Finding Josphine Baker at Riad Star in Marrakech – video

When Mike and Lucie Wood found an old property in the Marrakech Medina to add to their small group of Marrakech Boutique Riads, they named it Riad Star, for not much more reason than their daughter liked the name. It was only when neighbours asked them if they were naming it after the star who had lived there, that they learned this had once been home to Josephine Baker; the American born cabaret artist of the 1920s, 30s and 40s who had been the toast of Paris, who had been awarded the Legion d’Honeur by Charles de Gaule for her wartime work in the French Resistance and who was a leader in the civil rights movement for racial equality. In honour of Josephine Baker, the renovation of Riad Star, with its art deco woodwork and coloured glass took a new theme, incorporating jazz age glamour and sparkle and a sprinkling of objets and memorabilia from the period.

Riad Star, Marrakech Photo by

The courtyard of Riad Star in Marrakech, decorated on a Jazz age theme

I hope you enjoy the video below of Finding Josephine Baker at Riad Star in Marrakech

If you can’t see the video above of Finding Josephine Baker at Riad Star in Marrakech view it on my blog here or on YouTube here

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We spent a weekend staying at Riad Star in May, taking advantage of the new easyJet direct flight from Bristol with a schedule that is well timed for long weekend breaks. Our taxi from the airport dropped us as close as it could could get to the Riad, where Abdel, the energetic Riad manager greeted us and led us through the narrow lanes to the unassuming door of the Riad, marked only with a small star. Miriam, the Riad’s excellent cook had prepared a traditional Moroccan meal for us with a selection of side dishes as starters; coleslaw with walnuts and sweet dried fruits, a delicious rice dish with green and red peppers, courgettes and green beans cooked with oil, lemon, parsley and cumin. After such a feast we barely had room for the succulant and fruity lamb tagine cooked with prunes, a dish that is often served at celebration meals in Morocco.

The Josephine room where stayed is thought to be where Josephine Baker herself slept, and the white walls were hung with Jazz age prints from the Revue Negre as well as a large portrait of Grace Kelly who befriended Josephine Baker and invited her to perform in Monacco. The double bed covered with a soft gold bedspread was framed by an arch of traditional carved plasterwork, while silver cutwork metal lamps threw patterns of light on the ceiling. On the tiled floor was a Zayan Berber marriage shawl serving as a rug, with silver sequins woven into the fabric to represent money and a few small tables and stools scattered with catalogues and records from Josephine Baker’s musical performances.

The Josephine Room at Riad Star in Marrakech Photo:

The Josephine Room at Riad Star in Marrakech

Our en suite bathroom was a similar fusion of traditional Moroccan polished plasterwork and art deco inspired polished black marble with delicious orange blossom shower gel and body lotion from Les Sens de Marrakech. The powerful shower was contained in a bathing area with a high step which I tackled rather carefully for fear of slipping on the tiled surfaces. At the internal window from which voices wafted up from the kitchen below, was a wire sculpture of Josephine Baker dangling in the space, complete with banana skirt and pouting lips.

Our bathroom in the Josephine room at Riad Star Photo:

Our bathroom in the Josephine room at Riad Star

From reading the books and biographies about Josephine Baker that were scattered around the Riad, I learned more fascinating stories of her time in Marrakech. In the early years of the Second World War, Josephine had started to work for the French resistance, secretly passing information about German operations within occupied France which she hid in her underwear or wrote in invisible ink on her music scores. In 1941 she received orders to move on the North Africa, arriving first in Algiers and then moving on the Casablanca and Marrakech, and it was during this time that she met one of the most powerful and wealthy men in Morocco, T’hami el Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech. Josephine had left France suffering with pneumonia and fatigue but now El Glaoui offered her a place to rest and recuperate in his palace, now the Museum of Marrakech next door to Riad Star, putting on a grand dinner in her honour.

The inner courtyard of Riad Star in Marrakech Photo:

The inner courtyard of Riad Star in Marrakech

The two became close friends and in 1942 Josephine became pregnant and late in her pregnancy suffered a miscarriage in the clinic in Casablanca. She developed an acute infection  from which she nearly died and had an emergency hysterectomy which meant that she could never have children of her own. When she was well enough Josephine returned to Marrakech where El Glaoui offered her the use of the guest wing of his palace, now Riad Star, to recuperate. It is said that the Pasha paid children to stand under her window and recite verses from the Koran, as we might say a prayer for someone’s good health and speedy recovery.

