Clarion St-James places guests in the heart of Paris

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Travel Weekly Destinations editor Tom Power traveled to Paris with French tour operator New Frontiers. His report follows.

The Clarion St-James' strongest selling point is its central location. PARIS -- As most people who are familiar with this city will attest, it's hard to get a real appreciation for Paris during a short visit. There's just too much to see.

Take the Louvre, for example. If you spent one minute examining each of the 300,000 paintings, sculptures and objets d'art in its massive galleries, it would take you months to get through it all. Most Americans don't have months.

Whether it's a weeklong summer vacation or a few extra days tacked on to a business trip, many Americans have to settle for seeing Paris in short -- and busy -- bursts.

And while it's impossible to get the full flavor of Paris in a week, it is possible to get a taste of the City of Light -- if you choose the right place to stay.

It would be hard to find a more centrally located hotel than the Clarion St-James et Albany. In fact, if you were to take a map of the city and draw a bulls-eye in the middle, you would likely circle the Clarion St-James.

The Clarion is one of two hotels being featured in a package that New Frontiers is offering this summer out of New York's Kennedy Airport. New Frontiers, the U.S. arm of Nouvelles Frontieres, France's largest tour operator, launched thrice-weekly nonstops flights from Kennedy to Orly Airport last month on Corsair Premiere French Airlines, which the tour operator owns.

Roundtrip fares begin at $398. The flights will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 18.

The summer package that New Frontiers introduced is priced from $749 per person, double, at the three-star Hotel Mercure Ronceray to $939 per person at the Clarion St-James.

The package includes six nights' hotel accommodations, continental breakfast daily, roundtrip transfers, a Bateaux Parisiens cruise on the Seine, admission to the new "Paristoric" documentary film presentation, a trip-planning guide to Paris with city and Metro maps and a 10% discount shopping card for Galeries Lafayette.

I stayed at the Clarion St-James, which is located on Rue de Rivoli across the street from the Tuileries Gardens. This four-star property is a block away from the Seine, two blocks from the Louvre and the Palais Royal, a five-minute stroll from the Opera House and the Galeries Lafayette department store, and a short walk to Place Vendome and Place de la Concorde. The hotel is also right across the street from an entry to the Metro, the city's ultra-efficient subway system.

Granted, it also is in one of the most touristy areas of Paris. (You can't take more than a few steps in any direction from the front door without seeing a currency exchange kiosk or a McDonald's.)

But its proximity to the centuries-old landmarks and monuments that document the city's cultural past make it ideal for the visitor who's getting a first taste of Paris.

The hotel itself would be easy to miss for the casual passerby. The entrance on the Rue de Rivoli is stately and yet understated, and not much bigger than any other storefront surrounding it. Inside it's a different story.

The building dates to 1672, when it was erected as a palatial mansion called Foix House. The mansion changed hands several times over the next six decades until it was acquired by the Duc de Noailles (from which Noailles, the hotel's restaurant, gets its name).

The Marquis de Lafayette was married in the mansion to one of the Duc's daughters in 1774. When Lafayette returned from America in 1779, he received a visit there from Queen Marie Antoinette.

The mansion changed hands many times over the next two centuries. It became a hotel in 1853 but wasn't named the Hotel St-James et Albany until 1956. It adopted the Clarion name in 1996 when it became a Choice Hotels International property.

Today, the Clarion St-James has 203 guest rooms ranging from standard rooms to full suites, five meeting rooms, a formal restaurant and an English pub-style bar.

Although the New Frontiers summer package via Corsair ends Sept. 18, the tour operator offers seasonal packages on other carriers throughout the year to France, Italy, England, Spain, Greece, Martinique and Tahiti.

New Frontiers
Phone: 800-366-6387
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.newfrontiers.com

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