A quick google for Paris hotels shows that there are an increasing number of characterful, hip and relatively-inexpensive places to stay in the centre of town these days…properties such as the Hotel Grand Amour and Le Snob.

Now there’s another strong contender, The Hoxton on Rue du Sentier, which opened a week ago and where I stayed last night.

Rue du Sentier itself might be un peu terne (drab) – perhaps “ripe for development” might be more charitable – but step inside Number 30 and you are in a different world. The building was constructed in the 18th century by architect Nicolas d’Orbay for Etienne Rivié, who was an advisor to King Louis XV. It subsequently became a clothing factory and then lay empty before the four year restoration that brought it to its current impressive state, as you can see from the photos below. Staircases have been restored, cobbles relaid, columns repurposed and wooden floors uncovered. Old meets modern, and the style works.

Before you get to the reception desk there are indoor and outdoor lounges to navigate on which to tap away in your computer or meet for an aperitif. Even at less than a week old, many cool local Parisians seemed to be doing just that. To one side there is the brasserie-style restaurant and bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bedrooms – there are 172 of them – come in varying sizes from Shoebox via Cosy and Roomy to Biggy. Even the smallest rooms aren’t that tiny, although the Shoeboxes on the top floor are more compact than those of the same category on floors below. My Roomy had a decent-sized bathroom with a powerful shower and Pen & Ink toiletries. Also in the room is a fridge that only contains water and milk – no complaints there, the point is you can stock it up with your own products and so bypass the rip-off mini bar prices beloved by many hotels.

There are already Hoxtons in London and Amsterdam, with Brooklyn to follow later this year.

Lead in rates in Paris (for a Shoebox) are currently from €99 per night if you plan ahead. Included is a free snack breakfast consisting of juice, granola, yoghurt and a banana. For anything more you’ll have to go downstairs to the restaurant, at which you’ll pay a fairly substantial amount…my breakfast of a chia seed and raspberry pot (very tasty by the way), a pain au chocolat, grapefruit juice and two coffees came to just under €30. Maybe I’m just grumpy because of the weak state of the Pound right now. Staff here, as elsewhere in the hotel, are young, bilingual and super helpful, suggesting coffee shops to visit as well as helping me weigh up the pros and cons of several museums for my time-poor afternoon. (I ate at the hotel the night before, and can hand-on-heart say the cheeseburger I had there was perhaps the tastiest I’ve eaten anywhere.)

The Hoxton is a cool brand, and it is bound to do well in Paris.

www.thehoxton.com

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Full disclosure: I paid for my own Shoebox room but was upgraded to a Roomy by the hotel. My dinner and breakfast were paid by the hotel.

Last February I visited the Pyrenees for the first time. I think my days of “just” going for a week-long blast of skiing are over, (I blame my knees), so this was an ideal break: I got to ski, but I also stayed overnight on top of a mountain with its own astronomical observatory and visited the town of Lourdes too, which has always piqued my curiosity. Anyway, read all about it here, in my article that appeared in the Times a few weeks ago.

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It’s nearly the end of the year and suddenly you realise you have a few days holiday left over, which you can’t carry into 2017. For the Times recently I came up with a few ideas on where to use those few precious days of freedom… (click on each page to enlarge).

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Well, no, not really, or in fact anything at all to do with Prince Harry, but made you look didn’t it?

OK, there’s a tiny link.

This is a piece that appeared in last week’s Sunday Times that I wrote about a new “posh” bootcamp at Chateau Bouffement, 30km north of Paris, led by James Gilbertson who, for a while, was Prince Harry’s personal trainer in London. So there’s the connection. Well, you’ve got to give the editor’s a hook for a story, rule number one.

Lovely chateau and an interesting weekend, if you have £3,000 kicking about

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