This place would make anyone feel like a love god

Staying in the best hotel room in town was a good starting point for testing the French capital's romantic reputation

My self-image as a man of the people (always a somewhat flimsy conceit, I admit) has taken a dive off the eighth-floor Juliet balcony. Not just any balcony but the one that leads the eye out over the zinc rooftops of the 8th arrondissement on to the most ridiculously romantic view in Paris. From my penthouse suite at the Plaza Athénée, I am no longer a mere mortal, I am an emperor of the senses or possibly a minor love god; the Eiffel Tower has been placed in the middle of my field of vision. And it seems to exist pri-marily to flatter me.

I am, I hasten to add, only a part-time emperor. Or a deity with a lucky lottery ticket. The room rate of Eiffel Suite 888 is as dizzying as the view. It is enough to induce a nose bleed – €6,000 (£5,340) per night (and breakfast is extra!). It is not now, nor will ever be, in my budget but luckily I am not paying. Despite all the attentiveness that accompanies me like a cloud from the moment I set foot on the premises, I have a delirious sense of not belonging. The Plaza Athénée is more used to hosting the likes of Jackie O and Johnny D (Depp that is), Rudy Valentino and Leo DiCaprio. And that's without mentioning those who would prefer not to be mentioned.

This is an exalted and terrifying realm. The hotel boasts that its 550 staff are here to "anticipate guests' every need". The needy can choose from six different kinds of pillow, including one called the Cervical Pillow which is "essential to a night with no cervical pains". In comparison, my "needs" seem so footling that I am embarrassed by them. I need to raise my game. Perhaps the Eiffel Tower could be moved a few inches to the right? Maybe room service could deliver a house-trained ring-tailed lemur to my suite?

Suite 888 is a billionaire's love shack. It has an entrance hall, a large sitting room, a dressing room, a bedroom and two bathrooms. The style is repro- Art Deco tricked out in Macassar ebony and mahogany. A huge flat-screen television is set in a mirrored wall. The windows are draped in linen and silk curtains. The embroidered cushions on the twin velvet sofas are by Lesage.

It is theatrical; a stage set for a Hollywood rom-com. I am told the concluding episode of the Sex and the City TV series was shot in the hotel. According to the storyline, Carrie decides she doesn't belong in Paris but, silly girl, what does she know?

I have another American in Paris on the phone – a fellow journo. His reaction to my lodgings is illuminating. There is a long pause, then: "Wow! What? How? Who's paying? I thought we're all supposed to be tightening our belts."

A round of similar phone calls to some peripheral contacts in Paris makes me realise how popular I am suddenly. A steady stream of visitors begins: friends of Facebook friends, colleagues I have not heard from in 10 years, an ex-partner's sister's ex-boyfriend ...

As most of Paris seems keen to beat a path to my door I hold court and use the opportunity to gen up on my mission. Is Paris really the romantic destination it is cracked up to be? Or is that just another marketing myth spooned out to naïve foreigners? My guests, Parisian-born and expats alike, are united. Their city (adopted or native) is number one for lovers.

"People say we are arrogant," says TV technician Freddie with that infuriating Gallic shrug, "but we have so much to be arrogant about. Paris is the most beautiful city in the world." He announces this as an unimpeachable fact.

As a Londoner, I bridle. The endless queues at the Louvre or, indeed, at most of Paris's overworked landmarks are hardly conducive to lovers. Their Ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde is pathetic in comparison with our mighty Eye.

And even when it comes to food, as a London loyalist I believe that we have caught up and in some cases bettered Paris for quality and variety. This is heresy, of course, particularly in my present surroundings and I am in danger of being defenestrated from my own suite. But the gauntlet is down.

Leave the Louvre to the coach parties, I am instructed, and for la vie romantique try the Musées Rodin, Jacquemart-André, Carnavalet or Marmottan instead.

The Musée Marmottan Monet (to give its full name) in the 16th is such an anonymous building that I walk past the entrance. Inside though, it is a boutique-sized gem, making the Louvre feel like a noisy factory of culture. The museum is housed in a former hunting lodge that belonged to the eponymous Marmottan family and initially existed to show off a fine but now unfashionable collection dedicated to the First Empire.

