Paris is perfect for lovers and mothers

It's a tricky business, Mother's Day. Andrew Tuck used the occasion to throw down a challenge to travel agents

It would make a very good question for travel agents sitting their grandmaster examination – I hope that they have such a thing. What holiday would you recommend for a man in his thirties, his boyfriend and his 84-year-old mother? Add in the fact that his father died a few weeks earlier and this is something of a recovery session. Oh, and the 84-year-old can only walk short distances and needs a wheelchair much of the time.

It would make a very good question for travel agents sitting their grandmaster examination – I hope that they have such a thing. What holiday would you recommend for a man in his thirties, his boyfriend and his 84-year-old mother? Add in the fact that his father died a few weeks earlier and this is something of a recovery session. Oh, and the 84-year-old can only walk short distances and needs a wheelchair much of the time.

"Stay at home", "A day trip to Bognor" would surely come the replies.

Well don't listen to them. I, my mother and my better half have just had a hoot of a long weekend in Paris, where barring an incident with a highly polished and narrow marble spiral staircase (more of that later), everything went to plan. Indeed, it didn't just pass with ease and humour. Having my octogenarian mum along for the ride made me see Paris afresh. I even became enthused about the city's generous provision of kerb stones flush to the road and broad, well-maintained pavements (all important factors when there's a wheelchair in the equation).

Paris had seemed a good bet because of the effortless way Eurostar takes you from one city centre to the next and, although it may be the city stereotyped as the perfect destination for young lovers, it really has got more to offer than romantic walks and dinners à deux. Seeing that this was a treat, and my mother's first visit to Paris, we had decided to do it all in some style, booking cheap first-class tickets on the internet. From the start our trip was also aided by the wheelchair, which acted as a priority pass, gaining us better treatment than even the flourishing of a black Amex card.

When we joined the Customs queue at Waterloo, for example, a porter appeared within seconds and ushered us through the crowd, helping with our luggage, charming my mum. On the train, the staff were equally courteous and, at Gare du Nord, there was virtually a red carpet. When we went to join the snaking taxi queue, one of the rank's staff beckoned us to the front, found a people-carrier cab and had us whisked away. My mother was won over by the Parisians from the start and wouldn't hear a word against them. Sometimes surly? Pah!

Now before we go any further, let's just add that my mum has never stayed anywhere grand or chic. We are a big family and holidays were always amazing adventures but their backdrop was holiday cottages in, say, the Lake District, not swanky hotels in foreign cities. But today things are going to be different.

The hotel we have chosen is the Lancaster, an old townhouse just off the Champs-Elysées, close to the Arc de Triomphe. It was turned into a hotel in the 1920s by a Monsieur Emile Wolf from Switzerland, who was determined to maintain the feeling that this was a home. He and his daughter scoured antiques markets for furniture, clocks and paintings and soon guests including Marlene Dietrich, who lived in the Lancaster for three years, were swanning in. Since then the property has had only two other owners: the Savoy Group and now the legendary hotelier Grace Leo Andrieu.

Throughout this time, the original ethos has never been lost. The hotel still retains much of the original decoration but has been gently and stylishly updated with exotic fabrics; the planting of an exquisite courtyard garden; the creation of a library-cum-dining room; and lots of fussing over those important things like bed linen. It even has its own fragrance. More? OK, the bar and restaurant are open only to hotel guests so it is always quiet and oddly laid back for such an upmarket establishment. (They are interested in quality, not glitz, the manager assures me.) And it has such a loyal following that 40 per cent of its guests are regulars. In short, a good place to take someone you want to give the time of their life without making them feel overwhelmed, or on show.

And from the minute the cab pulls up at the door, it's obvious that we have made the perfect choice. An arm is proffered to steady my mum on the walk to the lobby; when we get to her room, she is given a special mat to make getting in and out of the shower safer; and is told that they can get her a stool so she can sit down while showering. The tone is never patronising. My mum is clearly impressed. Who wouldn't be? She has a room overlooking the garden; there's a bowl of persimmons and fresh dates and a card from the manager to welcome her; and the marble bathroom is decorated with white orchids. Our suite is even plusher, with walk-in wardrobes, double white-marble sinks, chandeliers, and a large balcony with views across the city to the Sacré Coeur in the far distance.

It's already mid-afternoon by the time we settle in but we have time to take my mum to Angelina's, the old tea house on the rue de Rivoli. Getting there involves pushing the wheelchair the entire length of the Champs-Elysées but those wide, even pavements mean that this is no hardship and, anyway, the weather is globally warmed mild. Angelina's is packed but the waitress clears a way for us through the sea of gilt chairs and makes room for the wheelchair at the table. I have never been treated with such courtesy.

Sticking with the theme of charming and traditional, that night we head over the Seine to Brasserie Lutètia, an old-fashioned dining hall that's celebrated for its seafood. It's as far removed from central London restaurants as you can imagine – there's none of that "we need the table back by nine" nonsense. There are families, groups of business people, lovers – two men and an 84-year-old fit in just fine. My mother already seems renewed: she's laughing and gossiping in a way I haven't seen for months, not since before my dad's illness left us all feeling lost. Or perhaps her new mood has got something to do with the quantity of wine we're slugging back.

Over the next two days the three of us – plus wheelchair – criss-cross the city. We never take the Metro or a bus. We break up the days with a trip on the Seine (thanks again to the staff on the Batobus who seemed delighted to have a wheelchair user on board), great meals and stops at the Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame. True, in St-Germain the pavements are narrower and wheelchair-pushing requires the dexterity of a rally driver if you are to avoid all those well-shod ankles. But it's only at Café Marly, the hip restaurant overlooking the courtyard of the Louvre, that we almost come unstuck.

There are some 30 spiral stairs made of marble between my mother and the loos. Her only chance is to walk up, not something that, with her heart, a doctor would recommend. But there's no option. So we climb, at the pace of an exhausted mountaineer dragging himself up the Eiger. But as soon as we reach our goal, two elegant women quickly grasp the situation and take my mum into the ladies. I hear them chatting, waiting for her to powder her nose, and then they return her to my charge, asking if they can be of any more assistance. Has the whole of Paris taken some happy pill?

On our final night we give ourselves a break and stay at the Lancaster for dinner. My mum has, she tells me, become attached to this lifestyle. She has decided it's rather enjoyable having someone turn down your bed at night, feed you the best food and wines. There is she believes only one thing wrong with Paris. Next time, she makes me promise, we'll pack the PG Tips.

Andrew Tuck stayed at the Lancaster, 7 Rue de Berri, Champs-Elysées, Paris (00 33 01 40 76 40 76; www.reservations@hotel-lancaster.fr). Double rooms start from £245 a night. Cheaper two-night weekend packages are also available. Contact the hotel for details, or call Leading Small Hotels of the World (0800 181 123; www.lhw.com). First-class tickets to Paris on Eurostar (0870 5186 186; www.eurostar.com) cost from £110, and standard fares from £70.

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