If you are looking for a sophisticated but short break honeymoon, then without a doubt, Paris is the perfect place to begin wedded bliss.
The city of love is just a two and a half hour train journey from London and as we pull into Paris’s Gare Du Nord, it is evident that romance permeates this air. While couples kiss at the station, others stroll hand in hand; those that have been separated greet each other once again with warm embraces, it is a cliché that for once, I didn’t mind seeing. We are here for a weekend break staying at the boutique Banke Hotel in the Opera district just a stone’s throw from one of the city’s biggest shopping centres and a walk to many of the much loved Paris sites.
Our early Saturday morning arrival meant that Paris was just waking up when we pulled into the station. With this in mind and our light luggage load, we decide to take a twenty minute stroll down Rue La Fayette to the Banke Hotel on this perfect sunny day. The beautiful thing about Paris is its buildings and walking is most certainly the best way to appreciate them. The numerous street side cafes allow you to observe Paris life further and so half way down we stop for a café au lait and pastry at the pretty little corner café, Le Maison Bleu, before heading on to our Paris abode.
The Banke Hotel, as its name suggests, occupies the premises of a former bank headquarters. It is, I think, one of the most theatrical hotel entrances one can find in Paris. This dominant corner building belies the opulent and very warm welcome that lies within. Marble steps and a large chandelier lead newly arriving guests into a spectacular lobby crowned with a glass cupola and furnished in deep Baroque red. On either side of the lobby, the hotel restaurant and bar provide contemporary furnishings in gold, purples and velvet and another viewpoint to appreciate this vast and stunning space.
Past guests of Banke Hotel have commented widely on how warmly and friendly the staff are so I was pleased to find that this was indeed true as we were welcomed and shown to our room. This hotel is all about ambiance and as we journey down a softly lit hallway we take in the hotel’s extensive art collection and jewellery pieces collected from around the world and carefully displayed in glass cabinets. The subtle smell of burning incense provides a sensory addition to viewing these extraordinary pieces from different cultures. If you choose to spend your honeymoon at Banke Hotel, I would suggest staying in one of the decadently furnished suites where leather rugs and damask headboards accessorise the designer furniture. The suites are located on the sixth floor so views are also worthwhile with the Sacre-Couer sitting quietly in the distance. Luxurious marble bathrooms are equipped with hot powerful showers and toiletries from The White Company provide the ultimate in pampering.
If you can tear yourself away from this charming Paris residence, then take a stroll just 10 minutes up the road to the pretty little street of Rue Des Marques where you’ll find a cute selection of independent shops including, delis, patisseries and boutiques. If you are more of a designer label shopper then, the famous Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is a stone’s throw from the hotel. Housed in a stunning stain glass domed building, this department store has been an institution of fashion since the 19th Century. Visiting Paris in August is advantageous in that the city is notably quieter due to the French taking their summer holidays during this time. You’ll find a few shops and restaurants also close for the month but plenty are still open to entertain and keep the buzz.
After a spot of lunch at one of the delis on Rue des Martyrs, we continued walking up to the famous Sacre-Couer. To have this architecturally stunning Basilica located within minutes of the Banke Hotel is amazing. The church sits on the highest point of Paris and offers panoramic views of the country’s bustling landscape. The dominance and strength that this sacred stone building represents must be comforting to the Parisians as it perches so peacefully at this point, observing and protecting its city below.
What is so nice about staying at a centrally located hotel like Banke, is that when your feet get weary from all the walking, you can easily and quickly return for a well-deserved afternoon rest. There is a small gym and Hammam in the hotel which is perfect for relaxing in or the Lola bar provides street side tables where cocktails, coffee and tapas are served daily.
When it comes to dining in France, ‘Charcuterie’ is the option of foodies and Paris is full of these often cosy establishments where cured meats artistically hang in trendy bistro windows. The streets surrounding Banke Hotel are lined with candlelit cafes and restaurants to eat in and although it is always nice to experience the Parisian way of dining alfresco, if you are staying at Banke for more than one night, you must also try their avante-garde Mediterranean menu at Josephin restaurant. Not only is there an extensive list of freshly caught seafood but their charcuterie menu is equally satisfying. All this comes whilst one sits on sumptiously upholstered gold sofas.
As we end our evening with a digestif at the lobby bar, I can’t help but look forward to my night’s sleep – did I mention how comfortable the beds are at the Banke? Firm but cushiony mattress, super soft cotton sheets, the puffiest pillows and to top it off a sleep spray in The White Company bathroom bag provided. With the last swig of my Cognac I am gone – thank you Paris and goodnight.