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|The view from my room at Hôtel Plaza Athénée|
I recently returned from Paris where the weather had just turned warm. Parisians were taking advantage of the blue skies and the bright sun by relaxing under the Eiffel Tower, in the Tuileries and virtually every public space they could find. The Champs Élysées was filled with visitors and locals. At 5 p.m. one Thursday afternoon, there was a long line outside of Häagen-Dazs, which was touting some interesting new flavors. All of the shops had great foot traffic from what I could see. Anyone deciding to stay away was missing a very vibrant scene in the world’s most beautiful city.
We stayed at Hôtel Plaza Athénée on Avenue Montaigne. This ultra-luxury hotel is in the heart of the haute couture district — Chanel, Valentino, Max Mara and Ferragamo are all there. Our suite was literally over Harry Winston; it was fun to imagine all of the amazing jewels just downstairs. We dined two blocks away at L’Avenue, a lovely restaurant at 41 Avenue Montaigne with chic outdoor seating and a sultry scene inside (think red velour banquettes with round bistro tables) and even though it’s really a place for fashionistas and beautiful people, they treated us very hospitably and we’d go back in a heartbeat.
Hôtel Plaza Athénée is incredibly welcoming and super posh, but the highlight of our stay occurred the first evening; we opened our French doors to allow in some evening air, looked to the right and there was the Eiffel Tower sparkling like a gem in full view. Few other icons provide such a dazzling effect; it was beyond exciting to gaze up at it and then look at the Paris traffic racing up and down the avenue below. It was international travel at its best. What a memory.
The next morning, we went to the Louvre, whose palace buildings were even grander than we remembered. We hadn’t purchased our tickets in advance so we stood on a long queue outside the Louvre Pyramid. The line, however, moved quickly as it turned out they were only scanning bags for security. Once downstairs, we easily paid our 15 euros (about $17) admission fee and went up to visit the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. The Louvre makes it extremely easy to find its most famous pieces by posting little photos of them and accompanying arrows along the corridors and inside elevators. There’s so much more than its world-renowned works, however; you could spend several days there and never see everything.
Back outside, we saw one double-decker sightseeing bus after another lined up and we decided to board one. There are several companies operating here; the one we chose was 20 euros (about $23) for a day pass with jump-on, jump-off privileges. We went all over, up and down the avenues, past the Musée d’Orsay, along the Seine and back and forth over its quaintly elegant bridges; then on to the Left Bank and past the Eiffel Tower, where we were so close we could almost touch it. We spent hours on the top deck of the bus, so enchanted with the City of Light that we couldn’t get enough of its stunning neighborhoods. We played the part of tourist and loved every minute of it; our only regret was that we, once again, hadn’t allowed ourselves sufficient time to explore it all.
Then again, there will never be enough time to see all that Paris offers, but I say, why not go now so you can at least give it a sporting chance?