Paris's 1st arrondissement is the regal and artistic soul of the city. Sharmistha Chaudhuri spent her time discovering its nuances
The sky was overcast; rainfall just minutes away. I looked outside the glass window of the train, soaking in the last vestiges of autumn as I made my way to Châtelet–Les Halles station from Charles de Gaulle Airport. The journey took only 40 minutes but a moderate drizzle had begun. Navigating puddles, narrow sidewalks and people, I walked towards the elegant fan symbol of my hotel—the Mandarin Oriental—visible at a slight distance. Just about then, the clouds burst with abandon. Let me tell you, it is no fun running with a bag in tow on cobblestones. My mind replayed the scenes from six years ago during my first trip to Paris, when I had to run with my not-quite-waterproof backpack in a similar fashion. The exercise wasn’t fun back then either.
The cold outside was soon forgotten as the warmth of the hotel embraced me. The floor-to-ceiling windows, the marble lobby, the interplay of shades like purple, pink, gold and white in the décor—it was as if I had been transported elsewhere, away from the rue where designer shops jostled for space. This couldn’t be Paris, could it? It felt more like a mix between Asia, the tropics and an elegant Parisian home.
Located in the heart of Paris, or the 1st arrondissement area, the Mandarin Oriental is prettily nestled among the city’s premier tourist sites. My previous trips to Paris had me putting up in the suburbs and other faraway locations. This time around,
I could just wake up and walk up to Musée du Louvre or the lush Jardin des Tuileries. I was spoilt for choice staying in the smallest and oldest of the arrondissements, filled with regal architecture, beautiful squares, striking museums and gorgeous gardens.
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