most intimate places you’ll stay in Paris.
Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain & Spa Literary Links
In a link that would excite almost any book lover, save our gracious Literary Edit founder Lucy, the hotel is home to a room where one James Joyce completed his magnum opus ‘Ulysses’. With a bar and suite named after the Irish writer this is the only spot to visit if you’d a fan of his work. Signature cocktails are served in the bar, accompanied by a jazz-playing trio whilst one enjoys the delights of the book collection – which I presume includes Ulysses…
What to read at Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain & Spa
I think the obvious one would be the sizable novel mentioned above, but if, like dear Lucy, it’s not to your tastes then there are a number of books set or inspired by Paris. ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ by Nina George is one that combines anyone’s love of the city with books, whilst Victor Hugo’s seminal classic ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ is much more than a Disney film. My personal pick would be the poignant ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ from Antony Doer which centres around the impacts of World War II within the city and beyond experience through a dual narrative of a German soldier and blind Parisian girl. Finally ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery, is often considered to be the best book written about Paris.
No trip to this city is complete without taking the time to visit Shakespeare and Company, though if like me you don’t have the time or patience to queue up to enter then here are a few more worth taking a trip to. Rare bookstore ‘Librairie Alain Brieux’ is full ‘Dark Academia’ vibes and the place to splash on a one-off edition, whilst The Abbey Bookshop is a labyrinth of moving shelves and a floor-to-ceiling hodge podge of pre-read and new books. If art is more your thing then the small but might shop from Assouline Paris is the perfect place to pick up something for your coffee table.
Words and photographs by David Wade