Hotel Plaza Elysees.

Hotel Plaza Elysees.

Do you want to be a neighbor of the President of France? Or better yet, stay near the hotel featured in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”? Not that Paris magic needs to be more magical, but you might like to reside in the environs of the Best Western Plaza Elysées, where I stayed a few nights this summer.

The hotel, just a few blocks from the Champs Elysées, was built in 1874 in the fashion of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the architect who, commissioned by Napoleon III, redesigned and rebuilt much of Paris in the 19th century. He created the iconic style that gives the city its allure. A Haussmann-style building, for example, has typically six stories, with a wrought iron balcony on the second and fifth floors. (The upper floor was for the servants.) The building stones are beige.

Isabelle Legros.

Isabelle Legros.

Isabelle Legros bought the lodging in 1998. It had always been a residence of flats rented by the day, the week, the year. She renovated it, turning some floors modern, decorating others in the style of Louis XVI.

It is, she asserts, an “hôtel de charme.” Madame Legros is refurbishing it with her own designs to make it more charming still. She does this in the same way she went about her hotel education, which was methodically, learning management in different hotels even as a receptionist and living in London to perfect her English.

But back to location. In front of the hotel, the Boulevard Haussmann crosses the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, famous for antique and high fashion shops.

Church of Philippe Saint Roule.

Church of Philippe Saint Roule.

Five minutes from the hotel on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (also a metro stop) is the late 1700s Church of Philippe Saint Roule.

It was designed by Chalgrin, the architect of the Arc de Triomphe who certainly had a sense of grandeur, and was supposed to resemble a Roman Basilica.

The Bristol.

The Bristol.

Another five minutes took me to Le Bristol. Sound familiar? When I asked the hotel doorman if that was where “Midnight in Paris” was made, he grinned and said “Oui!” He must get a lot of such questions.

I peaked inside and then entered and wandered around the elegant gold and red plush lobby. I looked into the dining room where one of the movie scenes takes place. The hotel staff appeared quite amenable to my presence and even gave me a brochure about the hotel. Can you afford $1200 a night for the cheapest room?

Elysee Palace.

Elysee Palace.

A few minutes further on is the Elysée Palace where the French President lives. Just a handful of casually chatting white jacketed guards were at the gate. A woman passed with a child who looked about 11. “Look,” he said (in French, of course).  “Look” not at the President’s palace. “Look,” he said, “Prada.” The store was a door away from the Elysée. And that’s what he remarked on, not the President’s residence but a high fashion icon. After all, this is Paris!

But the surprise delight was the Jacquemart André Museum, five minutes from the hotel on the Boulevard Haussmann.

Its origins were in the 19th century. Nélie Jacquemart was a prominent society painter who did the portrait – and married — Edouard André, son of a rich banking family. They made annual trips to Italy to collect art which they exhibited in their mansion on the new Boulevard Haussmann. When André died, Jacquemart visited the Orient to add to the collection and then left the villa and its works of art to the Institut de France for a museum. It opened to the public in 1913.

Jacquemart Andre Museum room and tea room.

Jacquemart Andre Museum room and tea room.

The stunning mansion displays masterpieces from French, Italian Renaissance, English and Dutch artists, including painters such as Fragonard, Boucher, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Reynolds, Bellini and Botticelli. The museum appears little known and is never crowded. After taking in the collection, we relaxed with a cup of tea.

 Rodin Museum.

Rodin Museum.

The Rodin Museum has always been a favorite stop in Paris, and this time it played a double role, finishing the film fantasy. It’s where Carla Bruin, the model married to President Sarkozy, played a guide in at the Rodin Museum in “Midnight in Paris.” I tried to remember where her scene had occurred. Was it this one in the garden in front of The Thinker? It’s always fun to mix fantasy with reality.

If you go

Getting there

The major airlines land in Paris. If you are traveling elsewhere in France or to other countries in Europe, you would do well to get a Eurailpass from Rail Europe. Train time is faster than auto travel and often faster than plane travel as well if time to and from the airport and normal delays are factored in. Plus it’s a lot more relaxing.

Different passes are available for travel within one country, within several neighboring countries, or all over Europe. Check Rail Europe.

Guidebooks

I liked Michelin’s “Mustsees Paris.”

Where to stay

Plaza Elysees bedroom.

Plaza Elysees bedroom.

Best Western Plaza Elysées ***
177, boulevard Haussmann
75008 Paris

Tel 33 (0)1 45 63 93 83
Fax 33 (0)1 45 61 14 30

The 41 twin or double rooms are standard 3-star size, well-designed and furnished. A tip to get best prices: travelers from the Middle East like to stay near the Champs Elysées, so they make prices spike. But costs drop during Ramadan, when Muslims stay home.

Buses stop in front of the hotel, and several metro stations are nearby.

What to see

Church of Philippe du Roule, 154 rue du Faubourg St Honoré. Check website for opening hours.

Museum of Jacquemart André, 158, Blvd Haussmann.
33 (0)1 4562 1159; Fax 33 (0)1 4562 1636.
message@musee-jacquemart-andre.com
Open daily 10am to 6pm, Mondays till 9:30pm during temporary exhibits.

Rodin Museum
79, rue de Varenne
33 (0)1 4418 6110; Fax 33 (0)1 4418 6130
Open daily except Monday 10am to 5.45pm.
It’s a short ride on Bus 93 which stops in front of the Plaza Elysées; get off at Invalides.

Photos by Lucy Komisar.