As the Josephine room where we stayed is the only room in the riad that overlooks the street, which is unusual as most look inwards to the courtyard, it is believed that this must have been her bedroom. In the street she was known for her generosity and the elderly neighbour remembered being given sweets and modelling clay by her when he was a child. After her recovery Josephine Baker spent the remaining war years touring North Africa entertaining the American, English and French troops and later adopted a ‘Rainbow tribe’ of thirteen children to make up for the children of her own she could never have.

Jazz bedroom in Riad Star Photo:

Jazz bedroom in Riad Star, Marrakech

We loved the fusion of Moroccan craftsmanship at Riad Star with the elegant furnishings and metalwork from the souk and the Art Deco antiques and objets that owners, Mike and Lucie Wood have collected on their travels. Each room is decorated in unique style and is named after a part of Josephine Baker’s life; The Paris room after the Casino de Paris that made her a star; the Rainbow room after her Rainbow tribe of adoptive children and the Chiquita room on the roof terrace after her pet cheetah.

Rainbow bedroom in Riad Star, Marrakech Photo:

Rainbow bedroom in Riad Star, Marrakech

Each morning we were served a delicious breakfast of fruit salad, pancakes and scrambled eggs, seated at the green banquette in the alcove to one side of the inner courtyard, which had a small dipping pool to cool off on hot days. While many of the Riads of Marrakech have been converted into holiday homes or small boutique hotels, they were originally family homes designed to house extended families, with different generations living in the rooms that overlook the internal courtyard. The narrow street outside may look a little scruffy, but the unassuming door opens to reveal an elegant private world, designed to shield the women from prying eyes and to keep the house cool in the heat of summer. Owner, Mike Wood told me how most of the skilled craftsmen he had employed to recreate the traditional Beijmat teracotta tiled floors, Tadlakt polished plasterwork and hand carved plasterwork friezes and arches, could be found within 10 minutes of the Riad. From the souk had come embroidered cushions, small silver poufs and stools, silver cut metalwork lanterns and berber sequin marriage rugs, as well as art deco statues and ornaments in keeping with the Jazz Age theme.

Breakfast at Riad Star in Marrakech Photo:

Breakfast at Riad Star in Marrakech Photo:

The roof terrace has been converted into a delightful area for relaxation, with a wrought iron ballustrade around the central opening which has a clever retractable roof to keep the courtyard below dry and warm in the cooler months. The terrace is cleverly designed with different seating and sunbathing areas separated by arrangements of shrubs and herbs in pots, and in the evening the fairy lights twinkle in the bouganvillia with a fireplace for cooler evenings. There’s also a private hammam that leads off the terrace, where private treatments can be arranged, which is ideal for couples who want to try the hammam experience together, as the public hammams are strictly segregated.

The terrace at Riad Star in Marrakech Photo:

The terrace at Riad Star in Marrakech

In keeping with the Josephine Baker theme, there’s a rail of sparkling, sequinned dresses and other costumes provided for guests to dress up, with a jewellery box of 1920s style hair ornaments and necklaces to try. While we were there, the Riad had a special display of costumes for the Marrakech Bienniale cultural festival, including a red evening gown worn by Josephine Baker in during one of her final performances in Paris before she died in 1975. The Woods managed to purchase the dress, along with a sequined costume worn by the celebrated French singer, Mistinguett, letters, a movie script and other Josephine Baker memorabilia at a recent auction at the Casino de Paris.

Left: Josephine Baker dancing in her banana skirt Right: Dress worn by Josephine Baker in Paris Photo:

Left: Josephine Baker dancing in her banana skirt Right: Dress worn by Josephine Baker in Paris

We very much enjoyed our stay at Riad Star, being looked after by the wonderful staff, relaxing in the beautifully restored surroundings and reliving a little Jazz Age glamour. I’m sure Josephine Baker would have approved.

