Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hotels in Paris

We'll call this little travel series, "Postcards from Paris..."


People often ask us, since we travel to Paris a fair amount, about where we like to stay. The truth is that we Huffingtons are creatures of habit, and once we’ve established our little hotel routine, with the bakery, the metro, the favorite restaurants and even the hair dressers, it’s hard to try something new. It’s a great feeling to get to know a neighborhood and have people in the “quartier” treat you like a local, even though you live 3,000 miles away! So that’s part of the reason we stick to a very few, and why we’re more than happy to share them with you.

On this first installment of our favorite three hotels in Paris, here is Ann, reporting live from Le Duc de St. Simon, right off the rue du Bac, in Paris’ tony 7th Arrondissement:

It is a freezing cold February night, with a dusting of snow on the ground and a hefty wind blowing. But I am happily cozy and warm, in a cocoon-like room, with its pretty padded pink walls and timeless antiques in the lovely and elegant Hotel du Duc de St. Simon.


It’s a hotel I know well and one that comes stacked with years of memories, since I stayed here for the first time for a whole week when I was fourteen years old, and traveling to Paris my friend Muffie and her mother. La Muf and I had room #14, possibly the nicest room in the hotel with its own private terrace. The hotel has changed quite a bit since then, and along with picking up a duchy and a couple of extra stars (it used to be simply called “Le St. Simon,” ) it was renovated from scratch and to perfection several years ago.


Over the years, I’ve stayed in many different rooms: Some of them pink, some blue, some yellow; some small, some medium and some quite large. All of them are warm and elegant, with tufted walls, comfy bathrobes and the most sumptuous Italian cotton sheets, with matching color coordinated monograms depending on which room you stay in (such a nice touch). And all of them have a distinctly elegant feel of being more like a Parisian home than a hotel.



02superior room 4

So here’s what I love about the Duc de St. Simon: It’s in a perfect location, or as they would say in Paris, “c’est le top top top.” Although it is steps away from the bustling Boulevard St. Germain and the elegant rue du Bac shopping district, as well as the metro and lots of bus lines, it’s quiet and quaint. With its cute little courtyard and few terraces, you could almost imagine being in the country instead of the heart of Paris.


I love the rooms. Yes, they’re small and some may say they’re a little dated now. But I think that like all fine design, they are timeless and have great bones. The walls are padded, the rooms are filled with antiques, the curtains are plush and the windows have the most wonderful hardware!! It’s an elegant combination of heavy iron and solid brass, and when you close the windows and eliminate any potential city noise, they make that satisfyingly substantial “umph” sound that you get with a really luxurious car. Although I sleep with the window open, I love to know that when I close it, in the morning, I’m going to hear the Umph!


I like the service. It is prompt, courteous and friendly. When you order your breakfast, you don’t have to wait: It comes quickly – and deliciously. On my plane on the way over here, I sat next to a delightful man from Asheville, who said, as he curled up to sleep after many glasses of champagne, “Just a few hours until croissant time!” I thought about him on my first morning of room service, since there’s nothing like the delicious croissants delivered to your room at the Duc de St. Simon: Luscious, buttery decadence at their best.

I love the details: The creaky stairs, the narrow halls, the marbleized floorboards and faux painted walls. I love the kilim lined elevator and the beautiful 19th century art.


I really love the luxurious Beltrami sheets which are soft and silky and so welcoming, especially during those first few jet lagged nights, when they stroke and soothe you at 4 a.m. and say, “roll over, night night, go back to sleep now” – and you do!! I love the front desk and the sitting room, which remind me of an imaginary aunt’s house, somewhere near Fontainebleau.


Lounge and bar

I love how the sun reflects against the white buildings surrounding us, and I love the view of the terraces. I love the courtyard , especially in the summer, when it is shaded, flowering and welcoming.


But most of all. I just love love love that when you walk out the front door and take a few steps down the street, you go from being in somebody’s elegant country house to the heart of the most fun and fashionable part of Paris.

