Katherine MacAlister spends a long weekend in Paris

I had a few days holiday spare, flights to Paris were cheap, the children had broken up from school, friends were free, the Gods conspired with us for once.

And before I knew it we were off to the French capital, with no agenda, plans or preconceptions, ready for a long weekend and determined to have as much fun as possible.

Delivered via Charles De Gaulle airport and then a short taxi ride to the marvellous Le Pavillon De La Reine hotel in central Paris, our trip began in style, its impeccable standards immediately setting the bar high.

Situated on the upmarket yet peaceful Place des Vosges, the area boasted numerous art galleries, parks, cafes, bars, and some particularly good ice cream shops.

Yet stepping into the hotel’s courtyard garden we found an oasis of peace and serenity. The beautiful architecture is framed by dappled sunlight filtering through the trees, restaurant tables scattered outside, dotted with guests enjoying brunch in the morning sun.

Impossibly chic, elegant and understated, the 17th century luxury boutique hotel and spa reflected Paris like nowhere else, sophistication itself.

Our family suite only emphasised this further. Opulent to an extreme, decadent and immensely polished, the four poster beds within provided the perfect sanctuary at night.

Dinner was another highlight: blue lobster (who knew), truffles, Chateaubriand steak, rosé from Provence, a tomato and watermelon veloute poured from a porcelain white jug, soufflé, a cheeseboard to weep over, foie gras, langoustine, garlic aioli, need I go on? It was an al fresco meal I shall never forget.

Paris was turning out to be everything we had expected.

It was also scorchingly hot, but after a sumptuous breakfast of French delicacies we ventured out into the midday sun as only mad dogs and Englishwomen will.

First up; the sights. We bought a water taxi pass for the whole weekend, allowing us to traverse the Seine at will, and jump on and off as required at all the main stops.

The Eiffel Tower then, my daughter determined to see Gustav Eiffel’s office at the very top from where he held soirées for the artistic elite.

Then Rodin’s intimate stately home where all his most treasured works lie, donated after his death to the city. The Thinker greeted us in the gardens, The Kiss lured us inside, each stage of his artistic process in evidence.

Lunch in the charming cafe there and then onwards to The Louvre, a quick peek at The Mona Lisa sufficing, the crowds hemming us in, the shopping mall there horrifying us, we were desperate to escape.

A riverside fair provided some welcome respite, shade, and time out for the children before we progressed, saving the best for last.

The Musee D’Orsay opens late on a Thursday, meaning we avoided the crowds. This enabled us to peruse the length and breath of the Impressionist museum and stand in awe in front of the endless succession of masterpieces.

Manet’s Olympia stopped me in my tracks, as did Degas’ Small Dancer as I wandered through the Renoirs, Monets, Gauguins and Van Goghs, to name but a few, even the children recognising these world famous pieces instantly.

The next step of our adventure took us by Uber to the other side of town, on Rue de la Fidélité, perhaps not best to visit after dark.

So cool and trendy it hurt, the Hotel Grand Amour is housed in an old bordello, as evidenced by the pictures on the walls.

Not the most child friendly hotel then, but enormously enjoyable regardless.

The building was classic Art Deco and recently restored, framing a gorgeous central atrium and Paris’ hippest crowd, the perfect retreat for a romantic weekend maybe.

As it was we dined outside, drank cold rose with ice, and ate fresh, contemporary food.

The next day, after brunch we hit the shops, determined to spend the last of our Euros in the famous department store Galeries Lafayette before our flights beckoned.

So Paris didn’t disappoint, and proved admirably that it is possible to pack food, shopping, culture and fun into just a few days.


28, Place des Vosges, 75003 Paris

Stays from €335 per room per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis. pavillondelareine.com

+ 33 (0) 1 40 29 19 19


18 rue de la Fidélité 75010 Paris France

+33 (0)1 44 16 03 30