Visiting Riad Star and Marrakech

Thanks to Riad Star who hosted our stay in Marrakech. Rooms at the Riad start at £140 per night bed and breakfast. The Riad is one of four in the Marrakech-Riad family, which are all well located close to all the major sights of the Medina, with English-speaking Moroccan staff who will offer advice, airport transfers, book restaurants, and lend you a local mobile so they can rescue you if you get lost in the Souk! Each Riad has between 4 and 7 bedrooms, making them ideal to book as a group if you are planning a gathering of family or friends, or for couples planning a romantic getaway.

Heather and Guy flew to Marrakech courtesy of easyJet who fly from Bristol to Marrakech on Tuesdays and Saturdays – perfect for a long weekend break. EasyJet also fly to Marrakech from Gatwick, Stanstead and Manchester so you really have no excuse!

We also found the free Marrakech-Riad app was indispensable for finding our way around the Medina and full of useful tips and information about sightseeing, restaurants and shopping. The app features a GPS responsive map of the old town medina which saves you from getting lost in the maze of narrow lanes and the latest version has been extended to cover the new town area of Marrakech. Download the free Marrakech-Riad app from iTunes here

More things to see in Morocco

Marrakech – on shopping, sightseeing and (not) getting lost in the souk
Paradise Valley – Blue pools and waterfalls in Morocco – video
Top 10 things to do in Marrakech

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at - Read the original article here

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A cool boutique hotel in Copenhagen – the Andersen Hotel – video

In a city like Copenhagen that’s awash with cool Scandinavian design, the Andersen Hotel manages to combine colourful and trendy decor with a warm welcome and above-and-beyond service. We stayed at the Andersen Hotel for a weekend break in February and found it was ideally located for seeing the sights of Copenhagen and convenient for getting to and from the airport.

Our Junior Suite in the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen Photo:

Our Junior Suite in the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen

But don’t be surprised if you pass a shop window full of sex-toys and fishnet body-stockings as you walk the short distance from the Central Station to the hotel, or head to the Kødbyen meat packing district nearby to try out one of the excellent restaurants. Vesterbro, where the Andersen Hotel is located, is the red light district of Copenhagen but also a mixed neighbourhood with bars, restaurants and designer boutiques that’s known for its nightlife scene. In liberal Copenhagen everyone takes these things in their stride.

I hope you enjoy the video below about the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen

If you can’t see the video above of Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen view it on my blog here or on YouTube here

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Walking in from the street, the large reception area felt instantly cosy, with a quirky round fire burning on the wall and the chess sets laid out for a game, under the oversized pink and purple lamp shades. Candles glowed in the purple glass holders and a freshly brewed coffee was available on request. If you’re downstairs between 5 and 6pm you’ll be offered a glass of wine on the house, which in pricy Copenhagen is much appreciated by thirsty guests. Just around the corner from the hotel is the Mikkeller micro-brewery and bar where you can taste Copenhagen brewed ales with live music.

Reception area of the Andersen Hotel in Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo:

The cosy and welcoming reception area of the Andersen Hotel in Vesterbro, Copenhagen

Our Amazing Junior Suite on the third floor was decorated in a Mermaid colour scheme which the hotel describes as “vibrant aqua’s, turquoise and lime colours on a graphic earth ground base in magical harmony” and it was good to be transported to the vibrant tropics and away from the grey February day. All the room names have superlatives here; the Standard rooms are Cool; the Deluxe rooms are Brilliant; the Superior rooms are Wonderful  and we were hopeful they’d live up to their name.

The seating area of our Junior Suite at the Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen Photo:

The seating area of our Junior Suite at the Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen

Since we had the largest style of room, our Amazing Junior suite had a spacious sitting area with a turquoise velvet sofa, a little glass coffee table just big enough to rest a couple of wine glasses and a flat screen TV that swung round to be viewed either from the sofa or the bed. There was a shaggy green rug on the light wood flooring and a mural on the wall stacking the names of other places you might want to visit on your travels; Oslo, Riga and Stockholm among them. As my laptop is my constant companion, I was pleased to find that there was free, fast wifi throughout the hotel and in our bedroom.

There was enough storage in the single wardrobe for a couple on a weekend break to hang their party clothes and next to it was a fridge and safe with a clear perspex ‘mini-bar’ perched on top with some individual wine bottles and snacks to purchase. The bed was super-comfy, with a soft and fluffy duvet which we squirted liberally with the sleep spray provided and drifted off in a cloud of lavender. Our room was on the corner of the building overlooking the street, so the sound of voices drifted up to us late at night and in the early morning we were awoken by the clattering of service lorries. If you are a light sleeper like me and not so much of a party animal, I would probably ask for a room that overlooks the internal courtyard rather than the street.