Ta ta, bonne nuit,


PS: We will mention a couple of other favorite hotels in the next few months. But here is the info on the Duc de St. Simon:


14, rue St. Simon, 75007 Paris

PPS: Tell us about your favorite hotels too. But don’t be surprised if we just keep going back to the same ones over and over. Like so many things in life, once you establish that personal connection, everything else pales in comparison.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hiccups at Air France

Postcards from Paris…


It all started several years ago when I was traveling back from Paris to Atlanta. My plane from Marseille was delayed, so I arrived at the gate, panting, disheveled, and utterly panicked that I would miss my flight. I remember the ticket agent putting my boarding pass through the scanner and the machine uttering a little hiccup, as the attendant said (what would become some of my favorite words), “Un moment, s'il vous plait.” She then apologized for the delay and explained that I had been upgraded to Business class, and so they had to reissue a ticket.

Moi? Upgraded? Why? I was delighted but I couldn’t help wondering why they’d picked me, the most disheveled passenger, for an upgrade. Of course I accepted it graciously and savored everything from the foie gras, to the fine selection of cheeses, wines, leg room, movies and music. In fact I was so delighted that I did what any well brought up woman would do, after being treated to a fine experience: I wrote a thank you note to Air France.


A few months later, I was again traveling back from France, and the very same hiccup happened at the gate. The funny thing is, I was actually furious with the airline for cutting my connection too short in Paris so that, once again, I almost missed my flight to Atlanta. I arrived at the counter, breathless and poised to complain, when I heard the little hiccup as the agent scanned my boarding pass, and she uttered those welcome words, “Un moment, s'il vous plait,” before delivering the good news.

The third time it happened, a few months later, I figured the hiccup was Air France’s way of apologizing for their unreasonably tight connections in Paris, and this was their way of making it up to me. I decided then and there that I could deal with that tight connection!

But the next time it happened, I was traveling the other way, from Atlanta to Paris. This time there was nothing to complain about. And so this time, I figured it must have been a case of mistaken identity, and that for some reason, Air France thought I was a celebrity. Of course I didn’t want to shatter that illusion, so I went along happily for the ride, and tried to be an appropriately modest and low maintenance celebrity. For several years, I enjoyed being upgraded on just about every flight.

And then they didn’t just upgrade me … they upgraded my whole family. I had never really wanted my daughters to get a taste of business class, but they did, several times, thanks to Air France. A couple of times I got upgraded to First class, because Business Class was full. One time, when I was traveling with my children, they apologized for breaking us up. Not a problem, I told them … my girls would be fine alone in Business. The hiccup at the gate became a wonderful tradition and I was totally hooked as Air France’s most loyal frequent flyer.

And then one day, it ended.

It was the first trip I took with Meg, my wonderful business partner. Although I tried not to take anything for granted because I was still sure it was a case of mistaken identity, I did rather cavalierly tell Meg to stick with me, kid, ‘cause we’d probably both get upgraded. But pas du tout. Not a hiccup. Not even a burp at the gate. In fact, not only did we get the back of the plane, but – and this will be an “aventure” for another blog, I’m sure – my passport was stolen on the flight! Poor Meg thought that she was going to ride with me in the front of the plane and instead she rode with me to the Commissariat de Police at Charles de Gaulle airport.

To my regret, at a cocktail party a few years ago, I made the mistake of telling an acquaintance who was very high up at a competing airline that I was the beneficiary of something mysteriously wonderful at Air France, and she was horrified and said, “Well that’s not right – they shouldn’t be doing that.” I’m not sure if there was any connection with this regrettable slip of the tongue or if my demise was simply a result of Air France’s merger with KLM, which happened to coincide with the end of my benefits. But whatever the cause, I have not been upgraded since.


Recently traveling on Delta, where I am a little nobody and never get upgraded at all, I realized that there is something to be said for the level playing field which eliminates that inevitable sense excitement and disappointment. I’m not expecting the hiccup when the machine swallows my boarding pass. I know that I’ll have the seat I was assigned to, and I have learned, over the years, how to make that just fine (enhanced by bringing along some treats from a favorite “traiteur” in Paris and traveling off season, for more legroom …. but that’s also for another blog).

But I do miss my old friend, Air France. I don’t know what I did to turn it off. In fact, I don’t know what I did to turn it on. But I will always be loyal to this friend, in the hopes that one day, that surprising hiccup will return. And if anyone from Air France happens to read this blog, please know that you are my favorite airline, and always will be. Even without the hiccup. Santé!

Ta ta!