The cat's meow: Haute couture hostelry at Le Bristol Paris

The garden at Le Bristol Paris.
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One of the more fortunate felines in the world is a Burmese named Fa-Raon (the phonetic spelling of the French word for "pharaoh"), whose fabulous realm is free "reign" of Le Bristol Paris. Given the ancient Egyptians' belief in the regal nature of felines, it's fitting that Fa-Raon should lay claim to a six-story limestone palace located on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, two blocks from Elysee Palace, the official residence of the president of France.

Not unlike a nine-lived feline, Le Bristol Paris has been nurtured by an illustrious history that nearly predates its haute couture neighborhood. Built from the 18th-century residence of the Comte de Castellane, Le Bristol is named for the fourth Earl of Bristol, an 18th-century bon vivant famous for his love of luxury and high standards — qualities that have marked the hotel since its opening in 1925.

Upon entrance into Le Bristol's expansive lobby hung with Gobelins tapestry and redolent of fresh flowers, guests are granted a room key on the hotel's iconic 1925 key ring. Wise guests follow Fa-Raon's lead through Cafe Antonia, where high tea is served beneath the gaze of the hotel's muse, Queen Marie Antoinette, and on through the grove of orange trees along the colonnade and out into the 13,000-square-foot French garden.

Le Bristol's garden borders the terrace of Epicure, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by Chef Eric Frechon. Equally inviting in clement weather is Le Jardin Francais, Frechon's alfresco restaurant. 

Le Bristol's 190 rooms and signature suites are furnished in the fashion of Louis Quinze and Louis Seize and outfitted in toile de Jouy, taffeta, silk and velvet from such venerable houses as Canovas, Colefax, Frey and Nobilis. Double-hung draperies are complemented by crystal chandeliers and lamps shaded with silk, thereby suffusing the suites in a romantic atmospheric glow befitting the City of Light.

Some suites offer two full bathrooms, each blanketed in white Carrara marble or pink marble from Portugal. Bespoke toiletries are as refreshing as the hotel's signature fragrance: a vernal bouquet of citrus and white flowers.

Overlooking the rooftops of Paris, Le Bristol's teak-lined solarium and pool were designed to resemble a 1920s yacht by the same designer employed by the Niarchos and Onassis families. The adjoining hammam (Turkish bath) is complemented by Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie, an oasis of well-being that features an exclusive treatment boudoir by organic brand Tata Harper.

In the evenings, while Fa-Raon prowls the garden, the cool cats of Paris slink into Le Bar du Bristol, a sleek couture cocktail lounge designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon where night owls sip cocktails infused with honey syrup from the hotel's apiary.

Directly across the street, Le Grand Musee du Parfum is housed in the erstwhile headquarters for Maison Christian Lacroix, whose opulent genius is perpetuated in the interactive museum's collection of fantastic fragrances.

For those guests desirous of making an appearance at Versailles, transport by helicopter with private guide can be arranged through the hotel's concierge service. Guest transfers and excursions are also available via Mercedes-Benz E-class and S-class luxury sedans from Lafayette Group, which offers VIP services from its offices in Paris, Provence, the Riviera and Monaco.

A member of the Oetker Collection, Le Bristol was the first hotel in France to receive the Palace listing bestowed by the French government agency Atout France in honor of the hotel's excellence and its promotion of the French art de vivre.

Rates at Le Bristol begin at $1,200. See www.oetkercollection.com.

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