The bathroom in our Junior Suite at Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen Photo:

The bathroom in our Junior Suite at Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen

The equally colourful turquoise bathroom featured a Phillip Stark bathroom suite with a large rectangular sink, well-lit mirror and hairdryer on the wall. While most of the rooms have a walk-in shower, our Junior Suite had a bath with powerful shower above, which we had the option of sharing with the Andersen Hotel rubber duck. Surrounded by so many local design names I was surprised that the neroli and cedar toiletries were from the Green Park range by English company Molton Brown, but then the hotel also uses Designer’s Guild furnishings so perhaps there’s an Anglophile thing going on.

I had a snoop around some of the other rooms to see how they compared to our Junior Suite and was impressed that even the smaller rooms had the same levels of design and comfort, all slightly different while incorporating the turquoise “Mermaid” colour scheme or the fuschia and purple “Princess” scheme that’s found in the lobby. Take a look below at my photo of some of the other bedrooms.

Cool Standard Single Room in the Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen Photo:

Cool Standard Single Room in the Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen

Cool Standard Double Room in the Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen Photo:

Cool Standard Double Room in the Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen

Brilliant Deluxe Double room at Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen Photo:

Brilliant Deluxe Double room at Andersen Hotel, Copenhagen

Breakfast was served downstairs in the dining area which was partitioned off with a curtain during the day when not in use. The same pink and purple Princess colour scheme extended to the breakfast room, with wood and chrome cafe tables and perspex throne chairs which were surprisingly comfortable despite looking like something out of a Disney film.

Breakfast area at the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen Photo:

Breakfast area at the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen

There was an excellent spread, although the hotel does not serve hot dishes at breakfast and the nearest you’ll get is a warm boiled egg in a basket. Even so we found plenty to sustain us for a day’s sightseeing in Copenhagen, from dense grainy Danish bread wrapped in a napkin, cubes of local cheese to be sliced thinly with a wire cutter, miniature pastries and muesli with little bowls filled with nuts, seeds and dried fruit to sprinkle on top. Being Denmark you could wash it all down with beetroot and carrot juice, an unusual tea with a names like Jade Wings or Green Mint from the colourful Osterlandsk tins, or even a warming nip Gamel Dansk liquor.

Breakfast at the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen Photo:

Breakfast at the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen

Throughout our three night stay we found that the staff were extremely helpful with plentiful suggestions and recommendations, going out of their way to get us the information we needed and to look things up on the internet.  When I asked for some suggestions from the lovely receptionist, Anne Mette on romantic places to go in Copenhagen, she provided me with a whole printed list of suggestions on our return to the hotel, having researched it for us while we were out. The staff at Andersen Hotel seemed to be recruited for their warm and helpful personalities and nothing was too much trouble.

Extending this customer friendly approach, the hotel offers a Concept 24 option which can be requested when you book, and allows you to keep your room for a full 24 hours from your check in time. Around 60% of the guests take advantage of this option, as we did, which meant that having arrived in the evening, we could check out later in the day, allowing us to keep our room until the afternoon before heading off to the airport.

"Happy Hour" a glass of wine at Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen Photo:

“Happy Hour” a glass of wine at Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen

Andersen Hotel is ideal for….

Couples, groups of friends, leisure travellers and even business travellers who want a conveniently located base in Copenhagen for sightseeing, eating out and nightlife. We loved the friendly service, trendy decor, delicious breakfast and the free glass of happy hour wine.

Andersen Hotel may not be for you if….

You have young children or are easily offended by the red light aspects of the Vesterbro neighbourhood, or want a hotel that has a restaurant or wide range of facilities such as spa or gym.

Thanks to Andersen Hotel who provided a complimentary weekend stay for Heather and Guy.

