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.


IMG_3380IMG_3379IMG_3384IMG_3408IMG_3383IMG_3382IMG_3395 IMG_3405 IMG_3411 IMG_3412 IMG_3415

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.

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


This week’s Newsweek magazine offers another of those “must see” round ups which got me thinking about my own personal list.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know. What’s on your list? In no particular order….

Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side

(1) Go to Paris. Just walk around and get lost with no set agenda.

(2) Go hiking in Nepal, to Annapurna base camp and back. Waking up in a tea house in the morning and looking up to see those humongous mountains against a clear blue sky is almost beyond words.

(3) Take an overnight bus – in these days of “budget” airline travel that has stripped us of all dignity, taking a bus just reminds you it’s quite a big world out there full of ordinary people. Turkey has a great network, and in Argentina you can get seats that recline 180 degrees, but my most memorable journey was from Katherine to Alice Springs in Australia. I woke up when we got to a rest stop about 5.30am, looked out of the window and there was the silhouette of a tall wind mill set against the reddest soil I have ever seen in my life. It’s just an image that has always stayed with me.

(4) Take some children to Disneyworld in Florida. Cheesy? You bet – but the sight of a small child’s face when they see Mickey, Minnie or Donald for the first time is a really wonderful thing, however cynical you may be.

(5) Go star gazing in the southern hemisphere – try Namibia or outback Australia. Just somewhere far away from light pollution. It will blow your mind.

(6) Do a safari in as remote a place as possible. I was very lucky to be in northern Zambia a few years ago (north Luangwa). In the middle of the night a hyena let our a scream about ten feet from where I was sleeping that put the hairs on the hairs on the hairs on the back of my neck on edge, and they didn’t come down for about six months. And the same trip I went up in a microlight first thing and saw lions yawning as they woke up and swooped over a pod of hippos. Expensive, very; magical, definitely.

(7) Drive through small town America. As Brits we tend to go for the “big names” even on third or fourth trips to the States but I have done driving trips in Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Tennessee and there’s heaps more to do in “smaller name” states than you’d think, above all unbridled hospitality when they hear an English accent. Stay in a non-chain motel with slightly sticky carpets. Have those eggs over easy. Yes your waitress really is called Betty Sue. Now y’all come back ya hear.

(8) Iguazu Falls. I’ve been to a few waterfalls and it was always “yep, pretty impressive, snap snap snap with the camera, OK now back on the bus”. But Iguazu Falls are different. Wow. Amazing. Wow. I was there three days and could have stayed longer. Did I mention “wow”?

(9) The Taj Mahal in India – for me, the only man made structure that lives up to the hype and then some. I mean the Sydney Opera House certainly gets points, and I love the Chrysler Building in Manhattan but I don’t remember being wowed by the Great Wall of China (was it the Mastercard advert hung on the side of it?)

(10) New York. Full stop.