Hotel Le Tourville in Paris is a gem of a place to stay - that is, if you like subtle Parisian elegance in a safe, well-heeled neighborhood (7th Arrondissement) just a stroll from most of the biggest attractions in the City of Lights. Kind of like staying on Fifth Avenue in New York.
Le Tourville is the essence of boutique, with stylish adornments throughout and a friendly and helpful staff who maintain a touch of French formality - to make your stay comfortable and dynamic, and at the same time, feeling authentic and foreign. Don't expect huge American-style luxury: here it is about class and coziness in the Parisian sort of way.
When I asked our super friendly and cheerful waiter, the adorable Salomon from Haiti, for a glass of water. I watched him pour it into a stemmed glass in front of me, and then make sure to put it on a small plate before handing it to me. Old style and charming service for sure. The very accessible and helpful Alexandra at the front desk speaks perfect English and is warm and friendly. The manager, David Leboudec, and alternate desk people Mary and Saed are attentive to your every need, whilst calling you Madame and Monsieur and maintaining high levels of courtesy.
There are 30 guest rooms here on six floors, on a tree-lined street dotted with embassies, upscale residences, and high-end shops. Most of the rooms are decked in Provencal-style printed drapes, hung in a careful pattern on either side. The bathrooms are entirely marble and tile, black and gray. Some of the rooms have beautiful antique wardrobes and desks. Some have balconies, a few have private patios, and a few suites are equipped with extra lounging areas as well as Jacuzzi tubs.
There is a comfortable and hip looking lobby/living room with a small bar and a large TV built into the fireplace. (There are also satellite TVs in all the rooms.) There is a hotel Internet station or in-room wi-fi access with prepaid cards. A service limousine is available as is public parking nearby, if you venture to drive here.
Le Tourville is in a 1913 building, renovated just two years ago. And yet, we were very impressed with the quality and quietness of the air conditioning, and the generous number of electrical outlets to plug in your personal appliances. The small elevator runs quickly and efficiently, although it is fun to scamper down the long winding stairwell in the middle of the hotel. The rooms and lobbies are kept impeccably clean. The new mattresses are firm and strong.
The downstairs breakfast restaurant, which looks like a converted wine cellar, is gorgeous and unique, featuring white table linen surrounded by faux-colored arches. It's a lovely way to start the morning. Not to mention that breakfast (which always included chocolate croissants among other delights) is served until 11 a.m. This is really handy on first arrivals on jet-lagged sleeping patterns. Eggs are also available.
Staying in the 7th Arrondissement, where the Hotel Tourville is located, makes a lot of sense. Because it's in an upscale residential area, it is relatively quiet at night, but walking-distance close to major attractions. For example, you can walk a half block and see the Eiffel Tower, which at that point is just the length of a public park away (the park is the Champs de Mars). About 10 minutes walk is the Musee d'Orsay, our favorite art museum, which is an elegant old sky-lit train station famous for its extensive collection of Impressionist paintings. And just across the bridge from that is L'Orangerie, the smaller, more intimate museum that holds Claude Monet's panoramic Water Lilies paintings, with its own lovely collection of Impressionists on the lower level. Strolling a bit farther east you'll find yourself at the entrance of the Louvre, one of the largest art museums in the world, where people cheerfully wait in line to see the Mona Lisa and the Pieta.
Or, if you wish to venture farther, walk just half a block from the hotel and descend the stairs to the Paris Metro subway system at Ecole Militaire, and you can be just about anywhere in the city in a half hour or less. In fact, if you've never been here before, you may be pleasantly surprised to find Paris one of the most user-friendly cities on Earth. Getting around town is both easy and pleasant. We found all the Parisians in restaurants and shops to be cordial. Many spoke English. If you speak some French, they do not scorn you as in the old stereotype but seem happy and supportive of your efforts.
Besides strolling and riding the Metro, one of our favorite ways to both see the city and to get where you want to go quickly is to walk down to the River Seine, an unhurried promenade but a few minutes from this hotel, and board the Batobus (bateau means boat). You can then sight-see as you literally cruise from one quarter of the city to another, almost as efficiently as you would on the subway but enjoying the view all the way, then disembarking wherever you like among its several shoreline stops to continue your walking tour.
Being a residential quarter, the 7th is not in the midst of night life, although many of its cafes are open late (there are three large cafes within steps of the hotel). At Mr. Leboudec's suggestion, we explored a small walk-street, rue Cler, just a few feet from the nearby boulevard. We were delighted to find a plethora of locals, cute non-touristy (and less expensive) pubs, cafes and restaurants where we enjoyed exploring and choosing a menu for dinner one night. Rue Cler leads to rue San Domenic, where you can find chic hairdressers and clothing shops.
Of course, the famous Champs Elysees is close by, too, on the other side of the Seine. Walk its length and end at the majestic Arc du Triomphe. You will be able to browse all the very latest fashions and gimmicks. We enjoyed visiting Hugo Bass and Louis Vuitton stores and even bought a new camera in FNAC, a kind of French superstore.
There is nothing quite like coming upon the Eiffel Tower at night. Sparkling lights beckon you and you just feel Parisian all over as you admire its beauty and romantic call, happy that you chose to spend time here. Then you will stroll back to Le Tourville which you may come to think of as your Parisian home.
Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels.
Photos by Ms. Umano except as noted
HOTEL LE TOURVILLE
16, avenue de Tourville
75007 Paris, FRANCE (7th Arrondissement)
Tel. +33 (0)1 47 05 62 62
Fax +33 (0)1 47 05 43 90
E-mail: [email protected]
Prices: 180 - 470 euros/night - tax and service included (breakfast 15/person)
RER C (railway): Champs de Mars, Invalide
Metro: Ecole Militaire (line 8)
Airports: Orly 30min, Roissy 45min