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Perfect Paris

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What is it? A weekend for two in the most romantic of all cities – Paris. However, this was a weekend spent not with my husband but with my 75-year-old father – would we have a good time? The answer was a resounding yes.

Where? We stayed at the four-star Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare, a centrally located grand hotel that was built in 1889 and was the first one in Paris to have electricity and telephones in every bedroom.

Description: [hotel_exterior.jpg] A hotel adjacent to a major train station sounds more than just a little it seedy. But when Wendy Sloane visited the Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare in Paris, she was more than just a little bit impressed

To have the opportunity to get away from the kids and enjoy a bit of shopping, wining dining and… freedom.

This is the place if you like to shop. The hotel is just a short stroll from the Boulevard Haussman department stores, as well as near La Madeleine with its theatres, the Opera and Montmartre. If you want to travel further afield, it is literally a one-minute walk from the Metro and the concierges, all of whom speak excellent English, can provide good travel advice, tourist information, discounted tickets to the Louvre etc. After all, this is Paris!

You´re in the heart of Paris – need I say more? If you´re at a loss of what to do, either get a life – or ask at the Reception desk. I recommend the latter.

If you decide to bring your children with you, the Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare caters to little people as well as big ones, so just ask at Reception about getting baby-sitters. Not only do children under 12 stay free in their parents bedroom but they are also welcomed with gifts like small teddy bears and coloured confetti soap for the bath. There is no children´s menu in the restaurant but that´s because all Parisian restaurants are child-friendly, and the local kids used to eating more than fish fingers and chips…

Sadly, none are available. But don´t let this deter you – you can always exercise at home, or go for a run with the staff, who occasionally take visitors around Paris for a jog.

Local activities: Everything is within walking distance, so take advantage of all that´s on offer in this incredibly cosmopolitan city. Alternatively, this hotel is known as a discreet refuge for both holiday-makers and businesspeople – it has far-sweeping business facilities such as conference rooms, computer suites etc. And with a restaurant that serves reasonably-priced amazingly delicious food, you could easily just sit back in the gorgeous sound-proofed lobby, eat several times, and watch the world go by without ever stepping outside…

Wish we had known: That the food in the Cafe Terminus would be so good. Makes a mockery out of eating anywhere else.

Our top tip: Eat in the Cafe Terminus! Americans might find it a bit pricey, but by British standards this is excellent food at a most excellent price.

Kids say: ¨I really liked the confetti because it´s really nice,¨ said Tilly, six, when we returned home.

Getting There: The Hotel is just ten minutes by metro from the Gare du Nord. Look online for details of prices, although special packages are also available – Hotel Website. The Stay in Style package, for example, costs from 210 euros per night and includes a buffet breakfast. The Family Package also includes breakfast and a 50 percent discount off the second room. And the Concorde Shopping Package, from 216 euros per night, includes discount cards in some of the major shops nearby as all as a visit to the Baccarat Museum, complete with guide and VIP gift.

About our stay: I must admit, the trip started badly. First, my husband Duncan wasn´t able to accompany me on our parents-only getaway, so my father decided to come with me to Paris instead. Secondly, we booked a hotel that looked nice but was, sadly, located next to a train station. The romantic weekend in a glorious hotel I had so looked forward to was slowly turning into a seedy night away looking after my almost-octogenarian dad. Great. My father hadn´t been to Paris since the 1950´s, so I expected he´d find that things had changed. I was right. The first thing we noticed, after a smooth, efficient trip on the Eurostar replaced the vomit-inducing Channel hops from my father´s past, was that the Metro had grown. Evidently I have inherited my dad´s lack of a sense of direction, so what was supposed to be a ten-minute journey turned into almost two hours. Et bien sur, his schoolboy and my schoolgirl French were of little use. [hotel_interior.jpg] But when we finally made it to the Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare, tired, thirsty and achey from lugging all our bags, my heart almost missed a beat. Instead of the nasty little hotel that I had envisaged we were met by the sight of a grand fin-de-siecle palace, with a lobby inspired by Gustave Eiffel that has been lovingly restored to its former splendor. With its marble pillars, paintings of cherubs and lovely sculptures, it´s no wonder that it´s been designated a historic landmark. Seedy it ain´t. The hotel was built for the World Fair of 1889, and while the lobby has remained the same the rest hasn´t. Originally home to 500 rooms, it now has just 266, so they are all considerably bigger than the average hotel room. They are also bright, clean and comfortable, with large bathrooms which all have natural light. Six floors have been turned into five, and the result is spectacular. [restaurant.jpg] The best bit, however, was the food. I am normally loathe to imbibe hotel fare, but then this was one of the grande dames of Paris hotels, not a Travelodge in Milton Keynes. We ate at the Cafe Terminus, each ordering a simple medium rare steak and potatoes, and were given a complimentary salmon mousse appetiser to start things off. For someone who thinks salmon should never be moussed, this was absolutely delicious. And, gentle reader, the steak was the best I have ever tasted. It was flavoursome, it was very slightly chewy, it was marvellous. The potatoes, which came creamed with a big slab of melted Camembert, were also melt-in-your-mouth yummy. And the wine… After feasting, the next two days were spent with simple-sightseeing and eating, although nothing came close to the hotel food. My father enjoyed the Louvre, strolling along the Seine and taking in the sights of Paris, and I liked the shopping, what with the Printemps and Galeries Layfayettes department stores just a hop, skip and a jump away. Everyone happy – and Duncan and my three girls were overjoyed to see us when we got back. Next time, perhaps, we´ll all go… [Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com. She divides her time between writing and taking care of her three small daughters].

Created: 2008-07-19 16:57:44.823

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