Paris & Normandy: Two Faces of France

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This summer Gordon and I found ourselves in France – a revisit to Paris for both of us and a first-ever visit to Normandy for Gordon, which was intended primarily as a birthday gift.  And yet, touring with General Graham Hollands, everyone’s favorite Normandy guide, was as much a gift to me as it was Gordon.  More on that later.  Let’s start with Paris, where I’ve been countless times over the years, but still manage to discover something new.

The “new” this time was the recent renovation of two classic Palace hotels (palace is the name given to the handful of grand luxury hotels in Paris):  the iconic Hotel Ritzon the Right Bank of the Seine and the landmark Hotel Lutetitaon the Left.

The Ritz has for decades been THE place to stay in Paris.  Who can forget the footage of Princess Diana sneaking out the back entrance before that fateful car ride?  Countless other celebrities have discretely come and gone through its doors.  With old-world glamour and impeccable service, the Ritz has always been grand, but after a four-year renovation, it is now also classically current, technically advanced, and fresh with plenty of light streaming through pretty windows.

And it offers some of the best Virtuoso amenities of any hotel anywhere:  automatic room upgrade at time of booking, VIP meet and greet on arrival at the airport (a must), complimentary roundtrip airport transfers, and flexible check in – meaning your room will be ready no matter what time you arrive.  Weary travelers rejoice!  For fun, there’s the Chanel Spa (the only one), a renowned cooking school for all ages, the Hemingway bar for those of age, and some of the city’s best shopping and famous sights just steps away.

Hotel Lutetia is every bit as tempting, but for different reasons.  It is well-positioned, directly across the street from Bon Marche, the famed Parisian department store in the city’s charming Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood.  The Lutetia has been at the heart of local Left-Bank community life since 1910 and was a favorite of famed artists, writers, and musicians.  It is destined to be so again, especially with a bustling new brasserie and Bar Josephine with an original frescoed ceiling, the restoration of which reportedly took 17,000 hours to complete.  The hotel’s Art Deco architectural details now shine, and the interiors reflect a more modern aesthetic.  There’s also a beautiful new indoor swimming pool, the largest fitness room in Paris, and an Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Center with spa facilities.

Then there’s Normandy, an easy train ride from Paris.  It is a sacred place every American should see, much like One World Trade Center in New York.  We visited the beaches, battlefields, and cemeteries of Normandy over the course of several days in the company of General Hollands, an engaging and knowledgeable World War II expert who has toured hundreds of lucky Brownell Travel clients.  Gordon and I are grateful to be among them.

Caroline Travels the World…and So Can You.