Andersen Boutique Hotel, Helgolandsgade 12, DK- 1653 Copenhagen V. Reservations: Tel: +45 3331 4344

For more information, reservation and prices visit the Andersen Hotel website. At time of writing typical room rates seen on the website for a weekend stay for 2 people with breakfast were; Standard rooms: 1445DKr – 1695 DKr , Deluxe Rooms: 1645 DKr -1895 DKr , Superior Rooms: 1725 DKr – 2025 DKr, Junior Suite: 2025 DKr – 2325 DKr

What else did we enjoy in Vesterbro?

On our first evening we took a short walk from Andersen Hotel to the Kødbyen or Meat-Packing district that sits within the Vesterbro neighbourhood. It was dark so we didn’t really see a lot of the many bars and cafes in this area, but we loved Bio Mio, an organic brasserie-style cafe with a very friendly, relaxed atmosphere, ideal for groups of friends.

Bio Mio Organic Restaurant

Bio Mio Organic Restaurant in Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo:

Bio Mio Organic Restaurant in Vesterbro, Copenhagen

If we’d had more time we would have liked to also try out Kodbyens Fiskebar which specialises in fish and seafood with good wines in an informal setting and Mikkeller, a bar and micro-brewery just round the corner from the hotel, which has 20+ ales on tap from Copenhagen and around the world.

Claus Meyer deli

Claus Meyer Deli in Copenhagen Photo:

Claus Meyer Deli in Copenhagen

At the far end of Vesterbro bordering the more upmarket Frederiksberg we had lunch on our last day at the Meyers Deli which servers delicious light dishes and Smørrebrød, where you’ll be tempted by all the other Claus Meyer juices, jams and preserves as well as some fresh dishes to take away.

Museum of Copenhagen

The Museum of Copenhagen, Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo:

The Museum of Copenhagen, Vesterbro, Copenhagen

At the Museum of Copenhagen which we passed by chance, we had a look around the ground floor exhibitions which change regularly and were currently on the theme of immigration and Becoming a Copenhagener. Upstairs we enjoyed an exhibition on the theme of the many different kinds of love, which incorporated the writings and possessions of Copenhagen philosopher and writer Soren Kierkegaard.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Only a 10 minute walk from the Andersen Hotel, right opposite Tivoli Gardens we loved the sculpture museum and art gallery of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, built to house the impressive collection of brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen which includes plenty of Impressionist paintings that you’ll recognise.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen Photo:

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen

More information for visiting Copenhagen

While in Copenhagen we enjoyed a gastro-cruise as part of the Copenhagen Cooking festival, one of the biggest food festival in Northern Europe which takes place in August and February. The festival showcases the best of Danish and Nordic Cuisine  with special events throughout the month of February that combine artistic, musical and gastronomic experiences hosted by different restaurant and venues around Copenhagen.  Look out for the summer edition of the Copenhagen Cooking festival in August. Read about our gastro-cruise here.

We used the Copenhagen Card during our stay for free public transport by bus, train and metro as well as free admission to 75 museums and attractions. The Copenhagen Card costs are; 24 hrs – 299 DKr Adult, 159 DKr Child; 48 hrs – 449 DKr Adult, 199 DKr Child; 72 hrs –  529 DKr Adult, 239 DKr Child. We used the card to get free entry to many of the sights we visited on this and previous visits such as Ny Carlsberg Typtotek, Rosenborg Slot, The Museum of Copenhagen, The Harbour Cruise and Tivoli Gardens as well as for getting around on the metro and train.

For more information about visiting Copenhagen, see the Visit Copenhagen official Tourism website. Thanks to Wonderful Copenhagen who hosted our weekend visit to Copenhagen.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at - Read the original article here

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Our Paris hotel with a view – review of Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse – video

During our pre-Christmas weekend break in Paris we stayed at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse, a large, modern hotel in the 15th arrondissement of Paris on the Rive Gauche, which is well located for business and a great base for sightseeing. The staff were friendly and helpful and we enjoyed our stay in a Deluxe room with views over the city from the 23rd floor and dinner in the Cafe Atlantic restaurant. Read on for my review of Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse and what to see in this neighbourhood of Paris.

Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

Location Location

We found the Hotel Pullman Montparnasse easily after our Friday night Air France flight into Charles de Gaule airport and it took us around an hour by train and metro to reach the hotel. Hotel Pullman has excellent transport links, being opposite Gare Montparnasse, with two metro stations within a 5-10 minute walk and if you’re arriving by car it’s also convenient to drive in from the Periferique ring-road that circles Paris. We found arriving by Metro was pretty straightforward, but there’s also a useful Air France Les Cars bus connection that runs from both Charles de Gaule and from Orly Airport and stops opposite the hotel.

