For Debbie and me, our favorite Paris arrondissement is undoubtedly St. Germain-des-Prés, one of four administrative quarters in the 6th. The former Abbey St. Germain-des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris, the 6th’s center, is surrounded by art and antique galleries, historic monuments, upscale boutiques, and iconic cafes, brasseries and bistros. Encompassing the Luxembourg Garden as well as butting up to the Latin Quarter, it’s a walker’s paradise.
Currently, there is not a single Palace Hotel in the 6th. For many years, our solution has been to stay at the historically significant Hotel Lutetia. Although Five Star Alliance in the past has labeled Hotel Lutetia a Palace Hotel, it was not. A more apt designation for Hotel Lutetia calls to mind the tired “shabby chic.” Nonetheless, we were loyal friends until it closed for a complete overhaul in 2014. We often walk by to keep up on progress. The latest optimistic bet is an April 2018 reopening.
Our longest Lutetia-family friend, who is eagerly awaiting his return “home,” keeps in regular contact with us. Loyalty and seniority count for a lot in Paris, and most of the grand hotels make a sincere effort to develop a family approach with employees as well as with guests. This line of thinking is on magnificent display at Le Bristol Hotel, the undisputed family-approach Palace. Hotel Lutetia should be a candidate for an eventual Palace designation. We’ll keep you posted. Its location around the corner from Cherche Midi and close to Bon Marche, St. Sulpice, Rue de Seine, Luxembourg gardens, museums Rodin, d’Orsay and Louvre is among the most attractive in Paris. The walk to rue Saint-Dominique (7th) via rue de Grenelle is a favorite of ours. Sunday at la Fontaine de Mars, where you’re apt to lunch along with many tables filled with three generations of Parisian families, should be on everyone’s to-do list.
So, as noted, there is not a single Palace Hotel currently in the 6th. Which sends us to the 8th arrondissement on the front or back end of each of our research trips to Europe. All the Palace hotels are on the right bank (Rive Droit), as are all but a couple of our favorite special occasion restaurants, often found in a Palace hotel.
Of course, there are many lovely hotels in Paris that are not designated Palace Hotels. In the next coming weeks we’ll post some of our favorite four-star picks.
As for trendy wine bars? Basically a fable. In terms of Palace hotel Burgundies, top of the line allocations from Grand Cru growers in Burgundy rarely find a spot on local corner bistro blackboards. It takes cultivating long-term contacts and substantial inventory buying power to craft a first rate Burgundy list. And no, Bordeaux in not included here. Infrequently do we come across a French sommelier who spends time building a Bordeaux list. And that holds double for California wines. And yes, wines from Bordeaux and California have deep-pocket worldwide followings, just generally not in French sommelier circles. It is Grand Cru, Premier Cru and village Burgundy (the place to start your Burgundy quest) that most often carries the day.
All that said, we are huge fans of little corner bistros. What could be more fun? Just don’t expect to be searching for Burgundies beyond an occasional special village designation sleeper. No, the fun in a Paris bistro or brassiere is to uncover a favorite Grenache from the southern Rhone Valley or, equally as rewarding, a great Sancerre from Loire Valley, or even more exciting a small grower Champagne. Remember when you see a Cote de Rhone designation, you are looking at southern Rhone Valley’s Grenache grape as the primary blending grape and not Syrah, as would be the case in the northern Rhone Valley. For our money, the top two northern Rhone players are Cote-Roti and Hermitage.
Palace hotels always feature top selections from each.
So, you ask, why Burgundy or why Bordeaux? The Wine Questionnaire asked the same question of several famous professionals:
- From Benjamin Roffett, head sommelier of the Trianon Palace at Versailles and winner of the Union of French Sommeliers 2011 award for France’s Best Sommelier: “Personally I’m Burgundy.”
- From Hugo Desnoyer, founder and owner of Paris’s Boucherie Hugo Desnoyer: Burgundy
- From Rajat Parr: Secrets of the Sommeliers: “My favorite wine, my obsession for many years, is Burgundy.”
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