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Hôtel Chateaubriand Paris +

We Don’t Have Beef

Hôtel Chateaubriand is the sister of Hôtel Washington in the golden triangle at the very heart of the French capital. Romain Rio Hotels, the best of Paris. They’re located off Champs Élysées. The 4th Edition of the Michelin Guide to Paris (1960) describes that most famous of avenues, “Leaving Clemenceau’s statue to the right in the square of that name, we cross the Avenues des Champs Élysées, and not without turning to enjoy the view towards the Invalides. To the left stands the Marigny Theatre built in the reign of Napoléon III. Close to this is La Bourse aux Timbres – the Stamp Market – where collectors meet on Thursdays and Saturdays.”

The Guide continues, “You pass a number of drinking fountains; these, like many others in Paris were the gift of a generous English philanthropist, Sir Richard Wallace (1818 to 1890), and are named after him. Sir Richard spent a number of years in Paris and gave away a large part of his fortune for charitable purposes. He was a popular respected figure, and received many honours both in France and in England. Turning to the right you follow the Avenue Gabriel opened in 1818. Shaded by magnificent trees, the gardens which you follow lie at the back of the handsome mansions of the Faubourg St Honoré. The first of these on your way is the Élysée. Its fine railings were wrought in 1905. To the right, there is an attempt at a natural garden; the paths meander between undulating lawns with trees rising here and there. To achieve this effect Haussmann cut down many of the fine rows of elms. Turn to the right when reaching the Concorde.”

And now for that heavenward grand tour of Le Chateaubriand, floor by floor, room by room. Deuxième sous sol: archives, bureaux, lingerie, vestiaire du personnel. Premier sous sol: bureau, chambre 10, cuisine, salle à manger. Rez de chaussee: accueil, chambre 20, chambre 30, hall d’entrée, jardinet du premier sous sol, petit salon, grand salon. Premier étage: chambres 101 de 105, jardin. Deuxième étage: chambres 201 de 205. Troisième étage: chambres 301 de 305. Quatrième étage: chambres 401 de 405. Cinquième étage: chambres 501 de 505, terrasse. Sixième étage: chambres 601 et 602.

The interior decoration of this fine Haussmann building isn’t for minimalists. It’s even more spruced up in the festive season. Romain Rio explains, “Like a score, Hôtel Chateaubriand draws harmony from every detail from the imposing chandelier in the patio to the velvet and crocodile lounge chairs in the sitting room… through the powder pink doors coming straight from a Venetian palace to the black fire surround from the palace of Versailles to the bull’s eye window… note the 18th century portraits, the collection of beetles… in this place I reinvent the story of each object, making it timeless yet wildly contemporary.”

The grilled and gated and gilded entrance hall leads into a spacious reception area linked to a basement dining room by a winding staircase overlooking the patio, or glazed courtyard, to the rear. A pair of antique doors opens into the lift: it’s like being encased in a beautiful wardrobe. Clive Staples Lewis would approve. Timber panelled walls and a trio of bowler hat lamps are reflected in a gilt framed hostess mirror. Soothing classical music serenades guests as they ascend – at least in this case – to the penthouse suite.

Ah the penthouse suite! Occupying the lion’s share of the top floor of a Haussmann building: this is what life’s all about. The walls are hung with stretched silk hand painted in places. An enormous gilt picture frame doubles as the bedhead of the equally enormous bed. The en suite bathroom is a pleasure of black marble with an electric shuttered window, not that you’d want to block the view spying on the mansarded neighbours opposite. Everybody in Paris is always saying “C’est la vie.” At Hôtel Chateaubriand it’s, “Vraiment, c’est la vie!”

Architecture Art Design Luxury

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann + Champs Élysées Paris

The City of Light in the Season of Light 

At Christmastime it’s more like the City of Lights. Nowhere does festive decorations better than Paris and nowhere does Parisian festive decorations better than Galeries Lafayette Haussmann opposite the Palais Garnier. For the last 45 years, the store has suspended a Christmas tree from its vast stained glass Art Déco dome over the central galleried atrium. This year the pneumatic sundae cottage and lobster clad tree is accompanied by a space helmeted Santa Claus. Luxury fashion and interiors brands in the legendary store – 3,500 in total – include Alexander Turpault, Annick Goutal and Tara Jarmon. “One, Two, Three, Noël,” reads one sign. “Nous vous souhaitons de joyeuses fêtes,” another. Further to the west of Paris, in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe on Champs Élysées, Dior wins best temporary façade for its monochromatic monoflex.

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Hôtel George Washington + Le Petit George Restaurant Paris

French Connections

The Francophile Charles Dickens would still recognise the Golden Triangle of Paris. Dickens on France edited by John Edmondson in 2007, “Dickens first saw Paris in July 1844, when he and his family were travelling through France on their way to Italy. He was instantly enthralled: ‘I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world. I was not prepare for, and really could not have believed in, its perfectly distinct and separate character.’ This first, fleeting visit marked the beginning of a friendship with the city that would last for the rest of his life.”

