New luxury Right Bank hideaway also home to one the hottest bistros in Paris

Article and photos by Josette King

 The main entrance of La Régalade

The main entrance of La Régalade

In a city that boasts more than its fair share of venerable grande dame properties, it’s luxury boutique hotels that have been creating a buzz in Paris in recent years. And few have buzzed louder than the recently opened five star Hotel de Nell. What I enjoyed most about my recent visit there was, well, everything! The location first of all, in the heart of the tony 9th arrondissement, a Right Bank neighborhood of understated side streets lined with elegant balconied buildings of quarry stone, just north of the Grands Boulevards on the way to Montmartre. Although mainly overlooked by tourists, the quietly chic 9th has been a hub of Parisian intellectual and artistic life for more than two centuries, and retains to this day its 19th century atmosphere.

 The neo-gothic Church of Saint Eugène and Sainte Cecile

The neo-gothic Church of Saint Eugène and Sainte Cecile

One block down the street from the Hotel de Nell is the Conservatoire (music and dance academy founded in 1795) where Paris was first introduced to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1828, and Hector Berlioz premiered his Symphonie Fantastique two years later. Around the corner, is the church of Saint Eugène et Sainte Cécile (Jules Verne was married there), a unique 19th century neo-gothic church, the first in Paris with its interior entirely metallic. The legendary Folies Bergères cabaret, with its 1930 Art Déco façade recently returned to its original gilded splendor, is one street over. And the place where George Sand and Frederic Chopin once lived (in separate apartments across from each other) is just a short walk away.

 The newly restored façade of the Folies Bergères cabaret

The newly restored façade of the Folies Bergères cabaret

I thoroughly enjoyed my leisurely exploration of the neighborhood. And I loved even more returning home to the serene luxury of the Hotel de Nell after my forays back in time to Paris’ Belle Epoque. Behind its impeccably restored 19th century façade with its lacy wrap-around wrought iron balconies, noted architect and designer Jean-Michel Vilmotte created a tranquil minimalist retreat that brilliantly combined mid-20th century-inspired furnishings with oriental details. The resulting Zen-like atmosphere permeated every corner of the property. But nowhere was it more in evidence than in my light-filled fifth story room with its romantic view of the neighborhood rooftops and its stunning bathroom with a white marble Japanese-style soaking tub and shoji screen-like unpolished glass windows.

 A votive candle cast a soft glow on the bathroom

A votive candle cast a soft glow on the bathroom

Then on the street floor, there was La Régalade, one of Paris’ hot new bistros. Here Bruno Doucet, one of the city’s leading young chefs, dished out a cuisine that has become so popular in recent years that a new word had to be invented for it: bistronomy. This is where gastronomy, and the skills Chef Doucet honed in the kitchens of Pierre Gagnaire and Jean-Pierre Vitago, is translated into simpler yet imaginative, more convivial bistro fare offered as a friendly three-course prix fixe formula. Small wonder that whether for lunch or dinner, reservations were strongly recommended during the week and definitely necessary on weekends.

La Cenerentola at Paris Palais Garnier delightful

By Elena del Valle*


The interior of the Palais Garnier

For years we had wanted to attend an operatic performance at the Palais Garnier, the old opera in Paris, France. We had enjoyed one at Opera Bastille, the modern theater across town, and longed for the exuberant historic building’s greater intimacy. On our last visit to Paris we managed with no small amount of effort to obtain good seats in the ninth arrondisement building. La Cenerentola was one of a few operas performed in the theater that season and happily for us one that we liked.


Marianna Pizzolato (Angelina)


Claudia Galli (Clorinda), Nicola Alaimo (Dandini), Bruno De Simone (Don Magnifico), Marianna Pizzolato (Angelina), Maxim Mironov (Don Ramiro) et Anna Wall (Tisbe)

By the time we checked for tickets online several months in advance of our strip nearly all shows were sold out. Luck was on our side for a performance on a Sunday at 2:30 p.m. On the day of the three hour event, the weather was clear. We enjoyed a plentiful brunch prior to our arrival at the Palais.


The three sisters in La Cenerentola

I was thankful that we arrived in a good mood. When we went to pick up our tickets at the window we encountered a long line. Worse yet we discovered the opera cashier was unable to accept any of several credit cards we offered making it necessary for us to pay in cash. Once inside, the lines for the coat check and the restroom were so long we avoided both. This meant no food or beverages during the intermission. And we were forced to carry our sweaters and coats as we strolled along exploring the beautiful halls of the old building.

La Cenerentola (saison 2011-2012)

A scene in La Cenerentola


The ceiling of the Palais Garnier

 On the plus side, the interior of the theater was as pretty as we anticipated and the musical event was worthwhile on its own. While a few glitches detracted from the experience overall we were rewarded with an outstanding performance by the Bayerische Staatoper from Munich accompanied by the Orchestre et Choeur de l’Opera National de Paris.

*Photos of La Cenerentola courtesy of Opéra national de Paris/ Ch. Leiber and of the Palais Garnier by Gary Cox