Paris at both ends: Hôtel Félicien and OFF Paris Seine
Not surprisingly, most visits to Paris focus on the city centre. The allure of grand museums, famous attractions, and beautiful architecture of course attract a lot of attention and are known throughout the world. Less familiar are the edges of Paris, parts of the city where Parisian life is lived by residents rather than tourists. Especially for return visitors to the City Of Light, a stay in less touristy areas of Paris presents a very rewarding experience.
Eastern Paris has undergone a startling renaissance in recent decades, an area where abandoned railway yards and disused buildings have been collectively transformed into one of the buzziest districts of the city. The French National Library was the last of President François Mitterand’s Grands Projets and, like the Grande Arche de la Défense, the Opéra Bastille, and the Pyramide du Louvre, changed the skyline of its neighbourhood. The Library’s four towers and the deceptively large courtyard between them brought change to the area, now calmly busy with small shops and cafés for locals. Relatively new to the Paris hotel scene is OFF Paris Seine, a barge transformed into a floating hotel. This unique choice of accommodation is located just about 200 metres from the Gare d’Austerlitz railway station and about 500 metres from the Gare de Lyon across the Seine. A popular choice among young and social visitors who enjoy the barge’s many outdoor areas, OFF Paris Seine provides the chance to stay directly on the river; it is almost possible to touch the water from rooms on the lower floor, so close is it to the windows. The rooms are small but smartly appointed; clever European design makes the most of the space. Nearby attractions are the Jardin des Plantes, one of the nicest gardens in Paris but much less frequented than more central gardens; the Mosquée de Paris, where the hamam and tea garden bring Parisians through the lovely courtyard of the city’s most prominent mosque; and the rue Mouffetard street market, one of the most authentic in the city.
On the far western side of the city in the wealthy 16th Arrondissement is Hôtel Félicien, sister property of OFF Paris Seine as part of the Elegancia hotel group. Despite being one of the largest districts in Paris, there are relatively few hotels in the 16th, a residential area often scoffed at by Parisians as snobby and boring. Not necessarily. Hôtel Félicien‘s friendly staff are only too helpful in providing information about the immediate vicinity and generally making a stay as comfortable as possible. There are several interesting sights within easy walking distance of this classy hotel decorated under the guidance of fashion designer Ted Lapidus; most of them are considerably less famous than the Eiffel Tower (a bit further away but also within walking distance). Architecture buffs will enjoy coming across landmark buildings that are unknown even to most Parisians; rue Mallet-Stevens, a short street named after the architect who designed the striking Art Déco houses lining it, is one of the them. The smaller version of the Statue Of Liberty in New York, which was a gift from France to the American people, is located close by at the tip of a narrow island in the middle of the Seine.
Inside the hotel itself, the rooms are smartly appointed, though a bit on the small side as is the norm in Paris. The coveted rooms on the top floor have private terraces, while the spa and chromotherapy pool provide places to relax after a day out exploring the neighbourhood. For accommodation in a part of residential Paris that is still convenient to the city centre, a stay at either end of the city at OFF Paris Seine or Hôtel Félicien helps to give visitors insight into a Paris beyond the crowded tourist areas.