To quote Joseph Roth in The White Cities: Reports from France 1925 to 1939, “Over the rooftops of Paris there is a smiling baby colossus of rude health.” A baguette’s throw from Champs-Élysées and a croissant’s toss from l’Arc de Triomphe lies Hôtel George Washington, one of two independent boutique Parisian hotels (the other is Hôtel Chateaubriand) owned by second generation hoteliers and siblings Romain Rio and Méryll Collette. Assistant General Manager, Camay Tan, explains, “The Rio family are personally involved in both the decoration and day to day operations. It’s a unique ‘guest home’. All 20 guest rooms are individually decorated: every single detail was created and specially made. Hôtel George Washington is both classical French and contemporary.”

A love of interior design is clear from the custard colour and navy trimmed reception hall to the 27 meter high seascape mural painted on gold leaf seen from the elevator behind a glass panel to the Marmara marbled bathroom filled with The Ritual of Ayurveda products. “There’s a focus on really good materials,” says Camay. There’s also a focus on individuality: domed objets d’art; Grecian urns; sculpted shirt collars; Indian feathers. In the duck egg blue reception rear reception area opening onto an intimate courtyard are bookshelves with hours of distraction. Titles include ‘American Fashion’, ‘La Lumière de Londres,Putman Style’, ‘Le Style Hitchcock. Joseph Roth springs to mind again: “… it’s so well appointed that it almost corresponds to my notion of a seventh heaven.”

In Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s short story The Camel’s Back character Perry exclaims, “Take me upstairs. If that cork sees my heart it’ll fall out from pure mortification.” Channelling your inner Perry, close your eyes and dream of the ideal Parisian hotel bedroom. And open your eyes in the fourth floor bedroom of Hôtel George Washington. As you gaze through the pair of French doors clasping Juliet balconies and a trombonist serenades you from the street below (no, not artistic licence, this is Paris), it’s clear some dreams come true. There’s an elephant in the room. Or at least one over the bed. And a herd in the Ralph Lauren wallpaper. “It’s so unique, that’s one of my favourite bedrooms,” Camay confides. “Our bedrooms are very large for Paris. They all have double beds with a bath and rain shower in the en suite bathrooms.”

“We are in the business area of the Golden Triangle of Paris,” she confirms, that iconic 8th Arrondisement. “Do you know how the Arrondisements are numbered? They are ordered like an escargot, the numbers swirling around in decreasing concentric circles. We kept the façade of Hôtel George Washington and refurbished everything else behind. At Hôtel Chateaubriand we were able to keep the original form inside. Hôtel George Washington is a Haussmann townhouse with a ‘noble’ second floor which has a balcony. Our service is very personal – our team have been with us a long time. Our clients are a very good mix of leisure and business travellers.”

The Rios also own Le Petit George a few doors up on Rue Washington. Quirky neon lettering on the awning reads “Sincère et Malicieux”. Has Tracey Emin been en ville? We have an aperitif: “Champagne is an integral part of French culture!” Camay relates, “Monsieur Rio’s inspiration for this restaurant was the same expression of luxury as the hotels, from opulent linen tablecloths to silver cutlery, bringing back attention to detail. We wanted to change part of French dining culture and bridge the gap between bistro and gastronomy: ‘bistronomy’. It’s a unique dining experience.” The all-female run establishment is a hit with lawyers and bankers midweek and well informed travellers at the weekend. “We attract a really good lunch crowd and are busy Monday to Friday. Lisa l’des Forges is Chef and Melisande Malle is Sommelier and Manager.

The décor is an essay in understated elegance in a language only the French can compose. A marble and brass bar stretches along one party wall and the kitchen to the rear is only visible through a small serving hatch. There are no pictures on the walls: we are the living art in this space. “There’s a Chef’s Table in the basement for 10 people,” leads Camay. Joseph Roth once more, “Paradise is downstairs, in a basement. But it’s so well appointed that it almost corresponds to my notion of a seventh heaven.”

There’s plenty for seafood lovers on this evening’s menu. Anchovies for hors d’oeuvre (Anchois de Cantabria); caviar for entrée (St Jacques de Bretagne à cru, purée de choux fleurs, caviar de hareng fumé); and octopus for plat (Poulpe grille, joue de porcelet, haricots); accompanied by an aromatic Domaine de l’Enclos 2018 Chablis by Romain et Damien Bouchard. “We have a passion for natural wine produced without sulphite,” Melisande shares. “We’ve all the classics and also like to educate with new wines. It’s a very elaborate wine list!” No food fatigue here: “Lisa changes the menu three times a week,” confirms Camay. “They are dancing in the streets of Paris,” reported Joseph Roth. That’ll be us; we’re in rude health.

Charles Dickens witnessed at first hand the dramatic transformation of Paris. Dickens on France edited by John Edmondson 2007, “It was transformed, under the aegis of Napoléon III, by Georges Haussmann, Préfet de la Seine from 1853 to 1870. Haussmann had many of the old streets in central Paris demolished to make way for a system of long elegant boulevards that brought structural unity to the city… Dickens witnessed the progress of this Haussmannisation at first hand. He told W H Wills in a letter of October 1862 that a group of theatres on the Boulevard du Temple ‘that used to be so characteristic’ had been demolished ‘and preparations for some amazing new streets are in rapid progress.’”