It does not matter how many times I visit Paris, I never fail to be impressed with the splendid façade of Gare du Nord, an exquisite piece of French architecture.
Our journey begins at St Pancras Station on Thursday 21st January 2016, following a meeting in London with our wonderful collaborators from Laurent Perrier, the official Champagne for www.rachelbatesinteriors.com.
We board the 15:31 Eurostar to Paris, ready for three days of Maison & Objet and Paris Design Week, which is always an interior designers dream. On-board the brand new Eurostar train, which I might add is beyond expectations, we are served a wonderful lunch and drinks. The new Standard Premier & Business Premier carriages are intimate, peaceful, spacious and gloriously clean.
On arrival at Gare du Nord, we rush to find a taxi, eager to travel to our hotel as quickly as possible, check in and head out for the evening. Champagne is beckoning and there is no time to lose!! After all, when in Paris, one should do as the Parisians do. Any excuse in my case of course, to order a chilled flute of those delicious golden bubbles.
It does not matter how many times I visit Paris, I never fail to be impressed with the splendid façade of Gare du Nord, an exquisite piece of French architecture. I am an incredibly proud Brit with lots of Irish blood running through my veins, of which I am equally proud. I adore our capital city of London, the best City in the world in my view, but Paris, beautiful Paris, comes a very close second. It’s buildings, the people, the culture, the heritage, the style, the language and of course the Champagne! It really makes for a rather special place that I never tire of visiting, for business or pleasure.
We are staying at hotel ‘Maison Favart’, 5 Rue Marivaux, 75002, Paris. This lovely boutique retreat is a hidden gem that I came across about a year ago, completely by accident. These days I always stay at La Maison Favart when on business, it’s just perfect and considering you are in one of the busiest Cities in the world, the tranquillity of the hotel is incredible. The staff are delightful and each room & suite has a completely different interiors theme, the Parisian alternative to a Kit Kemp hotel, complete with ‘honesty bar’, fitness centre & spa. The magnificent ‘Opera House’, the ‘Place de la Concorde’, ‘Le Louvre’, and ‘rue Saint-Honoré are a short walk from the hotel. It’s a fantastic, secret and peaceful location that I would recommend highly.
Upon arrival we are greeted by the delightful staff, who are pleased to see us and very warmly welcome us back to Paris. Remi, ensures that we have everything we require and we are shown to a lovely bedroom called ‘Justine & Charles’. Each bedroom or suite in this chic little hotel has a name rather than a number. Steeped in history, the hotel and indeed the choice of décor pays homage to the name of the famous FAVART couple, founders of the ‘Theatre National de L’Opera Comique’ (the Comic Opera) in Paris.
The story goes that, Charles-Simon Favart, director of the comic opera was captivated by one of the young actresses called Justine Duronceray, know as ‘Mademoiselle Chantilly’, during a stage performance of “les Fetes Publiques”. They fell in love, and were married on the 12th December of that very year and so began the story of the most famous couple in the history of Parisian theatre: Monsieur and Madame Favart.
The Parisian-style décor of the hotel is recreated with a mixture of antiques, superb modern interpretations of 18th Century style furniture and accessories. These are combined with striped, luxurious curtains of silks & velvets in tones of raspberry & chocolate. The light grey painted paneled walls are an excellent canvas for the various accents of velvet upholstery and fabrics in soft pinks, chocolates & lime greens. Sketches and oil paintings decorate the walls and the elegant yet cozy and welcoming reception always boasts stunning fresh floral arrangements, accompanied by a roaring fire, subject to the prevailing weather. Delightful scented candles fill the air, creating a relaxed atmosphere. The candles, the hotels own label, can be purchased as a reminder of your stay.
I am an interior designer who is passionate about colour and the art of mixing traditional & modern pieces within the same schemes. La Maison Favart achieves that. It is a theatrical jewel-box of colour, is quirky yet sumptuous, with detail that does not fail to lift my spirits. Rich in detail, yet discreet, the hotel has the design balance just right.
There are 39 bedrooms in total, which include: Classic Bedrooms, Delux rooms, Suites, Duplex and La Petite Maison. I have stayed in both the Delux Bedrooms & the Suites and have found all to be wonderful. The most exciting part being that each time I visit I experience a different room with different interior schemes and colours.
Breakfast in the hotel is relaxed, with all requirements catered for. Lunch and dinner are not served at the hotel, but why would you stay put when there is so much to see and explore in Paris? I always venture out, unless of course I am staying at the fabulous Hotel Plaza Athénée (my favorite hotel in Paris, located at 25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris), with my husband, then I have been known to dine in-house!
Theatre National de L’Opera Comique, is a stunning building. It is made from stone and has exquisite gilded detail. It sits directly opposite hotel ‘La Maison Favart’. The Opéra Comique was founded in 1714 under the reign of Louis XIV. It is one of the oldest French dramatic and musical institutions along with the Opéra de Paris and the Comédie-Française. Its history was alternately turbulent and prestigious until it was listed on the register of national theaters in 2005.