The hotel faces Gare Montparnasse, one of the major Paris rail hubs, with cars coming and going from the underground car parks, and the immediate neighbourhood did not have much character. Hotel Pullman is housed in a multi-story building which gives great views if you have a room on the upper floors although not especially charming to look at from the outside.

While Montparnasse isn’t really a major sightseeing area, there are several things of interest within a short walk, such as the lively bars and brasseries of Boulevard du Montparnasse, the 210m tall Tour Montparnasse close by with a viewing platform and restaurant at the top and the Jardin du Luxembourg not too far away. It will take you around 15-20 minutes by metro to reach the central sightseeing areas of Paris such as Notre Dame.

I hope you enjoy the video below of Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

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Checking In

First impressions were good as we walked down the steps into the large, bright reception area and were checked in quickly and efficiently. We took the lift to our Classic room on the 21st floor, but oh dear, our room was not quite ready and so we had to head 20 floors down again to reception. The reception staff were apologetic and we were later given a Deluxe room, on the 23rd floor with a view towards Tour Montparnasse. On checking in, we were given vouchers for our breakfast in the Justin restaurant on the first floor, which although a little impersonal meant that there were no delays to be seated at breakfast.

On the ground floor next to reception we found a large, open lounge area, with modern sculptural easy chairs in shades of lichen green, red and tan with a green carpet and a lighting effect that kept changing the colours subtly. Despite the hotel’s size there seemed to be plenty of room for everyone and the 60s style bubble chairs were a great hit with the teenagers and kids.

Ground floor lounge of Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Ground floor lounge of Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

Sweet dreams?

Our Deluxe room on the 23rd floor was spacious, with modern decor of coffee coloured walls, a tall leather headboard, and curtains in a brown satin fabric with a light excluding lining. From this floor we had a great view from the window over Paris towards Tour Montparnasse. There was a curvy white desk with a flat screen TV with all the information you need about the hotel and other practical information about Paris. The neutral tones were highlighted with a black leather desk chair and a couple of red suede effect modern chairs at a small round table, with a Nespresso machine to one side. The bathroom was brown marble with a square white sink on a wooden vanity surface and powerful shower over the bath, with nice orange flower Roger and Gallet toiletries. The overall effect was elegant in a masculine way.

Our Deluxe bedroom at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Our Deluxe bedroom at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

We learned that the hotel had gone through a renovation a couple of years ago and the red and black scheme is the new one which you’ll find in the superior and deluxe rooms. While the classic rooms were also refreshed during the renovation, they do not have the more modern furniture and colour scheme, so if you want the latest design you’ll need to go for a superior or deluxe room. I was also perplexed by the lack of a folder of information about the hotel facilities, menus and room service but on enquiring discovered that the Pullman policy is to reduce the amount of paper in the hotel, so all the information can be accessed through the TV. I suspect that for men who love to fiddle with the remote contol this would be ideal, while for others it could be stressful to have to work out the technology just to check the room service menu.

Who’s staying here?

Although the atmosphere and decor was well suited to the business traveller there were a mixture of guests staying at the weekend, as you’d expect. With 900+ beds, the hotel is one of the few Paris hotels large enough to host conferences in the centre next door, but the main business travellers I spied while we were there were a steady stream of airline crew. There were also plenty of couples and smaller groups, a few with children, as well as a large group of Japanese teenagers visiting Paris on a student holiday, laden down with Galaries Lafayette shopping bags. A benefit for both business and leisure travellers was free wifi in all the rooms which I found to be pretty fast and there was a business centre on the ground cloor, equipped with computers and printers.

What’s for breakfast?

After a sound night’s sleep, we really enjoyed the buffet breakfast, served in the Justin restaurant on the first floor which featured orange and dark wood chairs as well as elegant red and silver Christmas bauble arrangements. Despite the size of the hotel, there was no crush and we were seated quickly and served a cup of coffee. I noticed that the restaurant was large, but only the central portion was in use, a good arrangement to allow for the large number of guests when the hotel is full but making for a cosy atmosphere when there are fewer guests. To one side the restaurant had a sloping glass conservatory roof, which looked out onto a garden which despite us being above ground level was planted with grass and shrubs. I wondered if we could get outside if the weather was fine and the roof garden gave a pleasant aspect for a city hotel that has no other garden areas. The breakfast buffet was excellent with fresh pastries and a good spread of all the usual cold meats and cheeses as well as a hot selection.

