STAY in Paris:
It doesn't get more central than this! The location of the Duo in the heart of the Marais quarter, surrounded by restaurants, bars and boutiques, is not to be beaten. As hard as it is to leave this feelgood-hotel, go out and explore the very urban and unmistakably French Marais district. Out of the once cool design hotel, renovation has turned the Duo into a stylish feelgood hotel. Modern decorations meet old frames and practical furnishings on wood-parquett floors out of the 18th century set the scene here at the Duo. The rooms are fantastic, but the most comfortable thing about this hotel is that shopaholics can drop off their shopping bags before heading off into the next boutique. Well, at least when you are in Marais to go shopping. Double rooms from ?200 a night.
The Sezz is something different. They word Luxury is re-defined as soon as you walk in the door. Personal assistants instead of receptionists, hand-blown vases instead of Ikea clutter, bathroom palaces instead of shower cubicles and Egyptian linen instead of filthy quilts. If you can prise yourself free and let the luxury wait, then Paris is waiting to be discovered by foot. The Eiffel Tower, the Maison de la Radio and the Champs Elysées are all just around the corner. And don't omit an hour in the spa or the wellness area after your little sightseeing tour! Double rooms available from ?470 per night.
In the erstwhile grey working class district Charonne the hotel dynasty Trigano has created a boutique hotel with 172 rooms and Philippe Starck's handwriting. The ceilings in the lobby and restaurant are painted with black crayon and the artists that are immortalised here leave no doubt about the responsible designer. Similarly you find the typical colour contrasts and dimmed lighting. It looks different, however, in the open kitchen. The pots are hanging from the plafond and in front of it huge oak tables with big bowls (from which everybody eats simultaneously, if desired) are standing on the floor. Feels like being at one's mum's. The hidden agenda is to simplify communication which can be continued at the over-sized football table. You can take pictures of yourself at the computer terminal in the concrete wall which afterwards flicker along with a message across flat screens in the whole restaurant and bar. iMacs in the rooms are part of the standard facilities and so is free W-LAN in the whole building. And in the morning there is a navy blue breakfast newsroom with CNN and flat monitors as table tops.
SIGHTS in Paris:
There's one thing that you can kiss goodbye: the notion that you can see all this Museum has to offer in one visit. The Louvre boasts a massive 47,000m2 exhibition space. Don't forget to take a map from the front desk because you are sure to get lost amongst the great tomes. With the map in hand, select your favourites and go for it! The highlight will remain the Mona Lisa for evermore, who now boldly casts her smile from behind a plate of armoured glass. Well at least for those that have the patience to line-up in the queue waiting to see her. The Louvre however has much much more to offer; with ancient Egyptian works, Oriental art, Greek sculptures and 19th century paintings, there's something for people from all walks of life here.
You've got to make it through the mass of tourists here: a visit to Paris is nothing without having seen the Cathédrale de Notre Dame.The proudly gothic construction is on the Ile de la Cité, begun in 1163 and was completed in 1345 and is one of the first gothic cathedrals in the world. We will let you decide for yourself, whether or not the Notre Dame is the house of God. At least this was the intention of Bishop Maurice de Sully as he commissed the cathedral. Many historical events have taken place within these holy halls. Would you like to be an emperor? The Notre Dame is particularly well suited, just as Napoleon once demonstrated. Afterwards, take the opportunity to once again look out on the city: the view from the steeples is breathtaking.
Against all expectations, the Cimetière Père Lachaise is more lively than tranquil, thanks to the droves of tourists. Situated on a hill to the east of Paris, this cemetery is the home to over a million graves, including the graves of many celebrities. The most popular of them all is the grave of the Doors singer Jim Morrison. To this day, his fans are still making the pilgramage here and along with the usual flowers and candles; they leave their cigarettes, joints, beer cans and graffiti as way of paying homage to the rock god. Due to vandalism, Morrison's grave has been fenced-off and surveilled from time to time. Oscar Wilde's grave is also very interesting. His wild love life drove him to prison and then an exile in Paris. His gravestone is covered with lipstick kisses and inaccurate quotes from his body of work. He was always good for a scandal, even after his death. His grave is graced with a larger than life, angelic figure with what once once a penis. The golden piece was stolen and is yet to be replaced. A quiet tip: If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle then steer cleer of the hotspots and take a stroll through the more peaceful parts of the cemetery. Without the celebrities, of course.
