As our taxi pulls into the driveway of the Shangri-La Paris, we are stunned by the beauty of the hotel’s white stone façade, protected by ornate black iron gates. Once we stop under the glass and iron awning (I learn later that this is a porte-cochère), a uniformed doorman opens our car door and welcomes us to Paris. Inside, we enter a world fit for nobility. The lobby’s high ceilings arch over intricately carved walls and the space is flooded with natural light. The marble floors gleam. It is ethereally beautiful.
Brought to our room, we are rendered speechless by the hotel’s pièce de résistance: a once-in-a-lifetime view of the Eiffel Tower. It is difficult to look elsewhere, but eventually we do as we are given a tour of the expansive room. Decorated in shades of white, blue, and ecru, with silk wallpaper and crystal hardware, the room exudes Parisian chic. Upon closer inspection, there are subtle Asian touches, including the jasmine tea service that has been elegantly set up on our coffee table.
After the tour, we slowly relax as we sip the delicious aromatic jasmine tea, mesmerized by the view. Eventually we move to the bed for a nap, delighted to find the Tower is still completely visible, beautifully framed by the picture windows. We fall asleep in each other’s arms while smiling blissfully. It feels like we are in a movie, or at least a dream.
Later, we explore our surroundings. The hotel is located in the quiet, sophisticated 16th arrondisement of Paris, and on the street we are among Parisians, not tourists. The architecture of the neighborhood is striking, with white stone, cast iron balconies, and sculpture everywhere.
Within steps of the hotel there is a Metro stop, the Guimet Museum, which houses one of the Western world’s largest collections of Asian art, and a bustling produce and flower market with the most vivid array of colors imaginable. We turn left and walk down Avenue d’Iena to the Seine, then walk along the Seine, on Avenue de New York!
The next morning we are treated to a veritable breakfast feast in La Bauhinia. We are seated underneath a magnificent steel and glass cupola that is inspired by the Eiffel Tower, from which hangs a three-tiered Murano chandelier. In spite of the gorgeous surroundings, the impeccable service is what we remember most.
Our servers are warm, friendly, and knowledgeable about the food, with excellent memories. I ask for gluten-free toast — difficult to find anywhere, and especially so in Paris — on the first day. The toast is promptly brought out, and automatically provided with breakfast for the rest of our stay. This is still hard for me to believe! We sample all the breakfast dishes during our stay, and they are all delicious, with my favorite being the œufs au saumon fumé, eggs with smoked salmon.
A Regal History
The Shangri-La Paris was originally built in 1896 as the home of French Imperial Prince Roland Bonparte, the nephew of Napoleon, and royal flourishes abound. Past the lobby there is a grand ornate staircase leading to the historic salons of the second floor. It is easy to imagine the grand soirees that must have taken place here. The initials “RB” can be found everywhere; in the stained glass windows, in the hand-carved mahogany doors, and in the gilded gold leaf ceilings. Golden bees, the oldest known emblem of the sovereigns of France and Bonaparte’s imperial insignia, adorn the walls.
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts acquired the property in 2006, and began four years of renovation. The original wood floors were individually numbered, removed slat-by-slat, refurbished, and reassembled one by one. In 2009 several historic parts of the building were successfully listed with Monuments Historiques.
In The City of Love
During our stay we have little need for cabs or the Metro as there is so much within walking distance: the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysées, and high-end shopping. We also walk to the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie, the Louvre, and Notre Dame.
To escape the beaten path, we take a private tour of Montemarte and the Marais, and toward the end of our trip we visit Versailles. Whenever we leave the hotel we are offered assistance with our plans, and whenever we return we are greeted with warm smiles.
We constantly talk about how lucky we feel to be staying at this hotel, which is the perfect home base, and often find ourselves smiling giddily at one another for no apparent reason.
On our last day at the Shangri-La we order room service for breakfast, to soak up every last minute of our spectacular view. Leaving is painful, and we immediately start planning our return.
We cannot imagine a more romantic hotel for a honeymoon, nor for that matter a more romantic city. Our nighttime strolls, walking hand in hand among beautifully lit historic monuments and bridges were a highlight of our stay, surpassed only by our fantastic experience at the Shangri-La Paris. — Noemi Smith