Breakfast in Restaurant Justin at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Breakfast in Restaurant Justin at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

The restaurant is open every weekday evening except Saturday and Sunday when meals are available in the Cafe Atlantic on the ground floor and there is a “Baby Brunch” buffet on Sundays which is popular with families, as children are entertained while parents can relax.

Dining in Cafe Atlantic

Having eaten out on Saturday night, we decided to dine in the hotel on Sunday evening as we were happy to have a night in after so much sightseeing when many of the local restaurants were closed. With Restaurant Justin closed on Sunday nights, we tried out Cafe Atlantic on the ground floor, starting with an aperitif at the chrome bar area, with acid yellow bar stools and a big TV screen on the wall playing sports. I really enjoyed my Ciapirinha cocktail while Guy had a beer before we moved to the casual dining area for a light dinner.

Cafe Atlantic Bar at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Cafe Atlantic Bar at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

I decided to try out the Power Menu, which is designed for businessmen looking for a rapid set-price lunch. My choice was the Plat de jour with 3 mini deserts at €29 and I enjoyed the nicely grilled fish with a creamy sauce of shallots and chives and mashed potatoes on the side. Guy’s choice was from Les Signatures menu with French classic dishes and he ordered the Jarret de Veau braisse with legumes confits €28 – a small steak with a mixture of braised Mediterranean vegetables, followed by a plate of cheese with green salad €11.

Dinner at Cafe Atlantic, Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Dinner at Cafe Atlantic, Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

Paris is an expensive city and if you’re watching your budget you probably wouldn’t be eating in the hotel, but I thought the prices were fair for a hotel of this quality and the service was friendly and efficient. While the food and atmosphere were enjoyable, I’d say Cafe Atlantic isn’t really a destination bar or restaurant but a place where guests can find a pleasant meal when they are too tired to go out and brave the buzzing nightlife of Boulevard du Montparnasse.

Dinner at Cafe Atlantic, Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

Dinner at Cafe Atlantic, Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

What’s there to do?

I sought the recommendations of the concierge on the best things to see close to the hotel and here are his suggestions;

Tour Montparnasse, for the best views over Paris especially in the evening when the nearby Eiffel tower is all lit up. There’s a viewing platform at the top and the Ciel de Paris restaurant and champagne bar which can be expensive, as you’re paying for the view and the Wow factor. There’s a small branch of Galerie Lafayette department store at the base of the tower.

View of Tour Montparnasse from our Deluxe room at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse Photo:

View of Tour Montparnasse from our Deluxe room at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse

Jardin du Luxembourg is a classic Parisian park 20 minutes walk from the hotel that is full of beautiful parterres, fountains and statues – a park for lovers but also fun for families as there’s a small boating lake where you can rent old fashioned toy boats to sail. There’s a branch of the Angelina’s tea room in the Musee du Luxembourg where you can try their famous hot chocolate and Mont Blanc meringue covered with chestnut cream.

The Saint-Suplice church is one of the largest churches in Paris, second only to Notre-Dame in size. This was the church where the famous French writer, Victor Hugo was married and you can also see frescoes by Eugene de la Croix. The church is in the elegant neighbourhood of Saint-Germain-des-Pres where you will find some of the designer boutiques like Chanel and Louis Vuitton as well as classic brasseries, such as Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore that were frequented by 19th century artists and writers. (25 mins or 2 stops on the metro)

The Catacombes are a must-see attraction for teenagers, housing the bones and skulls that were moved from the Cemetery of the Innocents in the 18th century to be relocated in this underground quarry. Be aware that there may be a queue as entrance is limited to 200 people at any one time. Entrance cost €8 and audioguide €3. (20 mins walk, 4 stops on the metro)

Le Bon Marche on the Rive Gauche is the oldest department store in Paris, and is recommended for its elegant designs and professional staff (3 stops on the Metro)

Where to eat out?

