Room Service: A literary favourite updated in Paris
Hotel Verneuil, Paris
Saturday 05 October 2013
There's something wonderfully reassuring about going back to a favourite hotel, the warm feeling of happy familiarity that rushes over you when you turn into the street. Of course, checking into "this year's most anticipated opening" and slipping between the crisp white sheets of a newly launched hotel is exciting, as is discovering the latest "best-kept secret," but sometimes it's just nice to go back to a place you know and love. Which for me, in Paris, is the Hotel Verneuil in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Not that everything stays the same, of course. Hotel Verneuil has recently had a makeover. New owner, Nicolas Nonon (who also has the Left Bank's Hôtel Sainte-Beuve), with the help of designer Charlotte Inchauspé, has completely revamped the interiors giving this narrow, little 17th-century townhouse, which was first registered as a hotel after the Second World War, a touch of contemporary pizzazz.
The old beams and woodwork in the cosy lounge are painted a soft shade of mole. The colour palette of taupe and turquoise is muted and unusual, the old wooden floors solid and aged, and the linen drapes and velvet sofas add a sense of modern luxury. The bar is a drinks tray in the corner, fuelling the fantasy that you're in a friend's home, the coffee table is scattered with papers and magazines, while the Faber fire is an innovative 21st-century touch.
A design motif throughout, is books, reflecting this part of the Left Bank's famous literary heritage. Down in the cavern-like breakfast room with its vaulted stone ceiling and mole-toned velvet banquettes, shelves are strewn with rolls of parchment tied with black ribbon and stacks of blank cream books – and, more importantly, a table piled high with moreish pastries. (You can also opt for breakfast in bed for no extra charge).
If you would like a little more independence, however, the hotel launched a newly renovated apartment, just around the corner on rue Mazarine, this spring. The sleek split-level, fourth-floor flat has no lift, but it does have rooftop views to the Eiffel Tower and church of Saint Germain des Prés. It's fully kitted out with flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi and international calls, a computer, iPod dock and Nespresso machine. The walls are adorned with photographic works from the nearby gallery Kamel Mennour, including a neon from Claude Leveque. The master bedroom features a round bed and panoramic views, and there's a second bedroom with a double bed and a sofa bed.
Directly opposite the house where French icon, singer-songwriter, artist and director, Serge Gainsbourg, once lived. This quiet side-street, lined with exclusive galleries and antiques shops, is right in the heart of the arty arrondisement. Saint-Germain-des-Prés was once the haunt of artists, poets, novelists and literary editors; Hemingway, Sartre, Picasso and Voltaire hung out in the cafés around here. It's within easy walking distance of the Musée d'Orsay and just over the sluggish Seine from the Louvre.
There are 26 rooms in this narrow, quirky little hotel, generally four on each landing, which you encounter as you wind your way up the steep staircase with its polished wood, wrought iron banister and retro blue patterned carpet, or crank skywards in the tiny faux lizard-skin-lined lift. Categorised as Classic, Club, Deluxe and Connecting, rooms are bijoux. Facing on to the street or the courtyard, the Classic is only 12 square metres, the Deluxe a roomier 21 square metres. This is the centre of Paris and it's all about location. Think cosy rather than cramped.
Our room, 302, looked out on the street and was a picture of taupe, cream and mushroom hues, with a metallic headboard, old beams painted white, a burnt orange feature wall hung with an oil painting and a velvet chair in teal with orange trim. The flat-screen televisions on the wall made the most of the space, an alcove beside the bed crammed with books – the colourful spines arranged at perpendiculars – continuing the literary theme. The sleek bathroom was well-stocked with L'Occitaine toiletries, bathrobes and slippers.
Hotel Verneuil, 8 rue de Verneuil, Paris, France (00 33 1 42 60 82 14; hotel-verneuil-saint-germain.com)
Doubles start at €169 B&B; apartment from €310; sleeps up to six
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