In spite of recent events, Andrew Harper travel advisor Joe Colucci decided not to cancel his trip to Paris, where he spent four nights just before Thanksgiving. Although he initially felt apprehensive about going, he ended up having the best visit to the city he’s ever had. We recently sat down to interview him about his time there.
Tell us about your arrival at Le Bristol Paris. Did you feel welcome?
The welcome was almost embarrassing… I felt like I was a head of state! The Managing Director, Didier Le Calvez, and other management personnel were all outside to greet me. Upon entering the hotel, Leah Marshall, the Hotel Manager, gave me a big hug, as did Caroline Goux, the Oetker Collection’s V.P. of Sales. Throughout my stay — from the doormen to the concierges to Maxime and Mayla and others in the bar — everyone was so very kind and went out of their way to say hello to me.
You received quite an upgrade at the hotel. Tell us about the suite you stayed in, and your view.
I was fortunate to receive an upgrade to the hotel’s immense Panoramic Suite. This particular suite was featured in the film "Midnight in Paris." It has a small terrace with a view to Monmarte and over the rooftops of Paris. It was amazing.
Did you try either of Le Bristol’s restaurant?
I dined in their brasserie, 114 Faubourg, and in their Michelin three-star restaurant, Epicure. Both were outstanding! Service impeccable. The brasserie had a lovely relaxed feeling, but with sophistication. Epicure is a true gourmet experience. The restaurant looks over the hotel’s inner garden and is full of light. Because of its position in the hotel, there was this relaxed atmosphere and none of the stuffiness that one may associate with high-end French restaurants. Service outstanding and the staff were more than happy to explain the dishes or wines you were unfamiliar with. They were very gracious.
How about the bar? Any cocktails to recommend?
The bar is fantastic and a lot of fun! The Head Barman, Maxime Hoerth, won an award in 2011 as Best Craftsman of France. He also published a book on the cocktails he created. I did try his version of a Vodka Gimlet and his new version of a Negroni. The martinis were spot-on. The bar hosts DJs, and when I was there they had a great one playing 80’s music, and later it turned to rock. The bar was full of locals, as were the restaurants.
Le Bristol also has a highly regarded spa – did you have any treatments?
I had two spa treatments. I had an 80-minute deep-tissue massage with the in-house massage therapist, Peter. He was so good I offered to pay his way to Chicago. I also had a Russian-style Baniya treatment which was fantastic. The spa has its own floor, so you can go down to it dressed in your robe from your room.
It sounds like you had a really sensational stay. Why do you think the hotel made such an effort to welcome you so warmly?
I believe this is how they greet many of our Andrew Harper guests. Le Bristol's staff truly goes out of their way for any Andrew Harper subscriber who is at their hotel. I also think it was to show their appreciation that I did come to Paris only five days after those awful incidents. By me personally showing up, it gave them reassurance that our Travel Office will still be their ally through good times and bad.
How did Paris feel? Did you feel safe?
I felt very safe. I saw more police on the street, as well as many tourists and locals walking about. The Christmas market had been opened, and I walked around it along with many Parisian families. I stopped to get something to drink, and when this family of four heard me speak English, they greeted me and began to ask me questions. The two sons were in awe that I was from Chicago and only said "Michael Jordan!” At the end, the father shook my hand and said, “Thank you for not abandoning us.”
Did you discover any notable restaurants?
I had a great dinner at Caffé Stern, which is a wonderful Italian restaurant located in one of Paris’s old arcades. It was once a letterpress company, and the original woodwork is beautiful. I also had brunch at this other great Italian restaurant called Ober Mamma. It’s a great Sunday brunch option. They do not take reservations, so make sure you are in line by 12 p.m. It's not centrally located in the city, but it’s worth the taxi ride. They also offer dinner as well.
Would you say now is a good time to go to Paris? Or is it wise to wait?
I think it is a perfect time to go to Paris. If anything, the city is more secure than before. Upon my return, I contacted clients who were traveling there. I advised them that I felt very safe, and to please plan on going.
Interested in travel to Paris? Our travel advisors are here to help. Send us an email at [email protected] to start planning your trip today!