Back and forth, hither and yon – whether on my habitual trajectory between Touraine and Paris or further afield… destinations, encounters, events and observations I can’t resist sharing.

Hotel LENOX, Saint Germain.

June 17, 2011

I imagined that writing a Paris hotel book might get me off the hook, but I continue to receive a steady stream of queries from family, friends, friends of friends and sixth degree of separation Facebook networkers asking, WHERE DO YOU RECOMMEND I STAY IN PARIS?  I politely suggest they BUY MY BOOK, but for any number of reasons, people crave customized advice based on their very specific needs.

Since starting this blog last summer, I  avoided covering hotels.  It’s a counter intuitive choice considering my niche expertise in French “Hideaway” hotels and B&Bs, but I wished to explore other subjects.  How silly when demand for updates on Paris hotels and charming rural chambre d’hôtes appears insatiable.

Before we go further, I’ll feel better if you read a quote from my introduction to Parisian Hideaways:

In his book Paris, John Russell, former chief art critic for the New York Times, cautions: “Hotels, like restaurants, are a subject upon which advice is usually fatal. The choice of an hotel is as private a matter as the choice of a wife.”

With this in mind, I gave up on impartiality and set out to find thirty hotels where I’d like to stay.

Securing a good table in a restaurant doesn’t cost more, but you do have to ask for it.  It’s best to do so when making your reservation rather than when unhappily seated by the entry to the kitchen.  The same applies to hotel rooms.  The better informed you are, the less likely you are to be dissatisfied.  Do you prefer a street view or a courtyard view, high or low floor, proximity to the elevator etc?   In boutique hotels, the decor, layout and size can vary between rooms in the same price category.  Look at the room photos on the web site and if you see a picture of one you like, ask about it.  Consult the floor plan (if there is one.)  When you check in, if there’s a choice of rooms available, ask to see them.

Hotel Lenox in Saint Germain is ideally situated in one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods – on a quiet corner at the intersection of the 6th and 7th arrondissements.  Bertrand Plasmans, who already owned two small hotels around the corner – the Saint Thomas d’Aquin and Saint Vincent – added the Lenox to his portfolio two years ago.  Each has a distinct profile and corresponding price point.   The Lenox has the advantage of a chic bar and is consequently the most convivial of the three.

The priciest, while remaining good value is the elegant Saint Vincent (featured in Parisian Hideaways), a former hôtel particulier with the largest rooms and a more discrete ambiance. Unlike the Saint Vincent, which is a Plasmans creation, the Lenox was an estabished fixture on the left bank hotel scene and popular with the fashion world and models.   Without radically altering its character, he treated it to an extensive refurbishment.  The art deco style bar had its edges softened, while the reception lounge and guest rooms were given a bourgeois chic makeover.  Stephane, the affable manager, describes the clientel as diverse – families, couples, business people of every age.

Boutique hotel elevators can be claustrophobic.  The Lenox created an illusion of spaciousness using glass walls and running theirs up the interior courtyard.  I suffer from vertigo in exposed situations, but somehow the transparance didn’t bother me.  It’s actually a refreshing surprise.

The breakfast room sous sol is a former vaulted stone cave transformed into a pleasant space through handsome décor.  If staying in a Junior suite, you can opt for breakfast on your little private balcony, weather permitting.  Apart from the balcony, Junior Suites don’t offer significant advantages over a Deluxe Double.  Bedroom and bathroom are on different levels, which isn’t terribly convenient and the fact that suites are on the top floor under the roofline, makes them feel a tad cramped.

Rooms on first floor have slightly higher ceilings with stucco moldings.  The best rooms are the L shaped corner line (14, 24, 34 & 44) with windows overlooking rue de l’Université and rue Pré aux Clercs.

With so many tempting destinations within strolling distance you won’t be spending hours lolling around your room anyway.  Boulevard Saint Germain is right down the block and the Musée d’Orsay, Louvre and Luxembourg Gardens are five to ten minutes walking distance.  The neighborhood is packed with gorgeous little fashion, antiques and design boutiques, plus all manner of cafes and restaurants.

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