48-hours in Paris: Tempus explores the Marais arrondissement
Discover the City of Light's historic neighbourhood
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and in the point of life.” The words of Thomas Jefferson felt no truer than on a recent 48-hour autumnal escape, when we were invited to stay at two of the most impressive hotels that the City of Lights has to offer; and gave ourselves the mission of truly getting to know one of its most prized neighbourhoods, the Marais.
The concept of arriving in style was given new meaning by our entrance to The Peninsula: a palatial 19th-century Haussmanian building, located just a stone’s throw away from the Arc de Triomphe in the city’s starry 16th arrondissement. Here, luxury oozes even onto the pavement outside, which is graced by the hotel’s signature luxury car fleet, used for guest transport, including a rare 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II.
Meticulously restored by French master craftsmen to evoke the glory of the Belle Epoque, the hotel is also an ode to contemporary art and luxe design in multiple forms, including a dazzling chandelier made up of 800 individual, hand-blown crystals at its entrance, a bespoke art collection in the lobby and an ‘Art In Resonance’ menu served at Le Lobby, one of the hotel’s three fine dining restaurants (where Gershwin composed "An American in Paris", and where Picasso is said to have been partial to an afternoon cocktail).
Dinner on our first evening was a vibrant and delicious affair at Pink Mamma: one of Paris’ Big Mamma Group (Gloria, Circolo Popolare) outposts. If not Parisian in its gastronomy, it certainly was in atmosphere: a Dyonisian hive open well into the early hours, with revellers fuelled by vintage Chianti Riserva and authentic Neopolitan pizzas fantastically loaded with smoked stracciatella and black truffle.
A long soak in the marble bath back in our Deluxe King room at The Peninsula, followed by diving headfirst into our super-king sized bed (where there were no limitations on starfishing from both parties), provided a welcome sanctuary to the carb-induced coma through which we sailed over the course of the next nine, blissful hours.
The next morning we made a beeline to the city’s Marais district: the city’s historical Jewish quarter which today is home to more than its fair share of couture boutiques, storied cafes, fragrant bakeries, bespoke jewellers, and elegant galleries, nestled along leafy, labyrinthine streets akin to Manhattan’s West Village. By midday, with step counts high and energy levels dipping, we headed to Breizh Cafe where we tucked into traditional French crêpes oozing with unholy amounts of chévre, before setting off again for a stroll around the Place des Vosges: an unmissable square at the heart of the Marais, considered by Napoleon himself to be the jewel of Paris.
In need of a light repose before dinner, we checked in at La Réserve, a private urban mansion (which once served as the residence of French aristocracy) with just a handful of luxury rooms and suites tucked away behind the tree-lined, presidential avenues of Paris’ 8th Arrondissement.
We were treated to the Eiffel Tower Suite: a luxe, 80 square-metre space adorned with dark wood gilt-accented Napoleonic-style furniture, objets d'art sourced from the finest Parisian antique dealers, a Carrara marble bathroom, and all of this with panoramic views of the city’s culture-defining architecture.
With very little persuasion we could have contentedly remained in our room all evening, basking in the balcony views and enjoying the contents of the particularly beautiful mirrored private bar. Yet we were tempted back out into the autumnal night by Terra: a candle-lit urban greenhouse with a vaulted ceiling, cascading foliage, open stainless-steel kitchen and a menu dedicated to generous sharing platters, where we feasted on avocado “cannelloni” stuffed with lobster and salmon roe, followed by line-caught cod enveloped in homemade golden pastry, and served with watercress cream.
48 hours in Paris could never feel like enough, but the formula of exploring it one neighbourhood at a time - and resting weary heads (and feet) at hotels which provide unbridled comfort and luxury - is one that I’ll be using again, not least because it calls for many return visits.