Travel Spotlight

Where to Stay in Paris, the Loire Valley and Normandy in 2021

Not in centuries could one hope to sleep on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, but thanks to the opening of Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle you can now overnight in Louis XIV’s masterpiece and gain special access. It’s just one of the new nearby country options that one can combine with a Paris itinerary. I checked out three, including Catherine Deneuve’s former home in Normandy and a gorgeous new spa in the Loire Valley, as well as the new hotels and apartment options—where to stay now in Paris—and what is coming soon. It should be noted that unlike in the U.S., where service has slipped at many hotels because of staff layoffs and shortages, the same is not true in France. The government supported jobs and the hotels have reopened with even better service than before because the staff is so eager to be back greeting guests. For my own Paris nights, I returned to stay at my old favorites: Le Bristol, La Reserve, Ritz Paris, Le Crillon, Plaza Athénee and George V. Because one thing that I learned about my relationship with Paris during Covid—when I couldn’t visit—is that it is a Proustian romance. Paris meets me like a very old friend where I am but always with the presence of memories of past visits. The grand palaces, while continuing to evolve and add innovations (including crystal containers of hand sanitizer and in-house Covid labs), hold fast to their deep French heritage and l’art de vivre, which reminds me every moment that I am in their presence that I could be nowhere else, but Paris. Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning safe, responsible and meaningful travels to Paris and other destinations—this year and beyond. Our team can match you with the hotels and experiences that are right for you and provide information on travel safety policies and more.

Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle

Courtesy Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle, photo by Renée Kemps

Courtesy Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle, photo by Renée Kemps
The only other hotel that I know of that is in one of the world’s greatest historic palaces is the Aman at the Summer Palace outside of Beijing, which occupies part of the former theater of the Summer Palace. But on June 1, Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôleopened inside a part of the palace that formerly housed the ministry of finance in the 18th century. With only 14 rooms and suites,

Le Grand Contrôle was meticulously “reconstituted” or kept true its time period, but with all modern comforts added, including an Alain Ducasse restaurant and special access to Versailles—after and before the public is allowed to enter. And the visits, a special one every evening and another every morning after breakfast, means you will be in parts of the palace, including the Hall of Mirrors, with no crowds at all. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime privilege and one that I predict will be extremely tough to book. My full review of the property and experience will be in our fall magazine, but contact your Trip Designer for more details on how and why to book and which rooms and visits to request.

Related: 17 Best New Hotels in Europe 2021

Les Sources de Cheverny

There has not been a first-class place to stay when visiting the Loire until now, which may be why so many Parisians have been flocking to Les Sources de Cheverny

, the sister property to the well-known Les Sources de Caudalie, outside of Bordeaux. Set on over 100 acres, the hotel is a true invitation to sink into the charms of a quiet French country house life thanks to the special hospitality and know-how of owners Jérôme and Alice Tourbier.

Maison Villeroy

There is a new address that discriminating visitors to Paris need to know. It is a place for super discreet and secure people who want a private home experience in the heart of Paris’s prestigious fashion district. Set in a neoclassical mansion, one street off of Avenue Montaigne, the gorgeous new Maison Villeroy has just 11 rooms, suites and apartments. But despite its size, the luxury amenities here are mighty: each room comes with a dedicated butler and  $25,000 mattress, an onsite Michelin-starred restaurant and the first-ever spa from Paris’s cult beauty purveyor Buly. Related: Where to Shop in Paris 2021: La Samaritaine & Concept Shopping

Domaine de Primard

When Catherine Deneuve decided to sell her beloved home in Normandy, she knew she needed to find a specific buyer: one who would love her domaine (estate) as much as she did. For she had not only lovingly restored the historic château on the property but had worked with her expert gardener for decades on creating a special green riverside eden. Thankfully, she knew the duo behind the Domaine de Fontenille hotel group and how much they cared about keeping the soul of a place intact while opening it up to share with others. So her groundwork and their hospitality brilliance has made the new country house hotel, Domaine de Primard, a favorite country escape for Parisians. Only an hour from the city center and 30 minutes from Giverny, the Relais & Chateaux property includes rooms in the main château as well as a farmhouse building. There’s a spa and massive swimming pool, a delicious bistro restaurant and a gourmet one in the chateau for dinner only. Lounging and dining are the main points of a visit here. Relax and slow down. Grab a book and sit under one of the ancient trees or spend hours at the lunch table with friends. That is what French weekend retreats are meant for.

Hôtel Costes - Castiglione

The restaurant in the courtyard of the Hotel Costes has been a favorite of mine for years. The menu is not innovative, but the dishes are reliably excellent, especially the haricot vert salad and French fries, and there is great people watching. But after a miserable stay at the hotel years ago (the focus of staff was more on the night club scene than on a good night’s sleep), I would never consider staying here. Until now, that is, that they have opened a sister hotel, Castiglione, next door with an entrance on the Rue Castiglione and a much more sedate design and attitude. The kinks still need some working out—very slow response from staff to even have a look around, an unfinished spa and ongoing construction—but the hotel and its 38 stylish rooms, designed by Christian Liaigre, are brighter and more open (some have especially high ceilings) and the location is great, right between the Place Vendome and the Tuileries.Related: Where to Eat in Paris Now

Long-Term Stays

Apartment stays are on the rise in Paris and so I spent time looking at some special new options from those in a stunning hotel particulate on the Right Bank to a one-bedroom on the Place Vendome and another in Montmartre with spectacular views over the entire city and a staff that can bring in Michelin-starred chefs. Contact your trip designer for more details. Related: Must-Visit Paris Museums: The Best New Shows to See in 2021

Coming Soon

The flagship property of LVMH’s hotel group Cheval Blancoccupies the Seine-facing building that once housed part of Paris’s legendary department store La Samaritaine. Slated to open in April 2020 and delayed by Covid, the property is finished and having seen it, I can tell you it will live up to the hype. The group didn’t want to create a palace to compete with the historic grande dames like the Ritz, Le Crillon, Le Bristol, George V, Le Meurice and Plaza Athenée. The idea, instead, was to fashion an urban property for today, one that would feel like the apartment of a modern Parisian with an unlimited budget and the most refined modern tastes. (Perhaps, a man like the chairman of LVMH himself Bernard Arnault, who collects contemporary art as well as the luxury brands from Dior to Moët Chandon.) With only 72 rooms and suites, a Dior spa, underground swimming pool, in-house kids’ club and multiple restaurants, including a ground floor café/bar, a gourmet dining room overlooking the Seine and two rooftop venues that will be social hot spots, Cheval Blanc, when it opens in September, is going to be the talk of le tout Paris, as one of its bistros is aptly named. Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning safe, responsible and meaningful travels to Paris and other destinations—this year and beyond. Our team can match you with the hotels and experiences that are right for you and provide information on travel safety policies and more.

Published onJune 25, 2021

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