The Left Bank of Paris is all about small, singular delights. In the elegant, upscale neighbourhood of St-Germain-des-Prés, every street reveals artisanal treats. Here, a patisserie selling delicate macarons dusted in sugar and wrapped in gold leaf. There, a candlelit wine merchant's beckoning you in from the January cold. At the centre is the Place Saint-Sulpice, a pretty little square with a graceful 17th-century church, where Madame Sylvie has mastered the art of discreet hospitality at her understated yet immaculately decorated B&B.
The moment you step inside Hôtel Récamier, you breathe in the subtle, homely scent from the custom-made perfume that's spritzed through the hallways and rooms each day. There are parapluies propped by the door for when the Parisian skies open and staff in pressed black suits waiting to check you in. The decor unfolds in refined lines along the corridor, with a lounge and small outdoor terrace to one side. The look was devised by interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot, who is perhaps best known for the Coco Chanel suite at the Ritz.
A spiral staircase winds up to the 24 rooms, half of which have views of the Eglise St-Sulpice. Ours, Room 32, had a box of chocolates from La Maison Angelina, Fragonard toiletries from the Grasse-based perfumer and a minibar stocked with French wines and champagnes. The centrepiece, as with all the rooms, was an opulent canopied bed, made from thick, textured fabrics, with a mirror pinned above the pillows. We had a Juliet balcony that peered across to the church, where we could hear the bells chime by day and watch the light of the Eiffel Tower scan the skyline at night.
Have it delivered to your room or downstairs in the lounge. On the first morning, we opted for room service, having greedily ticked all the boxes on the menu the night before. The tray arrived with a gentle tap on the door and a groaning display of goodies. There was fresh fruit salad, filter coffee, orange juice, pain au chocolat and croissants, with creamy Beillevaire butter from the Loire. Eggs came poached with toast, but a generous cheese plate provided the pièce de résistance. For a less languorous approach, a cabinet in the stylish salon downstairs is opened up to reveal the same array, while in the afternoon it offers a complimentary cream tea.
Born in Lille and raised in Milan, Sylvie de Lattre started her career in residential property development. She travelled the world, living in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, before moving back to Paris 15 years ago. Her first solo project was the Hôtel Verneuil near the Musée d'Orsay in 1997, which she later sold. Next, she came the Hôtel Thérèse, on the Right Bank, which she continues to run today. Her most recent is the Récamier, opened in 2009. Here, she wanted to create the feeling of an elegant private house that was discreet, but not too formal. Madame Sylvie is sometimes found at her boutique next door or off attending to her other hotel. When absent, her small team of staff is on hand.
Stroll across the square to marvel at the sugary delights of Pierre Hermé (00 33 1 43 54 47 77; pierreherme.com) at 72 rue Bonaparte. There are macarons of every colour and flavour: try crème brûlée, praline, truffle or even foie gras (€11.70 for six). Lining the square are designers including Comptoir des Cotonniers, YSL and Zadig et Voltaire, but the real joy lies in the narrow streets that run north to Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Seine. Here, you can pick up nuts and nougat from La Pistacherie (00 33 1 43 29 08 11; lapistacherie.boolkit.com), or buy Provençal olive oils from Première Pression (00 33 1 43 26 79 72; ppp-olive.com).
The pit stop
Huddle up in one of the area's many restaurants: try Pouic Pouic (00 33 1 43 26 71 95), Le Relais Odéon (00 33 1 43 29 81 80; relaisodeon.com) or Côté Bergamote (00 33 1 43 26 50 56; bergamote.org) at 8 rue de Montfaucon, where we dined on delicious confit duck leg with honey and blackcurrant sauce for €15.90. La Dernière Goutte (00 33 1 43 29 11 62; ladernieregoutte.net) is a wonderfully atmospheric wine merchant on rue de Bourbon le Château, that hosts regular free wine tastings, while Café Le Pré (00 33 1 40 46 93 22; cafele preparis.com) at 4 rue du Four, serves a fearsome Green Beast absinthe cocktail or a more sedate hibiscus martini for €11.50.
Hôtel Récamier, 3 Place Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Germain, Paris, France (00 33 1 43 26 04 89; hotelrecamier.com). Doubles from €260, including afternoon tea. Breakfast is €18pp. Eurostar (08432 186186; eurostar.com) offers 18 daily services from London to Gare du Nord; return fares are being offered from £59 until 14 January.Reuse content