In the early 1850s, France’s newly minted Emperor Napoleon III commissioned Baron Charles-Eugene Haussmann to undertake an ambitious urban modernization program throughout Paris. Entire popular neighborhoods of medieval alleyways were razed to make way for the broad boulevards and airy streets lined with harmonious residential and public buildings that we know today. In the center of the Right Bank, the ninth arrondissement flourished as a center of artistic and intellectual life. Most of the Romantic elite, Edgar Degas, Eugene Delacroix, George Bizet, Hector Berlioz, Frederic Chopin and George Sand among them, made their home there at some point. To this day, this tony neighborhood off the familiar tourist circuits has retained virtually intact its harmonious 19th century architecture, tranquil courtyards and Belle Epoque charm. But it was notably lacking luxury hotel accommodations; until the recent opening of the exquisite boutique Hotel de Nell.
This new looking boutique property named for Juliette Récamier, a historic figure known “for her beauty and the way she used to welcome people in her salon,” had plenty of features to win us over. We loved the location on a quiet street in the city’s coveted Latin Quarter.
Added to that were the nostalgic yet contemporary décor, friendly and helpful English speaking staff, organic foods, yummy breakfast and snacks, cozy common areas, and wonderful small basement level spa with sauna and swimming pool (extraordinary in Paris).
The employee wearing a rubber apron and processing shellfish at the entrance and the bistro style ground floor dining area belied the refined ambiance we found once we climbed a narrow staircase to the first floor of Rech, long known for its seafood in a city preoccupied with eatable treasures from the seas. As the first to arrive for lunch we were thrilled to have the dining room to ourselves for a few minutes until the next guests appeared.
On our most recent trip to Paris we made time to revisit the Louvre in part to discover the new wing. We’ve been there many times over the years and were bracing ourselves for the overcrowded museum of past visits. In an attempt at a more leisurely and less crowded experience we arrived late in the day on a weekday when they were open into the evening. The later hour made a surprising difference.
The historic building alone would have been worth a special trip in a city filled with art treasures and historic buildings. Attending a musical performance of La Cenerentola there was a memorable experience worth repeating. It seemed that much extra special because the venue hosted more ballets than operas on an annual basis. There were nine ballets and six operas in the 2012 to 2013 season and fourteen ballets and six operas were planned for the following year.
We liked this restaurant’s intimate casual style, retro modern décor, and complex, unique and adventurous cuisine. Well presented dishes were accompanied by a small amount of table side showmanship.
The ambiance was reminiscent of dining at the home of an acquaintance who happened to be a gourmet food lover. Each course was a mini world unto itself.