Debbie and I are increasingly building a base in Paris as our preferred outpost for international intelligence and investing. We see a new conservative bent in Paris. The French know they have drawn the short straw with Socialist Hollande. And when I write conservative, I’m not even thinking the Front National, which is a far right party now controlling about a quarter of the voter base.
When thinking France, my advice is to plan to stay longer than you had originally considered. If you are new to Paris, it will take an extended period to get your feet on the ground. Paris is a good deal larger than, by example, Boston. Think multiple Bostons, and you’ll be on track. Paris has the highest density of any city in Europe (over 2.1 million residents in 40 square miles). Between the left and right banks are 20 arrondissements, each uniquely different from the other. The number of each arrondissement is easily identified by the last two digits of Parisian zip codes. The right bank (Rive Droite) is one thing and the left bank (Rive Gauche) a whole different matter.
The right bank includes most of the dozens of Paris five star hotels, including, of course, the luxurious palace hotels. Here I am thinking Hotel George V Paris, Hotel Le Bristol (our favorite in the 8th), and the Meurice. The Paris Ritz, Crillon and Plaza Athenee are all closed for massive renovations. Most of the big name Paris historical attractions are on the right bank, as is the shopping horrorthon of the Champs Elysees. From about the 1920s until the 1960s, the Champs Elysees (shahnz ay-lee-zay) was one of the world’s most renowned and glamorous boulevards, full of prestigious businesses, cafes and nightclubs, and the height of haute couture shopping. Today, you can still look east from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (284 steps) to the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre, but there’s a lot of iffy stuff sandwiched in between. We found ourselves on the Champs one Sunday afternoon and could not get off fast enough. The whole tacky scene had the feel of an egregiously expensive international prison break. In my next post, I will explain how to get all the flavor of the 8th without staying on the right bank. If you must stay in the 8th, my strong advice is that you book at the Hotel Bristol.
Our best Paris research tool is the Paris Red Maps What a great reference tool. Start by ordering a copy as well as a copy of The Little Black Book of Paris (Peter Pauper Press Inc.). Hotels are listed for the left and right banks. Most of what you will need will be found on these lists. And a great app for navigating through Paris is TimeOut Paris. If you want to go first class, you have limited hotel options on the left bank. We’ve often stayed at the historic Hotel Lutetia, but it is slated for badly needed renovations this spring. I will give you our updated view on this left bank group in my next post.