The Marmottan gains its cachet for housing the largest collection of Monets in the world – donated by Michel Monet, the painter's youngest son, in 1966. Claude's palette splatted with paint hangs on a wall like just another painting. De-contextualised it looks more like one of Marcel Duchamp's Dadaist "readymades".

There is no mistaking the stars of the collection, though. Claude's obsessive working and reworking of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny dazzle the eye from room to room. They seem to float not just on water but in light, and even on a dull grey winter day they promise warmth and colour. Lovers would surely leave the museum shimmering in the afterglow.

Another tip from my new best friends takes me into the Bois de Boulogne in search of a light lunch. The Chalet des Iles restaurant can only be reached by a short ferry ride across the duck pond and the manner of arrival alone guarantees a little romantic frisson. Peacocks parade along the guttering of the chalet's roofs which adds to the exoticism. The location scores highly for a tryst but the food, admittedly on a slow afternoon when the main kitchen is closed, is not the food of love. Even the cheese platter is a disappointment – yes, it can happen in Paris.

Dinner back at the hotel, however, in the Relais Plaza, more than compensates. The approach corridor from the lobby fills me with cold dread. Instead of stylish deco prints as might be expected, it is lined with signed photos of famous diners past and present (erring more on the past) like a cheap old tratt in the Charing Cross Road. Except the guest list here is a touch stratospheric: Liza Minnelli, Richard Burton, Yuri Gagarin, the Aga Khan and, I blink, Mata Hari.

The meal is beyond caveat. The oysters are simply the best I have ever had and the sea bass is flaky, moist and infused with a delicate smokiness. The executive chef at the hotel is Alain Ducasse so I guess the bar is set high. And this is only their second restaurant, a mere bistro. I struggle to imagine what the Olympian summits of the main Ducasse restaurant might be like.

The weather has turned from being sulky to outright stormy. The Eiffel Tower looks like a lighthouse with a searchlight scanning the murk that has enveloped the city. The rain lashes down, drumming on the roof tiles like a band of ghosts. The wind, too, is howling a demonic tune. It is the perfect weather for lovers, forcing you deep under the duvet; and furnished with the perfect excuse to never leave the sheltering embrace of luxury.

A late breakfast is ordered from room service. Coffee and patisserie are rolled into place on a table in front of the picture window. Stripes of sunshine and racing clouds are throwing shapes across the basin of Paris. The Eiffel Tower is still there dominating the vista and it occurs to me that I can't remember the last time I went up to the top. The tower demands to be climbed – because like Everest, it is there. And, unlike Everest, it probably won't kill me.

It is not long before I am rushing past the earthbound emporia of Avenue Montaigne, past Prada, Gucci, Chanel and Bulgari. My mind is on higher things. Across the Pont de l'Alma and along the Quai Branly. Soon I am clattering up the iron stairs of the south pillar. Up through a forest of girders to the first platform and then on to the second.

From the top deck all of Paris is miniaturised. Lovers pose for pictures. Children rush about pointing out their favourite landmarks: Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, the mini-Manhattan at La Défense, the green stretch of the Bois de Boulogne, and the sun glinting off the golden dome of Les Invalides.

But my eye is tracing the line up the Avenue Montaigne to the roofline of one tiny building among many others. There under the grey tiles is a Juliet balcony; the picture window is open. Inside, I suspect a regiment of maids is probably tweaking the flowers, buffing the furniture and fluffing up the carpet.

Soon I will come crashing down to earth.

Compact facts

How to get there: Eurostar (08705 186 186; offers return fares from London, Ebbsfleet and Ashford to Paris from £59. From 23 February, with the restoration of the full, faster service, Eurostar will operate up to 19 services a day in each direction between London and Paris.

The Plaza Athénée (00 33 1 53 67 66 67;, offers double rooms from €650 (£570) per night. Suite 888 costs from €6,000 per night.

Further Information

Musée Rodin (; Musée Jacquemart-André (; Musée Carnavalet (; Musée Marmottan Monet (; Chalet des Iles (

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick