Discreetly tucked away in the Grand Boulevards district of Paris is the Hotel des Grands Boulevards. This vibrant bourgeois slice of Paris in the 2nd arrondissement is pulsating with life dotted with theatres, bars, cinemas and an expanse of café’s lining its long wide boulevards plus let’s not forget its historic covered passages. The hotels’ perfect location in close proximity to the major department stores, the Opera Garnier and Palais Royal is just waiting to be discovered.
I’ve been wanting to see more of the Grands Boulevards since my first visit in March and with that in mind, I set about looking for hotels in a slighter higher price bracket than The Chopin where we stayed in March. It was a choice between The Hoxton and the Hotel des Grands Boulevards, it was a close call, I honestly couldn’t choose. Both are beautiful trendy upcoming boutique hotels and both are taking Paris by storm; whichever hotel you choose, know that you will have chosen well, the Hoxton is firmly up there waiting to be crossed off my long list of Paris hotels.
With its discreet entrance and long passage way leading to the hotel doors, one could be forgiven for thinking the hotel is one of Paris’ many covered passages but look up and you’ll see the name of the hotel in the shape of an arch in their iconic calligraphy, a familiar theme running throughout not just the Hotel des Grands Boulevards but all the hotels in this group. The hotel belongs to the Experimental Group, a swanky and ultra-cool cocktail and hotel brand made up of four partners who opened the Experimental Cocktail Club down a side street in Paris in 2007 and haven’t looked back since.
Designed by French interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon and inspired by the building’s history (pre the French Revolution), she set about converting this 18th century building into the elegant stylish hotel it is today with her unique style and retro touches. The signature curves and arches, the lights in the shape of giant light bulbs and the calligraphy is evident in all the Experimental Group of hotels which includes the Henrietta Hotel in London and their other hotel in Paris, The Pigalle. There are more hotels in the pipeline the most recent is opening this month in Verbier. Dorothée is responsible for designing many restaurants and hotels in Paris including the Panache, Paradis and Bachaumont.
She cleverly uses the curved shape of the arch which is understated, elegant even sexy emulating the curves of the female body; evident in every part of the hotel from the hotel room doors, mirrors, the bedsteads even the long table and bar in the courtyard and breakfast area. The Shell Bar takes its name from the humble shell, they were a favourite motif in 18th century France and it was known that Marie Antoinette had a fascination with them hence the giant shell that adorns the wall next to this vibrant bar. There is also a rooftop bar called The Shed which is open throughout the year, weather permitting, unfortunately due to the cold and wet conditions, it was not open during our stay.
I was struck by the romantic ambience of the hotel due in part to the subdued lighting in the lobby and in the rooms. A waft of the most delicious intoxicating aroma circles the reception area and I can’t help but ask what it is. It is in fact the hotel’s signature candle which the hotel sells for 45 euros, a heady, spicy mesmerising scent perfect for winter, it really adds to the atmosphere of the reception and lobby area. Naturally, I bought a candle as a memory of our stay, also at reception, The Experimental Cocktail Books which sell for 15 and 25 euros, there is a copy for your perusal in all the rooms.
Julie head receptionist shows us around, I’m taken aback by the courtyard dining area, it’s unquestionably the hub of the hotel with the large bar in the centre, another option to enjoy cocktails is here.
The herringbone style concrete flooring meets the herringbone parquet of the adjoining breakfast area seamlessly, it’s a harmonious space to enjoy breakfast, a coffee or cocktail.
The courtyard roof is made entirely of glass flooding the area with natural light, with plants in every corner, I’m reminded of a greenhouse but certainly the impression is that of a garden orangery, something I’d really like in my own home.
Gastronomy at the hotel is headed by talented Italian head chef Giovanni Passerini who draws on his Italian roots and serves a fusion of Italian country fare meets French.
We head up to our room, the hotel has a total of 50 from classics to suites. Our room is called the Saint Fiacre which is a superior room with balcony which are slightly more expensive than the Saint Fiacre rooms without balcony. Balconies are offered in all style of rooms should you wish to pay slightly more, it’s definitely worth it. The Petit Boulevard is the equivalent of a classic room, Uzes, a deluxe room and right at the top of the hotel with fabulous views of Parisian rooftops, junior suites called Parisian Eaves and finally the grand dame – the Grands Boulevards rooms, extra special junior suites. I think next visit, we’ll definitely choose one of those or the Parisian Eaves, a very romantic sounding alternative.
The room itself has the same familiar curves seen throughout the hotel, my husband and I played a game, lets spot the curves which were everywhere from the main door, the door to the bathroom, the mirrors and the bedstead.
The bed is a large queen size with a dramatic velvet green canopy stretching as far up as the ceiling, definitely an elegant and romantic touch. The colour scheme is green and again, its something I’ve noticed throughout the hotel.
Keeping the rooms elegant but modern, designer Dorothée adds a rustic touch with the wooden bedside stools and the retro radio but at the same time, high tech gadgets such as the large mirror-come-telly opposite the bed and the cool Nespresso coffee machine equip the room with all the modern essentials. The lighting is very subdued which is lovely but we both felt that there should have been an option to increase the intensity of light in the room as getting ready to go out was a bit of problem but perhaps I missed the dim switch?
The doors open leading the visitor to the largest terrace full of young trees and other plants, the view is of Boulevard Poissonière where there was a peaceful demonstration happening, Women Against Male Violence & Abuse, this area must be so welcome during the spring and summer where you can just sit and enjoy the warm sun with a glass of something chilled, wine or champagne, why not?
The bathroom is beautiful, no bath but a very large shower the width of the bathroom, a curved mirror of course, bathrobes and slippers and what I loved most was the cute hessian bag with the hotel’s logo emblazoned on and full of miniature toiletries; this I decided to take to my daughter, it’s become a bit of a tradition that wherever I visit, I save the toiletries for her.
After a much needed coffee using the sleek Nespresso machine, every hotel room should have tea/coffee making facilities in my opinion, we decide to venture out to discover more of the 2nd arrondissement.
Later in the evening, we look forward to drinks at the Shell Bar, a special invitation by the hotel as it’s my husband’s birthday, we are kindly complimented with two cocktails. The Shell Bar has a very subterranean feel, it’s warm and inviting and although a bit small, it’s cosy and vibrant and guests from outside can book ahead for drinks and dinner in the beautiful courtyard which looks completely different in the evening festooned with fairy lights. I’m reliably informed that the hotel has many outside visitors both at the bar and at the restaurant. We had a dinner reservation at one of Paris’ most popular and hard-to-get-into bistro’s, L’Ami Jean after drinks which was incredible, more on that in a later review.