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TPG Managing Editor Eric takes us to the City of Lights for a bit of a romantic twist for Destination of the Week.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, we thought we’d pick one of the world’s most romantic cities as our next Destination of the Week: Paris.
Paris needs no introduction. A center of culture and trade since Roman times, Paris has a history as inextricably linked to romance as French people are with baguettes. And cigarettes. And wine. After all, mankind cannot live on love alone.
Though it might be too late to plan a last-minute Valentine’s Day trip there this year, think ahead to surprise your sweetheart for next year, or get your points in order to take advantage of all the ways to get here and stay in fabulous hotels across the city over the rest of this year.
Since this is such a big topic, I’m going to get right into the transportation and accommodation options, but if you’re interested in personal suggestions of what to see, where to eat and things to do while you’re in Paris, the city happens to be one of my favorite destinations, so don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected]
The Air France A380 you could be flying to Paris this Valentine’s Day.
Paris is one of Europe’s (and the world’s) major crossroads, so you’ll find all the major carriers and alliances well represented here. Of course, Air France and Delta present some great redemption opportunities since this is one of their hubs, but don’t shy away from flying through Amsterdam on KLM (another SkyTeam partner), through London on British Airways in Oneworld (though watch out for hefty taxes and fuel surcharges), or via Frankfurt on Lufthansa in the Star Alliance, plus any number of other carriers flying direct from the US including US Airways, American, and United, all of which fly there from several cities in the States. Openskies also just announced JFK to Paris service and they usually have cheap business class sales and you can bank the miles to British Airways.
Summer is the high season for redemptions, and I recently saw an economy award seat on Delta go for 200,000 SkyMiles roundtrip this spring, which is ridiculous. But set your ExpertFlyer seat alerts and you should be able to score a much better deal on partners like Air France or KLM.
Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.
WHERE TO STAY
Your reasons for going might be romantic, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be earning or using points during a stay in the City of Love. Almost every single loyalty program is represented, making the options for point redemptions almost myriad and diverse as the types of love in the world, so take your pick and make a reservation.
As a note, I picked out properties in each family of hotels that I think would make for great redemption options, but as I said, there are a ton of hotels in Paris within each family, so this list is far from comprehensive. If you’ve got suggestions to add or questions about particular properties, please leave a comment. Personally, I’d be interested to hear about redeeming Accor program points at the city’s Sofitels, or Concorde Hotels’ landmark properties like the Hotel de Crillon, the Hotel Lutetia and the Hotel du Louvre.
Because this is Europe, there are several distinctive, boutiquey Radisson Blu properties in the city owned by the Rezidor Group where you can use Club Carlson points to stay.
Radisson Blu Le Metropolitain Eiffel: I stayed at this little property right off the Trocadero last winter. While rooms can vary greatly in size and layout, the service is personalized, the bathrooms are spacious by European standards, there’s an indoor pool in the fitness center, and the WiFi is free. Plus some of the suites at the front have million-euro views of the Eiffel Tower. It’ll cost you 50,000 Club Carlson points for a free night.
The Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s champagne bar.
Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Paris Trocadero: Just a few minutes’ walk away from Le Metropolitain is another little gem of a property that I actually might like a touch more thanks to a more old-school décor scheme that’s full-on with chintz and wallpaper with pastoral scenes. It’s also got an elevator made out of an antique Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, and a champagne bar that I’d rank as one of the city’s most romantic spots. This, too, requires 50,000 points for a free night.
Radisson Blu Champs Elysees: A little closer to the center of the action, literally steps from the Arc de Triomphe on Avenue Marceau, this Radisson Blu property has just 45 rooms and one suite plus a contemporary French restaurant, and a beautiful central terrace for alfresco fine-dining in good weather. Also 50,000 points.
Radisson Blu Ambassador Hotel Opera: Right on Paris’s quintessential grand boulevard, Boulevard Haussman, this recently renovated larger hotel (with almost 300 rooms) has a gorgeous central atrium where guests can enjoy a cocktail before a night out on the town, plus small conference facilities, a beautiful fine-dining restaurant, and the Bar Lindbergh, where Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight was feted way back in 1927. This piece of history goes for 50,000 points per free night.
Hilton Arc de Triomphe: Though it could use a little bit of a spruce these days, this is a gorgeous old Art Deco property that reminds me of a 1930’s steamship. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Arc de Triomphe way up in the 8th arrondisement and near the Parc Monceau. The public areas are beautiful, especially the lobby, the Andalucian Garden patio, and the ground-floor spa, and the hotel itself is well maintained, but looking a little dated. I might wait until they renovate to spend the 50,000 Hilton HHonors points that this category 7 property requires, but if you’re short on time and high on points it’ll definitely do.
