Pair of Paris boutique properties captures city's charm


PARIS -- The 39-room Regent's Garden, tucked away in an affluent Right Bank neighborhood, was a 15-minute stroll from the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe.

Located in the 17th Arrondissement, the property where we were to spend one night looked like a storybook 19th century house.

Check-in was handled in a quaint, red-and-gold parlor, where we were handed an old-fashioned skeleton key to room No. 1.

A porter took us through French doors into an ornate, pink-and-white room that appeared to have been at one time a living room.

It turns out the 1850 house was built by Napoleon for his doctor, and we were staying in the doctor's drawing room.

The room had an antique armoire and a gilt mirror topped an engraved, white-marble fireplace.

Candelabras hung on the walls and a set of windows, reaching to the high ceiling, opened onto a backyard garden, where breakfasts are served in good weather.

Only the television set on top of a minibar broke the room's 19th century ambience.

The all-white, modern bathroom, however, jolted us back to the present. It was spotless, with plenty of counter space around the sink, a tub and shower, built-in hair dryer and bathrobes.

Plastic cups wrapped in the Best Western logo seemed out of place and reminded us that this Parisian charmer was actually part of a U.S.-based hotel group.

The doctor's mansion opened as a hotel in 1924 and joined Best Western in the late 1980s. Best Western represents 41 independent hotels in Paris, using the slogan "across the street from ordinary."

On the prowl for breakfast the morning we arrived, James stopped to take pictures of pastries in a bakery window but was shooed away by the proprietor and scolded for not buying any.

That night, we wandered the rainy streets in search of a bistro. But cafes were scarce in our area, and the one we selected turned out to be crowded.

Later, we did what most tourists do -- strolled around the neighborhood, peering into apartment windows, browsing food shops and drinking Yop (a French yogurt drink).

The next morning we lingered over a breakfast of croissants, sweet rolls, apricot jam, coffee and orange juice in a chandeliered sitting room.

Our night in lavish room No. 1 cost about $215 plus $8 for breakfast.

Our room was among the hotel's priciest. Each room has a different shape and decor, and most have modern bathrooms.

To book the Regent's Garden, call (800) 334-7234 or visit on the Web.

Our next hotel, a 19th century building with wrought-iron balconies, was situated along a bustling Right Bank street near the Opera House and the Louvre.

The 26-room Hotel de Chateaudun is represented by Escapades, a New York-based reservations service that pledges to represent "hotels of charm and character" in France and Italy.

Escapades has 65 three- and four-star boutique hotels in Paris and 120 throughout France. The Chateaudun, as we discovered, was no typical tourist haunt.

Escapades took over the hotel in 1992, adding a quirky Art Deco decor and custom-made wooden furniture.

With room key in hand, we passed a small, sleek lobby of leather swivel chairs and cactus plants to ride a skinny elevator six floors to the top.

A narrow hallway led to a spacious, sun-splashed corner room with a sloped ceiling. Windows rimmed the room with views of Parisian rooftops, and, in the distance, the Sacre Coeur church.

The carpet was cornflower blue, and the walls were wood-paneled. All of the furniture, including a couch and two chairs, was white. We also had a wooden desk and a wall-mounted wooden television box.

This scheme was matched in the hotel's other rooms. Rooms on the second and fifth floors have balconies. All double rooms have bathtubs; single rooms have showers.

In the basement, tables and chairs in ultrabright colors create a whimsical breakfast room.

Fellow guests appeared to be mostly young European couples.

Outside, cars zipped by the hotel's entrance on the Rue Chateaudun.

This 9th Arrondissement neighborhood was more shopping district than quaint village; the renowned Parisian department stores Galleries Lafayette and Printemps are a five-minute walk from the hotel.

The area was central to much of the city's attractions: We walked up winding streets to Montmartre in 25 minutes. The hotel also is a 25-minute walk from the Marais, a lively Jewish historical district dotted with 17th century mansions.

Our affable front-desk clerks also suggested we hop a Metro (subway train) to the Latin Quarter, which we did.

When checkout time grew near, leaving Paris was easy -physically, at least.

A bus bound for the main train station, Gare du Nord, stops in front of the hotel; the ride takes about 15 minutes. Escapades also provides airport transfers in a private car or van for an additional charge, starting at $40 for one passenger.

Our room cost about $150, including continental breakfasts.

To book, call (800) 725-7557 or visit on the Web.

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