OK, Your Survival Guy just got back from a two- and half-week research trip in Paris. The six-hour head start in Paris-time compared to the east coast gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts over a café crème and croissant. In a word, Paris is busy. But it’s not too crazy yet with the demanding Chinese customer still in lockdown. It feels like a soft open. Staffing shortages are rampant while customer demands are as high as ever, understandably acting like they’ve been locked up for a couple of years.
But it’s all relative. Because when you spend nine of your nights on the right bank, on Rue Saint-Honore, at Le Bristol Hotel—the definition of a Paris palace hotel—you’re treated like family. And that’s not to take away from the other palace hotels we stayed at, which are great for other reasons. The Bristol is the full package.
The Hotel Lutetia, for example, is on the left bank near the wonderful Bon Marche (calling it a shopping mall is the understatement of the century) and our favorite Sunday lunch at La Fontaine de Mars. At the Shangri-La, back on the right bank, you feel like you can reach out and touch the Eiffel Tower from your balcony, so I’m told. (Your Survival Guy didn’t have a balcony or view).
Service? Le Bristol is the best. Breakfast or lunch at Café Antonia is as easy as a knife through a poached egg or foie gras washed down with juice or Champagne. Dinners in the outside garden on a warm Parisian night are what inspire movie scenes where it’s light past ten. It is heavenly. And, of course, being on St. Honoré, you feel like you’re walking through the pages of a fashion magazine. Instead of turning pages, you just walk into fashion houses from Chanel to Hermes.
And about one’s attire? Your Survival Guy blends in with the crowd. This is when you can dress up and feel like you’re not overdressed. Bring the gym shorts and t-shirts for the gym, but leave them in the room when going out on the streets. And no one will ever fault you for trying to speak French. I’m good at what I call “taxicab French.” I can get to where I want to go. But a simple Merci beaucoup, bonjour or bonsoir madame/monsieur, and Oui go a long way.
Action Line: Stick with Your Survival Guy. I’ll have plenty of insider tips to share with you from my Parisian trip. Tips, by the way, are appreciated but certainly not expected in Paris. Five or ten euros go a long way in showing your appreciation and getting on a first-name basis. Don’t worry if you don’t speak French. Money talks.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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