Hilton La Defense: Much more modern, and for the business person since it’s in the La Defense business district west of the center city, this category 6 property requires 40,000 points for a free night. This is a Valentine’s Day post, though, so don’t take your sweetheart here if you hope to impress. If you’re going to be away for the romantic holiday, however, and need a hotel with the technology to Skype or conference, this might be a good bet for you.
The Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace in Versailles.
Trianon Palace Versailles Waldorf Astoria: This is the newest Hilton property in the area. Though it used to be a Westin, it became a Waldorf Astoria back in 2009. It’s about 20 miles from central Paris, out in Versailles, and is housed in a historic mansion where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The rooms look absolutely gorgeous—like a cross between Louis XV splendor and Art Deco understatement—while the restaurants are under the Gordon Ramsay brand (at least, in name). There’s also a super-French Guerlain spa on the property with a hammam. It takes between 50,000-60,000 Hilton HHonors points to redeem for a free night.
Hilton also has a property at each of the two major airports, the Hilton Charles de Gaulle, which is a category 4 property that requires 30,000 points, and the Hilton Orly Airport, which requires 35,000 points since it’s in category 5.
Hyatt only has two properties in the city proper, but they are among the cream of the crop.
Park Hyatt Paris Vendome: This is one of Brian’s favorite properties in the city, and I’ll let you read his account of his stay there back in 2010 for all the details. It’s a Hyatt category 6 property, so 22,000 Gold Passport points for a free night in a standard room, and 33,000 points in a suite. The Hyatt credit card gives two free nights (in a suite for Diamond members) and this hotel is a great place to use those nights.
Hyatt Regency Paris – La Madeleine: This hotel is quite central and in one of Paris’s poshest neighborhoods near La Madeleine, the luxury boutiques of the Faubourg St. Honore, and the grand 19th-century boulevard department stores. It’s pretty high up in the Hyatt categories, at a 6, so it requires 22,000 points to stay here. Since the redemption point value is the same, I might choose the Park Hyatt instead because it looks like it’s got a bit more character, but this could make for a good backup option.
For those on a quick layover, the Hyatt Regency Paris Charles de Gaulle is a category 3 property and requires 12,000 points for a free night redemption.
There are 23 IHG properties in and around Paris. Most are Holiday Inns (many of which were recently refreshed, and are very decent options to stay, including the two I talk about), as well as two Intercontinentals and a Crowne Plaza to choose from.
Intercontinental Le Grand: This hotel is classic 9th arrondisement grandeur, near the Opera Garnier and Paris’s theater and shopping district. The décor here is Proustian old-school with rich jewel tones, plush upholstery and floor-to-ceiling curtained windows. Definitely a quintessential Paris experience. Intercontinentals go for between 30,000-50,000 Priority Club points a night.
Intercontinental Avenue Marceau: Although it’s in a Haussman-era private mansion, this 8th arrondisement sister property is a more contemporary counterpoint to the other Intercontinental, with splashes of bright color, modern art, and modular furniture. Rooms are bright and airy with more of a Hotel Indigo look to them, and interesting touches like shag throws and charcoal-painted trompe l’oeuil ceilings. Younger couples might like the edginess here more. Also 30,000-50,000 Priority Club points a night.
The Crowne’ Plaza’s dramatic classical courtyard.
Crowne Plaza Paris République: The one Crowne Plaza in the city is actually near the slightly grittier Republique section of town near the Gare de L’Est and Gare du Nord, as well as the Place de la Bastille, and the boho-chic neighborhood of Canal St. Martin. The building itself is a beautiful Haussman construction, and rooms look clean and decent, if a bit small. Depending on season, it takes 25,000-35,000 Priority Club points to redeem a free night here.
Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame: Near the site of Victor Hugo’s enduring, if idiosyncratically tragic, love story, this property is in the very heart of the Latin Quarter on one of Paris’s oldest and most picturesque streets. The décor won’t win any awards, but the view from the rooftop terrace is to die for. Redemption nights are at the higher end of Holiday Inn’s 10,000-25,000-point spectrum.