EAT in Paris:
If you've had enough of haute cuisine and endless courses, then maybe it's high time for a pizza. The Pink Flamingo is brightly coloured, kitschy and has the ambience of a neighbourhood snackbar. Even if you're not well known in the local area, you are always welcome here. The pizzas are tasty and creative and are named after well-known personalities like; La Basquiat, La Bjork and La Che. A nice idea is the picnick service. Just order your pizza and wine and the counter. Then take your pink balloon outside and find yourself a spot in the sun. The only restriction: you have to pick somewhere within sight of the pizzeria. But that shouldn't be a problem, as there are plenty of great places o the Canal Saint-Martin. As long as your balloon doesn't pop, your pizza should come to you. Hmmm!
You can't help but suspect that it's impossible to find a restaurant smaller than this on in Paris. More than 30 guests couldn't dine here, at least, not at the same time. It brings truth to the name and creates a very cosy atmosphere. As long as it doesn't distub you that private discussion might have to be saved for another night. We find that it's actually beneficial to be able to clearly see your neighbour's plate. That way you can get a good idea of what interesting creations are on offer, without having to order everything on the menu. How does the ocean perch in chocolate sauce look? 3 courses for ?35 is not to be missed. So put together your own set menu from a range of four entrées, four main meals and four desserts.
Le Tokyo Eat
What's the current favourite of the Parisian in-crowd? To dine in the city's Museumscafés. And for good reason, as there are many benefits to be had. Most are hip, stylish and serve modern cuisine and also let's one's feasting appear to be cultivated. As a tourist, you should be honest enough to visit the museum prior to grabbing a table, especially as the Palais de Tokyo will fascinate those with an interest for modern art. Once inspired, sit down and enjoy a mix of international and asian food on offer. It's also a form of art. And the dishes are as well thought through as the interior. The extravagant lighting was designed by Stéphane Maupin and is a real attraction. The crowd here is young, hip and beautiful!
SHOPPING in Paris:
Jeanne Lanvin founded the Lanvin label in 1889, when she was only 22 years old. Forget the mother-daughter collection that brought the label into the limelight, Lanvin is already over that. The Paris elite didn't want to wait around for mama and baby: they all wanted to wear the latest from Jeanne. That is still the case today, and it could be because Lanvin never jumps on a trend, but rather set the trend themselves. Not loud and piercing, but with decent, modest and emphatic elegance. The boutique, which was designed in the 1920's by Albert-Armand Rateau is still at the original address on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
By now, Marie-France and Bernard Cohen could also have been lying on the beach of Madagascar and getting tanned. But they aren't: the money they make with their kidswear fashion chain Bonpoint is altruistically poured into a concept store for charity purposes. The whole profit, as the couple emphasises, is donated to a charity project for troubled women and children on the island of Madagascar. On three floors in the Parisian district Marais, the Cohens offer luxury labels like YSL, Marni, Stella McCartney, Martin Margiela, Acne or Alberta Feretti, elegant vintage pieces by Dior or perfume and jewellery by Annick Goutal, Marie-France's deceased sister. You can also simply stroll around the flower shop, rest on refurbished chairs from the 60ies and 70ies in the library that are tagged with price labels, or sip a Café au Lait while sifting through old and new design books. When you leave Merci with full bags, there's another thing packaged as well - the good shopping conscience.
Welcome to the oversized storage box. You've got to fight through the fumes of mothballs. The reward could be a piece of clothing that you would have never dreamt of! So, hold your breath and start browsing. This second-hand store is packed to the ceiling with great pieces, you just have to rummage until you've found the right one. And that's before any of the other trendsetters, who flock here in big numbers, find it first! A few hours later and a stuffed nose, combined with a few new tasteful pieces for the wardrobe and you have to think to yourself: if Freep's'Star was bigger and more organised, it would've only been half as much fun!