Paris Journal 1: Weekends At Hotel Westminster
“’La Vie En Rose’ It means seeing life through rose coloured glasses, but only in Paris where the light is pink does that song make sense.” – Sabrina
There is something about Paris that makes life seems so dreamy and wonderful. After having been there so many times over the past 10 years and having lived there during the summers as a teenager, I concluded that this ‘La Vie En Rose’ feeling one keeps having every time one is in Paris must be the result of the multi-sensory experience that the streets of Paris manage to cast a spell on you – those beautiful beaux-art architecture, the wide boulevards, the buttery smell of fresh croissants from cafes every morning, and the beautifully dressed women and men who always seemed to look so effortlessly chic with their laid back yet elegant attires even if they were just nipping out to grab a newspaper. Everywhere you look, Paris is just beautiful! So much so that I always have to pay particular attention to the clothes I bring to this city every time I come here because anything scruffy will just not do. I feel that scruffiness does not fit into the streets of Paris at all. Those are reserved specially for London, its ugly yet vibrant cousin…
I love everything about Paris, the ambience, the architecture, the food, the people. For some reasons, I always manage to find inspirations every time I am in this city, and fortunate incidents always befall me. My time in Paris is always full of memorable experiences, hence it has become my happy place to go to when I need to recharge or take a break. The best thing about Paris is also the fact that I have found a “Home Away From Home” kind of place, as a pied a terre, so it makes the stay there much more comfortable and enjoyable every time I am in town.
During one of the trips to Paris for Fashion Weeks, I was taking a stroll along Place Vendome and found a curious, yet beautiful little Art Nouveau entrance hall to a small hotel next to Cartier shop. The hotel was called Hotel Westminster. I walked into this modest little corridor out of sheer curiosity, and was pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful spacious lobby space with jewellery shops decorated in traditional French style. Although the space was bright yellow, it somehow looked so cosy, warm and inviting with an air of luxury that was unmistakably old Parisienne. As soon as I set foot in this place, I just knew that I would love to stay here the next time I am in town. I later learned that this pretty little hotel has been on Rue De La Paix for over 200 years and had welcomed everyone from royalty – like the Duke of Westminster, from whom it takes its name – to those wanting to discover the art of living in true Parisienne style.
Given its location and the décor, I was a little bit scared to ask the receptionist how much a room here would cost, and just left it as wishful thinking. When planning another trip, I decided to brave myself and checked the room price on Expedia website. To my surprise, a standard room here was actually very affordable (It was £130 per night at the time I booked, but I understand prices vary throughout the year), and offered great value for money because its central location meant that one could literally walk to almost every sights in the first and eighth Arrondissement. Hotel Westminster is less than 5 minutes walk from Palace Garnier, Opera and Galerie Lafayette. As it is on Rue De La Paix, the iconic Place Vendome is the first thing one sees as soon as one steps out of the hotel, or if you are lucky enough to have a room facing the front façade, Place Vendome would be the first thing you see out of the window every morning! How wonderful would it be to wake up with a view like that! It is in a very safe area, which is a big plus. 10 – 15 minutes walk to Jardin De Tuilerie, Musee Du Louvre, and Place Concorde to name a few. If you do not feel like walking, you can simply take the Metro as there are at least 3-4 stations within 5 minutes walk from the hotel, or buses.
For those who love shopping, Hotel Westminster is literally in the middle of the major shopping district of Paris – Rue De La Paix being a destination for high jewellery, linked to Rue Saint Honore, Rue Cambon, Rue Royale if you like luxury brands, or head to Boulevard De La Madeleine if you are looking for high street stores. This means that by spending a little bit more on my accommodation, I actually save time and money on taking public transport. Besides, it is always more enjoyable if one can stay in a beautiful place while travelling because it gives a more authentic experience of the city. And for me, I like to experience old culture, so I would not want to stay in places that are too contemporary, not because I dislike contemporary design – in fact it is my favourite – but because I feel that contemporary design is a cultural-nomad and is not place specific. It is the same everywhere in the world, so I do not feel like I have travelled if I stay in a minimal style place – except when I am in Japan because that country is the birthplace of minimalism. When traveling, the experience is always more authentic if one can feel the personality of the city.
My first stay at Hotel Westminster was in March earlier this year. It was still cold in Paris and raining every day. I was given a room on the second floor featuring bright yellow traditional damask wallpaper with white patterns, and remembered thinking how difficult it was in terms of design to make this room look right aesthetically, and feel pleasant to sleep in… Because it was very beautiful in a traditional way… A surprise lesson in interior design for me! The attention to detail for the interior décor was spot on. It had the right balance of colours and textures to make the space very sumptuous but did not feel dated, even though it was in traditional style.
Of course, this room did not have the Place Vendome view, which was to be expected given the price I paid was very modest for this location. I was very happy with the size of the room, spaces for wardrobes and all other amenities. The best surprise for this visit, was when I open the window and saw the prettiest French style courtyard garden I have ever seen. I was not expecting to have this lovely view at all, and so the window and balcony became my favourite spot to hang out while it was pouring with rain outside for that particular trip. Needless to say that, Hotel Westminster has become my new ‘home’ in Paris ever since!
The yellow damask wallpaper made such an impression on me that I had to do an outfit post featuring this bright yellow room as a setting. It was just too perfect for one of my Autumn outfits. I will show you these in my future posts.
Since that first time at Hotel Westminster, I have been back to stay there three more times so far. With every visit, I discover something new and realised that not all of their rooms are dressed in traditional style. One of my favourites out of all the rooms, I stayed in was their New Signature Suite, which was newly completed when I had the chance to stay. The Signature Suite was a mixture of contemporary style with a hint of tradition. The suite has its own library and felt more like a really chic apartment rather than a hotel room. It also featured my favourite view of the pretty Parisienne courtyard garden.
We also received a welcome bottle of white wine in the room, and a glass of Signature Cocktail in Duke’s Bar each.
What special about the Signature Cocktail was that we had to fill in a questionnaire of what kind of cocktails we like, then the bartender mixed something completely unique for each of us. It was also the best cocktail I had since my visit to Loos American Bar in Vienna.
Another favourite spot in this hotel is their staircases. These Parisienne Art Nouveau staircases are just so gorgeous that I kept taking them instead of the lifts! I just wish one day I have a house with staircases like this! For now, I will just have to pretend that Hotel Westminster is my home in Paris… Hahah…
For the best of both worlds though, the best room to stay at Hotel Westminster is the Two-Bedroom Vendome Suite – a 90 sq.m. two bedroom apartment with double aspect views. Basically, the apartment overlooks Rue De La Paix with a long stretch of balcony, which means you can enjoy a private breakfast with Place Vendome as a view every morning, when you wake up; and another long stretch of balcony at the back overlooking the pretty Parisienne courtyard garden while you enjoy a bath. Life does not get any better than this, don’t you agree?
With this much beauty, histories and tonnes of convenience, I am sure now you understand why Hotel Westminster has become my “Home Away From Home”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Julia Jevzikova unless otherwise stated.