Parisienne paradise: Hotel Lutetia takes luxury to a whole new level
After a recent stay there it was easy to see why the newly-renovated Hotel Lutetia in the French capital was named one of the 20 most beautiful hotels in the world by Vogue Paris.
Last year, this historic five-star hotel, favoured by the likes of Picasso and Hemingway, unveiled a €200million refurb which took four years to finish and is truly breathtaking.
Branded Paris's loveliest grand dame hotel, it is steeped in history, from its occupation by Nazis during the Second World War to its years as a meeting point for intellectuals such as James Joyce, who wrote part of Ulysses there. French president Charles de Gaulle and his wife, Yvonne, chose it for their wedding night, on April 7, 1921.
More recent celebrity guests have included actor Brad Pitt, singer Britney Spears, actress Jodie Foster and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.
Mixing art nouveau and art deco from the past with a contemporary design, the property, which opened in 1910, is the only luxury hotel to be found on the city's Left Bank.
It owes its existence to the neighbouring Bon Marche department store. Its owner Marguerite Boucicaut commissioned the building of the hotel to provide accommodation for her wealthy customers who lived outside the city.
Located in the chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood, it has one of the coolest bars I have ever been in. There can be no better way to chill out in the evening than enjoying a cocktail in the spectacular Josephine bar, whose historical fresco from 1910, previously lost under layers of wallpaper and paint, has been lovingly restored after 17,000 hours of painstaking work. The jazz bar is named after Joséphine Baker, a passionate artist and dancer who aided the French Resistance in the Second World War.
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There is beautiful lighting throughout the hotel's public spaces, with mirrored lights in the bar and Murano glass chandeliers in the lobby.
I stayed in one of the one-bedroom suites which offered spacious living quarters and a balcony from which to look out on the city.
The beds are huge and it is difficult to put into words just how comfortable they are. Lighting and curtains are controlled by small wall-mounted tablets, which are easy to use.
The beautiful bathroom with its Italian Statuario marble sinks, counter tops and deep bath tub (carved from a single block of marble) exuded elegance and sophistication.
Being Paris, food is central to what the hotel does. The triple Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passedat is returning to take control at the Brasserie, which had not opened when I visited.
Instead, I dined under the beautifully-restored original glass roof of Le Saint Germain, where chef Benjamin Brial has created some amazing contemporary French dishes with some Japanese and Southeast Asian influences.
For starters at the restaurant, which offers an intimate and refined atmosphere, I had roasted scallops and cauliflower, curry and combawa emulsion. This winning combination was one of the nicest seafood starters I have tasted.
For mains I enjoyed an epic hay-roasted beef tenderloin with smoked onions, Phu Quoc pepper and potato wafers. It was super flavourful and tender - a truly sensational dish that tasted every bit as good as it sounds.
Even though I was stuffed I had to try dessert and opted for the rich rum baba with tonka light whipped cream. Full marks, as every dish was faultless and showed real culinary flair by a chef and a team at the top of their game.
As good as this hotel is to relax in, make sure to see some of the city's famous attractions - the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sacré-Cœur, Palace of Versailles or Montmartre, to name a few. Or if you are with your children, take them to Disneyland Paris for an experience they will never forget.
You can catch the Metro there for less than €10 and in around 45 minutes you are at the gate of Mickey Mouse's kingdom. Kids' faces light up when they glimpse Sleeping Beauty's Castle, glowing in all its towering, pink-turreted majesty.
There are two parks, the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Disneyland is separated into five themed lands offering something for all ages - Fantasyland, Frontierland, Discoveryland, Adventureland and Main Street USA.
For white knuckle rides, Space Mountain and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Aerosmith ride are a must, as well as the really fun Crush's Coaster and the terrifying Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Less adrenaline-fuelled favourites are It's A Small World, the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Pirates Of The Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.
After a day sightseeing, I treated myself to the spa back at the Lutetia. Located in the basement, the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre has to be the ultimate luxury wellness destination.
The marble-clad 7,500-square-foot spa is a haven of tranquillity. There are seven treatment rooms and an array of treatments on offer, which use invigorating oils from Aromatherapy Associates and massage techniques to energise and de-stress the body. The softly lit 17 metre-long lap pool is a spectacle in itself and the centre also has a fitness suite, calming lounge, a wet area with a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and cold plunge tub.
I felt like I was in heaven in this magnificent hotel in this magical city.
No wonder Charles Dickens called Paris "the most extraordinary place in the world".
Nightly rates at the Lutetia start at €850, including breakfast.
Rooms can be booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +33-1-4954-4646. Check out www.hotellutetia.com for more details.