Friday 22nd January, Maison & Objet opens its doors for the first day. We take the metro to Parc des Expositions and head for Hall 7, to seek out some of our collaborators and to source new brands and possible future partners. The most useful brands for us are always located in Halls 7 and 8 and a small group of brands that we need to catch up with in Halls 4 and 5.
After hours spent seeking out the sort of beautiful new products adored by the RBI clientele, we think it a very good idea to stop for refreshments. MARIAGE FRÈRES, the champagne of teas, always have a super restaurant where they serve delicious light lunches and divine patisserie.
We have an incredibly productive and lengthy day and are finishing our last meeting with a cashmere supplier as the exhibition centre are turning the lights out. The show officially ends at 7pm today and it’s now 7.30pm. We pop into ‘Fauchon’ for a glass of rose Champagne before we brave the hoards boarding the Metro back into Paris.
Whilst we sit, we discuss our highlights of the show, which include, Marie Daage, Artel, L’OBJET, Rose et Marius, MARIAGE FRÈRES, Stockinger, Valombreuse, Annamaria Alois, Circu, Koket, Koziel, Agresti, Silia, Gillian Weir, Riviere, Giobagnara, Legle & Masserano.
We decide on our plan for the evening and make for, ‘Hotel Plaza Athénée’ where we have drinks in the bar. We chat to Thierry, the head barman, something of an institution here!
Saturday 23rd January, the day begins with design week showroom visits to all those who are presenting to the trade from their boutiques rather than at the exhibition. In the afternoon we walk through the stunning Place Vendôme and on towards Le Musée du Louvre. We pass along Rue de Rivoli and head to Café Marly at Le Louvre for a late lunch. We sit outside on the terrace under the heated lamps, wrapped up in our fur coats and breath in the atmosphere of the fabulous palace, watching Parisian life go by. I ponder on how life would have been here all those centuries ago, in the court of King Louis, running down the stone corridors in a fabulous crinoline dress?
I hadn't appreciated that the museum, housed in the Louvre Palace, was originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (a French learned society devoted to the humanities) and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture), which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation's masterpieces.
The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoléon and the museum renamed the Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon's abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces.
As late afternoon turns into evening we decide to return to the hotel to change and freshen up to go out to our cocktail party.
Marie Dagge is hosting cocktails from 8pm at her beautiful apartment on Rue Portalis. I wear a lovely new Erdem dress with Emeralds & Pearls and feel delighted with the outfit. The Party is great fun, a mix of business associates like myself and very close friends of Marie & her husband. The Champagne is flowing, the Canapés a triumph and the apartment looks as incredible as ever. So many wonderful Limoges candles burning, filling the apartment with their divine scent and delicate Porcelain lit hue.
We are introduced to many interesting, entertaining and welcoming people and are really enjoying ourselves. The Parisian ladies at the party are so chic and I admire their elegance and style.
We leave the party around 10pm. It’s still in full swing. Our next stop is Le Meurice, another famous hotel which belongs to the Dorchester Group. We have one drink and decide to move on as it’s quiet and we are eager to find a livelier venue.
Our next stop is Hotel Costas, which is a super place on rue Saint-Honoré, just around the corner. A must visit if you have never been.
Sunday 24th January – It’s a day of rest, so no business for the team today, just some time out before returning to London. We have a later morning, take breakfast and then head to my favourite church in Paris, L’eglise Madeleine.
After Mass, we take a long and enjoyable walk around Paris. We stop for tea and the obligatory glass Champagne of course, at ‘Le Bristol’ Hotel, which is something of a Parisian institution, the perfect place for Sunday lunch and afternoon tea. It’s my first visit to this gorgeous hotel, and I am delighted to find that they adore peacocks as much as I do, which is evident in the beautiful interiors within the hotel. The staff are delightful, providing a very traditional, old school charm service in this beautiful, opulent, yet modest hotel. The ladies on reception wear the most lovely uniforms, they look as pretty as a picture.
On our way back to ‘La Maison Favart’, we spot a fabulous new hotel called ‘la réserve’ and decide it would be rude not to pop in for a drink and take a look around. The stunning old building, located by/on ………… has been superbly renovated and decoratated with the finest furnishings including, DEDAR silks and wallpapers. I fall in love, how could I not when DEDAR is on the menu! ‘la réserve’ now firmly on my list of places to say in the future. We are given a guided tour by a delightful Parisian girl called ……… who make us feel very at home.
September will be upon us before we know it and we’ll be heading back over Paris to Maison O’bjet round two, when perhaps ‘la réserve will be on the menu?
It’s time to walk and explore again, before heading to the Eurostar to head back to London.
Sunday evening brings supper in the City with my husband, before I head off to Gatwick the next Morning to fly to Faro, Portugal for three days to visit a client. I am helping them transform their new holiday home in San Lorenco, Quina Do Lago. A very exciting project, that’s really beginning to take shape.
More stories of my travels soon ……..
Love Rachel xx