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I'm a big Louvre of Paris: The City of Love explored from the Shangri-La

By Martin Breen

I have just eaten the best Chinese meal I have ever tasted in the best hotel I have ever stayed in with the best view in the world.

That may seem quite a claim but we are talking about the Shangri-La in Paris which overlooks the Eiffel Tower and is home to the Michelin-starred Shang Palace restaurant.

If you only ever get to stay at one luxury hotel in your life make sure it is this hotel, which has 100 rooms and suites, three restaurants (two of which are Michelin-starred), two bars and four historical events and reception rooms, as it truly is bucket list material.

In the evenings, the Eiffel Tower, which seems within touching distance from the Shangri-La, is lit up and on the hour its lights twinkle which is quite a magical spectacle to witness.

Due to the hotel's great location, it is the perfect base for a trip to the City of Love. The hotel is located on avenue d'Iéna in the 16th arrondissement of Paris close to the Trocadero and in an area with the highest concentration of museums in Europe.

They include Palais Galleria, Palais de Tokyo, Museum of Man, Museum of Modern Art and Marmottan Monet Museum.

The rooms are simply stunning (try and get an Eiffel Tower view room as nothing compares to that experience) and you could be very easily tempted to lock yourself away in yours and immerse yourself in the luxury surroundings. The elegant marble bathroom itself is a sight to behold.

You will find yourself wanting to just sit in your room, or on the terrace with a glass in hand gazing at the magnificent structure. It is hard to believe that Paris's most iconic monument was originally just a temporary structure put up by Gustave Eiffel for the Exposition Universelle in 1889 on the centenary of the French Revolution.

But this city has so many landmarks and attractions that you need to explore it. Think not only the Eiffel Tower but the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the catacombs and much, much more. For the kids big and small don't forget Disneyland Paris.

But make sure to give yourself a lot of time in the hotel. From the minute you arrive and are greeted by the super attentive doormen you know this is a really special place.

Passing by two Ming Dynasty-inspired vases flanking the main entrance, this sets the tone from the outset for Asia-meets-Paris elegance.

The grand lobby with its marvellous marble staircase (quite a busy spot for photographs and selfies) is an amazing sight and when you walk into the hotel you can feel the sense of history and get a vision of the hotel's past use.

It was built in 1896 as the home of French imperial Prince Roland Bonaparte, great nephew of the famous Emperor Napoleon. And nods to its past are everywhere you look.

In its bar, Le Bar Botaniste the herbs and flowers used in the creative cocktails honour Bonaparte's passion for botany, illustrated by his herbarium, which included over 2.5 million samples.

In recent weeks, the hotel has opened a new pop-up bar called SÒNG, which is nestled in a suite with a terrace facing the Eiffel Tower and overlooking the City of Light. It promises to transport guests back to the enchanting Shanghai of the 1930s. Head barman Clément Emery has created a range of signature cocktails and the bar also offers tasting experiences of Glenfiddich single malts.

When I say the avant-garde mixologist's cocktail ingredients at the hotel are unique, they include Malabar white pepper, Aomori black garlic, Sicilian sumac, Kentucky tobacco, curry plant, calamansi, pistachio sap and sweet clover.

As mentioned, the Shangri-La has three restaurants with three different styles of cuisine. They include the two Michelin star L'Abeille, which is a gourmet French restaurant and La Bauhinia, which offers French and South-East Asian contemporary cuisine.

I dined at Shang Palace, which is a traditional Chinese, Cantonese-inspired restaurant and rightly holds one Michelin star, the only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in France. A second one can't be far away judging by the culinary excellence of Executive Chef Samuel Lee.

Highlights included fried Gillardeau special oysters accompanied by caviar, sauteed prawns with three kinds of pepper, ginger and spring onions and glazed Peking Duck which was cooked to perfection and served with pancakes and all the trimmings you expect.

And to walk off all those extra calories you will clock up there is no better city than Paris.

One good place to start is the Musee du Louvre, which is the building which houses the most famous collection of art in the world. You could easily spend a day or many more walking around the 782,910 square feet exhibition space looking at all the sculptures, artefacts and paintings.

Apparently if you ever have 100 days to spare, you could probably squeeze in every piece of art, but you could only spend 30 seconds on each piece - and that's if you were there all day, every day.

The most famous of these is, of course, the Mona Lisa, but be warned it can become quite crowded with people looking at da Vinci's masterpiece or taking a selfie in front of it.

Best to book your tickets online for the museum as I am told queues can get lengthy, or even better, invest in a museum pass which costs as little as €48 for two days and gives free entry to over 50 museums and monuments, some of which cost as much as €18 for a single ticket.

I covered tens of thousands of steps in a few days checking out the Louvre and walking up the Eiffel Tower. You can climb almost 700 steps to the second floor and then you have to get an elevator to the top but the view is mesmerising on a clear day.

With all that exercise, I decided to treat myself to a massage at the Chi, The Spa in the Shangri-La, which is located in what were once Prince Roland Bonaparte's stables. Its 15x6m swimming pool is bathed in natural daylight thanks to enormous glass windows, as is the fitness room.

The massage I opted for was the Chi Yu Signature Massage. The Organic Pharmacy signature massage is designed to stimulate the circulation of blood flow, decongest the muscles and relax the mind. Massage oils used include Rosemary and Grapefruit. It was one of the best and most relaxing massages I have ever had.

In fact, I fell asleep twice during it and yet the therapist managed to sort out a few knots that were causing me trouble in my back.

Those few days in Paris rate as one of the best breaks I have ever had in my life and central to that was the Shangri-La.

Little wonder that Forbes magazine described it as the best luxury hotel in Paris.

Travel Factfile

Shangri-La Hotel, 10 avenue d'Iéna, 16th arrondissement, Paris. Room rates start at €800. Check out www.shangri-la.com/paris/shangrila/

Aer Lingus flies up to four times daily from Dublin to Paris, Charles De Gaulle with one-way fares starting from €34.99 including taxes and charges.

For further information visit aerlingus.com.

To plan your trip and find out what to see and do, visit the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau website at https://en.parisinfo.com/

A museum pass is worth buying (€48 for two days or €62 for four days) as it gives you free entry to over 50 museums and monuments around Paris - https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-professional/74551/PARIS-MUSEUM-PASS

You can also buy them at welcome points located in the City Hall and in Gare du Nord.

More than 25 top Parisian show venues are prolonging the festive season and offering you one free place for every ticket purchased. Bookings are open on the website at www.showtimeinparis.com/en

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