The Latin Quarter is bustling with nightlife as Parisians pour out of sidewalk cafes and wine bars nestled alongside winding cobblestone streets. In the distance the Seine is starting to shimmer under the moonlight and ornate bridges; its beauty eclipsed only by the illuminated gothic cathedral of Notre Dame rising above neighboring Île de la Cité.
I am staying at the charming boutique hotel of Relais Christine that is on the quiet Rue Christine in the Latin Quarter. The area around the Relais Christine is dotted with eateries and shops and is only a short walk from Notre Dame, the Seine and the metro. The Relais Christine was originally a 16th century mansion that was built on the ruins of the Austin Friars monastery founded in 1231 by Saint Louis. The hotel was fully renovated by the owners, a French family, before it opened to the public in 1979. A large, flowered courtyard buffers the hotel from any noise and some rooms even overlook the private sheltered garden at the back. Today, the vine covered boutique hotel brings up images of my favorite Madeline books from my childhood. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines…”
At first sight the hotel is like a Parisian dream with a warm, roaring fireplace in the lobby and a friendly, French staff waiting to help with luggage and kindly lead the way to a room that will feel like a home away from home. The lobby opens up into a common area where plush couches and leather arm chairs are accompanied by a complimentary 24-hour open bar, Paris jazz and vintage paintings. The first floor common area evokes the feel of Paris in the twenties, as though I have strolled right into Woody Allen’s imagination from the set of Midnight in Paris.
Downstairs, the hotel offers a 24-hour spa that boasts a wooden, hot sauna and calming jacuzzi set inside an alcove of serenity. On a chilly evening I take advantage of this spa and feel as though I’ve stumbled across a secret oasis as I never seem to run into other guests while flip-flopping from the jacuzzi to the sauna in the plush slippers and robes provided.
After check-in, I am led to my room and can hardly stifle an excited gasp when the door marked 54 reveals a duplex with a lovely living room overlooking the garden courtyard; and a spiral staircase that winds up to a comfortable bed tucked underneath a skylight. The room is immediately unique and has the feel of a lovely Parisian apartment rather than a corporate hotel room—as hotel rooms can so often prove to be.
My favorite part of the room is a window overlooking the rooftops of Paris and as soon as my luggage is dropped off, I shamelessly descend into Paris clichés and play the complimentary Edith Piaf album the hotel provides, hop on the windowsill and let myself drift off into reveries of this inspiring city sprawled out before me.
The next day, morning light pours in from the skylight above my bed and illuminates the crisp, white fluffy comforter that feels as though I’ve slept in the clouds. It is my first full-day in Paris and I hop out of bed to not waste a minute of it. The Relais Christine offers a breakfast that is by far the best I’ve enjoyed in my reviews of hotels; the food includes an array of fresh fruit, French pastries (of course), hot breakfast items such as scrambled eggs or sausage, served alongside café or juice. While the spread isn’t unique in the typical sense, it is the quality of the food that sets it apart from the standard continental breakfasts and buffets I’ve come across in my travels. The medieval vaulted cellars of the dining hall are a nod to what was once the kitchen, and while having petit dejeuner the original old well and fireplace can still be seen in the architecture.
After I’ve had my fill of fruit and yogurt, I stroll out into the crisp Parisian air; making note to take advantage of the charming bicycles with the straw baskets that the Relais Christine offers their guests. As my visit to Paris unfolds like a French film, I know that my stay at the Relais Christine simply adds to the charm of an already charming city. After days spent walking along the Seine, soaking in the magic of the Eiffel Tower, enjoying rose macaroons from Laduree and café au chocolat at a sidewalk bistro; the magic never ceases to continue when I walk through the front doors of the Relais Christine hotel.
Book this hotel if…
You are looking to have an authentic Parisian experience without foregoing the comforts of a quality hotel. For couples especially, the Relais Christine is very romantic and offers a unique experience that can’t be found at other globally recognized hotels such as the Marriotts and Hiltons of the world. The Relais Christine is a boutique hotel and truly does offer a genuine Parisian feel; offering that rare blend of staying at a hotel while still feeling like a local.