Here are the concierge suggestions for where to eat out while staying at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse. Be aware that eating out in Paris is expensive by UK standards and you should expect to pay €40-€100 per person for dinner.

On Boulevard du Montparnasse you’ll find plenty of bars and brasseries although many are of the ‘just for tourists’ kind. For a classic brasserie try La Closerie des Lilas (171 Boulevard du Montparnasse) which in the 1920s became a favourite of writers such as Earnest Hemmingway and Scott Fitzgerald. Another brasserie to try is La Rotonde (105 Boulevard du Montparnasse) which was frequented by artists such as Picasso and Modigliani before the Second World War and for some of the best seafood in Paris make a reservation at Le Dome (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse) which serves fresh fish and classical French dishes in a large, historic dining room.

If you are looking for a bistro that’s more intimite you could try l’Assiette (181 Rue du Chateau) in a former butchers shop which is charming with a simple French front but the chef, David Rathgeber is a student of Alain Ducasse. Another Bistro to try is Le Chardenoux des Pres (27 Rue du Dragon in Saint-Germain-des-Pres) run by top chef Cyril Lignac.

American guests sometimes like a hamburger and are directed to Ralph Lauren’s mansion at 173 Boulevard de Saint Germain which has been converted into a showcase for the Ralph Lauren brand with fashion and home ranges on the upper floors and Ralph’s American restaurant on the ground floor for American dishes, with a private courtyard which is lovely to eat out in summer.

Families staying in Montparnasse might enjoy eating at the casual dining chain Hippopotamus (68 Bouleverd du Montparnasse) and the brasserie La Rotonde mentioned above (105 Boulevard du Montparnasse) is also good for families.

Who will Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse suit best?

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Pullman which is ideally suited for business and leisure travellers who want a confortable, well located hotel as a base for sightseeing. Those looking for a romantic break with charm and character would need to book elsewhere, as this is a large hotel with 900+ bedrooms, although it effortlessly accommodated all guests and we never felt crowded. The decor of the hotel is modern, with an elegant and slightly masculine feel to the Superior and Deluxe rooms, while the Classic rooms were pleasant but with less up to date furnishings. The hotel would suit couples, groups of friends, business travellers and families with older children and is also ideal for group bookings as its size enables it to easily accommodate larger parties.

Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse : 19 Rue Commandant René Mouchotte, 75014 Paris

Rooms at Hotel Pullman Paris Montparnasse for a weekend spring break for 2 people with breakfast are from £140/night for a Classic Room, £160/night for a Superior room, £175/night for a Deluxe room (Based on prices at time of writing on the Hotel Pullman website – but may vary according to demand and season). Thanks to Hotel Pullman for hosting Heather and Guy for their weekend in Paris.

All the Paris posts

A Postcard from Notre Dame de Paris
The fresh taste of Paris – our tour of Marche d’Aligre with Viator
Dine with the locals in Paris (via Guadaloupe) – with Cookening
25 delicious food tips in Paris – from top bloggers and Paris locals
Our winter weekend in Paris – the food, the sights, the video

Visitor Information for your weekend in Paris

Flights: Heather and Guy flew with Air France from Bristol to Paris – thanks to Air France for providing Heather’s flight. There are several flights per day with Air France to Paris Charles de Gaule Airport from London Heathrow and other regional airports.

Getting from the airport: The best value and quickest way to get from Charles de Gaule Airport (also known as Roissy) is to take the train directly from the airport station (a 10-15 min walk from the arrival gates). We bought a ticket at the machine (around €9.50 one way) in the station which covered our journey on the RER regional train to central Paris, with an easy change onto the Metro to take us to Hotel Pullman. The whole journey was around 1 hour from CDG Airport to Montparnasse. An alternative which might suit you if you are staying near Montparnasse is the Air France ‘Les Cars’ Airport Bus which drops you right opposite the Hotel Pullman Montparnasse  (around €16.10 one way).

Getting around: We found the metro to be an easy and convenient way to get around and all tickets are valid on metro and buses. We considered buying the Ticket Mobilis day passes but were glad we didn’t in the end as we found that a ‘Carnet’ or book of 10 individual metro tickets (€13.30) lasted us both for the weekend, as we only took 1-2 Metro journeys each day and walked to many places as the weather was good.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at - Read the original article here

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