Leigh-Ann Pow ignores five-star options and discovers the perfect Paris bolthole worth bragging about.
Having the name of the perfect little Parisian bolthole tucked into the pages of your leather address book is the equivalent of liquid gold.
The French capital is renowned for its luxurious five-star establishments (The Bristol, The Plaza Athenee, George V, The Peninsula, The Ritz, need I go on?), any one of which will drain the average bank balance of funds for little more than a two-night stay.
But knowing about a place that has welcoming, familiar service, chic yet unintimidating interiors and a pleasingly reasonable tariff gives you the ultimate in bragging rights: “Oh yes, I have a little place I stay in the 9th Arrondisement that I just adore.”
I happened upon it via the web when I needed to book a couple of extra nights’ accommodation after spending a week in a fabulous Airbnb mews house just off the Champs Elysee.
The fact that it looked pretty and that it was available at short notice were the deciding factors; I ignored the comments on TripAdvisor about the sex shop on the corner.
It was only a few nights after all.
I arrive at the unassuming front door of the 19th century building via a typically narrow Parisian street.
I can see the aforementioned sex shop off in the distance, but immediately surrounding the hotel are little tea salons and restaurants and a small super marche (the only place in the whole city I was able to find the Bonne Maman rhubarb preserve my sister had requested I bring home).
Inside the reception area is a charming sitting room complete with overstuffed sofas, wingback chairs and a coffee table festooned with magazines and fresh flowers.
A deliciously scented candle burns on a side table.
Check-in is conducted at an antique desk by a charming, floppy haired young man who explains that breakfast can be taken in the small dining room in the basement, before directing me to the typically bijoux lift (the glass fronting on it does give it more of a sense of space, but during my stay I invariably take the lovely old wood and wrought iron staircase that winds its way up six flights) to the top floor.
There are 23 rooms in all at Le Relais Madeleine, all individually decorated, ranging from singles to superior doubles, as well as a four-person suite which is exactly where I have been directed.
The room is actually the entire top floor, complete with a separate sauna and pretty terrace.
Entering the room I walk into a lovely living area with a sofa (this converts into the second bed in the room), full size antique writing desk and vintage chairs.
The walls are lined in an exuberant floral fabric in shades of cream, burgundy and blue, there are bookshelves lined with cloth- and leather-bound books (some dating back to the early 1800s, along with Dan Brown) and framed vintage prints and artworks dot the walls.
The bedroom, with its cloud soft queen bed, bookshelves and mini-bar — which is amazingly upholstered so as not to disturb the aesthetic of the room — is as light-filled as the living area thanks to generous French windows that can be thrown open to let in the sounds of the city below.
The room is tucked into the eaves of the building, with the slope of the ceiling evident throughout, lending a cosy feel to the generous space rather than making it feel cramped.
And the bathroom is vast by European standards, with a muted palette, separate shower and bath and more light streaming through more French windows.
I can’t resist the temptation to go exploring, heading across my own private landing to first unlock the pristine sauna, and then venture out on to the terrace, with its glimpses of the rooftops of Paris.
Further afoot, the location of the hotel is brilliantly central, with the imposing Le Madeleine, the Opera and Place de la Concorde a mere minute or two away, along with shopping and cafes and restaurants and museums in abundance.
(I avoid the sex shop on the corner by simply turning left when I leave the hotel – take that TripAdvisor!)
Le Relais Madeleine is one of four properties under the Le Relais banner, with sister hotels in equally evocative locations throughout the city – Montmarte, Les Halles, Saint Honore and the Louvre – ranging from three to four stars, and each with the same delightful approach to interiors.
In a city where individuality and style are part of the vernacular, the Le Relais group, and the wonderful Le Relais Madeleine in particular, really is worth knowing (and bragging) about.
11 bis, rue Godot-de-Mauroy, Paris France,
This place is the perfect base in Paris.
You won’t be able to stop crowing to your friends about it.