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