Holiday Inn St. Germain des Pres: Another lovely Left Bank option that won’t cost you as many points as the Intercontinentals or Crowne Plaza, this little property on Rue de Vaugirard (Paris’s longest street) has quite a spare façade, but thanks to a recent refurbishment in 2010, is looking pretty spruce inside with very modern (and quite compact but well arranged) rooms. Redemption nights here are also at the higher end of Holiday Inn’s 10,000-25,000-point spectrum.
Definitely check out IHG’s Paris page to look at the dozens of other options.
The view from the rooftop deck at the Holiday Inn Notre Dame.
There are also a lot of Marriott properties in the city, especially in the Renaissance and Courtyard brands, so be sure to check out the Marriott directory of Paris properties to see all the options. In the meantime here are a few choices.
Marriott Champs Elysees: This grand hotel’s claim to fame is being the only five-star hotel right on the city’s most famous boulevard, so if this is your first time to Paris and you want an over-the-top I’m-a-tourist experience, this might be a great option for you. The 192 rooms and suites look spacious if non-descript (think lots of beige, brown and gold), though if you’re looking for a standardized experience where you know what you’re getting, and you want to be close to all the major sights, this is a good choice. It’s a category 8, requiring 35,000 PointSavers or 40,000 points for a standard redemption.
Renaissance Paris Vendome: In one of Paris’s toniest neighborhoods where you’ll find all the top designers’ shops, this category 8 property requires 35,000 PointSavers or 40,000 points for a standard stay, and has a bit more character than its Champs Elysees sibling. It’s also quite near the Louvre and the Tuileries in the heart of the city, and has a small spa and a fitness center with a pool.
Renaissance Paris Le Parc Trocadero: This quiet little hotel in the Trocadero neighborhood of the 16th arrondisement reopened last spring after an extensive renovation, and is looking pretty lovely. It has just 122 rooms, so it’s not a huge hotel, though it still has standard amenities like WiFi and flatscreen TV’s. The location is more low-key and it’s also a bit more of a bargain since it’s a category 7 property that takes 30,000-35,000 points for free night redemptions.
In addition to the other city hotels, of which there are a ton, travelers might also be interested in the Marriott Paris Charles de Gaulle, which is a category 5 hotel requiring 20,000-25,000 points for free night redemptions.
A view of the city at dusk.
Le Meridien Etoile: There’s nothing too fancy about this hotel near the Paris Convention Centre, but if you’re short on cash and stocked up on SPG points, it could be a great option for you. Though the surrounding neighborhood is rather charmless, it’s just a brisk walk to the Arc de Triomphe, and at least the Air France shuttle bus from CDG drops you off right out side. This category 5 property requires 12,000-16,000 points for free night redemptions.
Westin Paris: It’s sort of shocking to find a Westin that’s an SPG category 6 hotel, requiring 20,000-25,000 points for a free night, but this is no ordinary Westin. It’s literally in the heart of Paris, right in the middle of the 1st arrondisement, and steps from the Louvre and the Tuileries as well as the fashionable Place Vendome. It’s got a gorgeous classical 18th-century façade, and the 428 guest rooms and suites have been redesigned by French designer Sybile de Margerie, who also worked on the recently opened Mandarin Oriental Paris. Some have views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.
Prince de Galles: I still remember walking into this gorgeous hotel next door to the George V near the Champs Elysees as a teenager and thinking, “one day, I want to stay here!” A Luxury Collection hotel, this is an SPG Category 6 property, so you can redeem 20,000-25,000 Starpoints for a free night. Not until autumn 2012, however, when it will be reopened after a much-needed refurbishment that will include a new fitness center, a redone Presidential Suite, and renovations to the Regency Bar and Jardin des Cygnes restaurant plus a new look for the outdoor patio.
A guest room at the soon-to-open W Paris.
W Paris: One of the most hotly anticipated hotel openings in the city—and it’s actually scheduled for Valentine’s Day!—the W will be near the landmark Opera Garnier in the tony 9th arrondisement. Since it’s a category 7 property, Starwood plans on charging you 30,000-35,000 Starpoints for a free night redemption for one of the 91 guest rooms or suites, so it had better be worth it! The façade looks rather austerely New Empire, but the rooms seem to combine cheeky old-world touches like filigreed chandeliers with arch contemporary elements like shimmery bedspreads, completely open bathrooms, and bright carpeting patterned like parquet. If anyone stays there in the coming weeks, we want a full report!
The airport hotel in the Starwood group is the Sheraton Charles de Gaulle, a category 5 requiring 12,000-16,000 points for a free night award.