Paris 2011

27 Jun 2011 by BusinessTraveller

From obelisks to taxidermists, Jenny Southan discovers top spots on both sides of the River Seine.


Whether or not you are lucky enough to be staying at the Hotel Crillon, one of the French capital’s most luxurious properties, the square it is positioned on is a good place to start your tour. Place de la Concorde lies on the right bank, at the eastern end of the Champs-Elysées in the eighth arrondissement, and at almost nine hectares is the largest piazza in Paris. Many of the buildings that surround it offer fine examples of rococo architecture, a style typical of the period during the reign of Louis XV.

During the French Revolution, the king’s successor Louis XVI lost his head to the guillotine here, along with his wife Marie Antoinette, and the site was temporarily renamed Place de la Révolution. During the year-long “Reign of Terror” between 1793 and 1794, many hundreds were executed on the site. Nowadays it’s a far less perilous area to take a stroll – look out for the ornate fountains (you may recognise one of them from the movie The Devil Wears Prada) and the 3,300-year-old Obelisk of Luxor, which was gifted to the French by the viceroy of Egypt in 1829, and stands in the place of the dreaded “national razor”.


Head up Rue Royale towards the grand neoclassical 19th-century Church of Madeleine, built in the style of a Roman temple, with 52 20-metre-tall Corinthian columns bearing the weight of the roof. Pop in if you have time – there is a beautiful frescoed half dome over the altar – then stop off at Ladurée, at number 16, and pick up a box of pastel-coloured macaroons. The little round cakes, which come in all manner of shades, from frothy pink to pistachio green, are made from almonds, eggs and sugar, with a layer of smooth ganache between two squishy shells. Although the patisserie dates back to 1862, it now has branches all over the world (one will soon be coming to London’s Covent Garden), and the adjacent salon is a charming place to enjoy a cup of tea. Open 8.30am to 7.30pm (until 8pm Fri-Sat, 10am to 7pm Sun).Visit laduree.fr


Treats in hand, turn the corner and head down Rue Saint-Honoré, a chic boulevard with designer boutiques to tempt even the most frugal of window shoppers. Longchamp, Brooks Brothers, Hermes, Gucci, Miu Miu, Dary’s, Mulberry and Goyard are all in attendance, but particular favourites are Colette and Chantal Thomass. The former resides at number 213 and is an uber-trendy concept store selling everything from Commes de Garçons clothing to books on graphic design, Leica cameras, vinyl records and even surprise goody bags.

And while you may not be in Paris for romance, if you are looking for a gift for yourself or your amour, Chantal Thomass next door at number 211 specialises in fine lingerie of the kind only the French can create – think basques and blindfolds. It’s the stuff of truly classy fantasies. Visit colette.fr, chantalthomass.fr


This opulent 160-room hotel was revamped in 2007 by Philippe Starck and is located five minutes away on Rue de Rivoli. A member of the Dorchester Collection, its interiors are reminiscent of the ostentatious grandeur of the Palace of Versailles – all glittering chandeliers, gilded moldings, lavish murals and Italian marble. The three Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with diners seated at tables draped with pristine white cloths and laid with polished silverware. The menu is described as “modern and audacious”, with dishes including the likes of duck foie gras (€82) and wagyu beef in a bread and pepper crust (€170).

If you don’t have time for a full meal, stop for an aperitif at the hotel’s Bar 228 or a light bite – the croque Meurice (€26) is a good bet – or simply have a nose around and admire the décor before moving on. Visit lemeurice.com


Turn right off Rue de Rivoli and on to the gravel boulevard that takes you through the Tuileries gardens and past the Louvre’s glass pyramid. If you want to join the throngs and queue to see the Mona Lisa – arguably, one of the most overrated paintings in the world – then do this; otherwise, continue over the bridge and turn right along the Rive Gauche until you come to the Musée d’Orsay instead. The grand Beaux Arts building opened as the Orsay railway station in 1900 but was reinvented as a museum in 1986. Over the past few years it has undergone renovation, with the project set for completion in autumn.In the meantime, visitors can access the ground floor and level two, which exhibit works by Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard. Entry is e8 and queues can be long so it’s advisable to pre-book at musee-orsay.fr/en. Open Tues-Sun 9.30am-6pm (until 9.45pm Thurs).


A short walk from the gallery at number 46 Rue du Bac is this taxidermy shop, which dates back to 1831 and was almost completely destroyed by fire in 2008. Fortunately, it has been rebuilt and once again sports a frozen menagerie of beasts, all of which are for sale and make for a curious encounter with which to end your tour. Grizzly bears stand on hind legs, claws ready to strike, lions pause mid-prowl and tigers recline while giving you an icy stare. For €10,000-e20,000 you can pick up a Nile crocodile or baby elephant, but if this could pose problems going back on the Eurostar then an iridescent blue butterfly or exotic parrot will not only be more manageable but cheaper too. Visit deyrolle.com

Visit en.parisinfo.com, eurostar.com

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