Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times there will always be Paris. The French capital is so dense with history and creativity that it’s almost immune from the slings and arrows of global economic downturn — especially if you breeze into town for a few days. If you do, some new Paris hotels will be vying for your attention.
One is the strangely named Mama Shelter, which makes up for in hipness (designed by Philippe Starck) what it lacks in central location. Though it may be a long way from the Seine, out in the Bagnolet section of the 20th arrondissement, hipsters are gonna love the fiesty melange of bare concrete walls, luxury linens and Chewbacca lampshades. The overall vibe is more of what the French call “hetero cool,” but you can think pink as you stroll past the nearby Pere Lachaise cemetery, last resting place of Oscar Wilde, and on up to 184 Rue des Pyrenees, where you’ll find Le Riad, a gay-friendly Moroccan-inspired hammam, with mint tea and all.
Like Mama Shelter, the smaller but also new One by the Five goes for the hip factor, but it’s location on the Rue Flatters, in the fifth arrondissement, puts you closer to the Latin Quarter and the Seine. But there’s hip and then there’s Christian Lacroix. I said Lacroix, sweetie: and yes, you can channel Patsy and Edwina as you revel in the absolutely fabulous styling job Monsieur Lacroix gave to the Hotel Bellechasse, down the street from the mighty Musée d’Orsay. It’s a designer’s dreamscape. Ask for one of the Pompeii or Mousquetaire rooms.
As author of a well-known guidebook to Paris, I’m often asked where to go for a good meal in Paris that’s not too expensive. To give the complete answer, well, I’d have to write (another) book, but one of my favorites is right in the heart of the gay Marais district and it’s called Les Fous d’en Face. Reliable, delicious, cozy, with great wines, killer desserts and waiters with charming smiles: what more could you want? Spanish tapas, perhaps — if that’s the case, get grazing at trendy Toro, on the edge of the high-energy Montorgueil district. A stuffed bull’s head over the bar sets the tone. After dinner you could take in a late show at the UGC Les Halles multiplex. Beaucoup de French students!
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