With framed photographs of celebrated writers, from Albert Camus to Oscar Wilde, arranged around the lobby walls, it’s evident Hotel Pont Royal in Paris has strong literary links.
No surprise since the heart of the district most frequented by creative artists of all kinds, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, is just around the corner.
Founded in 1923, this five-star, 75-room hotel on the Left Bank is awash in history, the sense of a bygone era re-awakened in one’s imagination if one takes a few solitary minutes to absorb its lingering Old World ambience.
Between the two World Wars, the hotel’s bar was supposedly host to some of the city’s best cocktails with ‘The Great Gatsby’ author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, introducing many to this new concept in drinking. Well-known artists such as Joan Miró and Marc Chagall also frequented the hotel as did the 1920s ‘Americans in Paris’ literary crowd that included Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller.
Chatting with mixologist Frederic Maitre while enjoying some of his creations including the gin-based ‘Grant Green’ and Remy Martin style ‘The Duke,’and the ‘Bartender’s Mind’ – ‘whatever the bartender feels is good for you,’ – I had the distinct feeling of invisible energies around me urging me to put pen to paper. A form of ghost writing I suppose.
Aside from cocktails and pride of place in history, a major attraction the Pont Royal Hotel possesses in spades is the panoramic perspectives it offers over the French capital.
From the balcony of our room on the seventh floor, 705, we enjoyed clear views across the Parisian skyline with the iconic Eiffel Tower and the gold-colored dome of Les Invalides in one direction and the Grand Palais in another, with the tall buildings of La Défense, the city’s business district, on the horizon.
Watching the comings and goings of street-life in the City of Light from such a height is relaxing entertainment, especially with a glass of something strong in hand.
Late evenings on our verandah provided sheer contrast to daytime viewing with the Eiffel Tower sparkling with lights in the darkness.
Our room was Parisian-size, with sufficient cupboard space for our clothes, an armchair for seating and a small table. Our bathroom featured both tub and shower.
As for food, breakfast buffet-style is served in the hotel’s cozy ground-floor room, Salon Mosaic, adjacent to the lobby, with an abundance of natural light flowing in from a Japanese garden beyond floor-to-ceiling windows. Choice is plentiful, from fresh fruit and cheeses to salmon and cold cuts and eggs cooked to order.
For post-breakfast pleasure, I’d advise taking your juice, coffee, tea or hot chocolate to a nearby sitting-room, Salon Velin, with its overhanging, arc-shaped lamps, Jackson Pollock like paintings by Martina della Rocca and shelves filled with books of all kinds, from ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir to the ‘Life of Picasso.’
Glass-topped tables and soft armchairs and sofas make time spent here all the more enjoyable.
Just beyond it, with a decor reminiscent of a vintage cigar bar including dim lighting, low leather armchairs and mahogany-clad walls is The Signature Bar where jazz is performed on Monday evenings.
Paying homage to its literary past, the hotel’s owners, American couple, Denise Dupré and her husband Mark Nunnelly, former managing director of Bain Capital, who own other properties in Champagne and Burgundy in France and St. Barts in the Caribbean, plan a series of evenings with authors. This is due to start this autumn.
With city highlights such as the Seine, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay short walks away, the Pont Royal Hotel is certainly a central city location.
Be sure to walk five minutes to Galerie Jantzen, a magical treasure trove of a shop. Prepare to be amazed. I’ll say no more.
As for arrival and travel within Paris, I tend to rely on the efficient, friendly services of Blacklane, an international network that operates in a number of countries. Another benefit I’ve enjoyed with Blacklane are the interesting conversations with the company’s diverse drivers who reflect a multitude of nations and cultures. On this journey, for example, my companion and I learned more about the checkered history of Armenia from Karen, one of our chauffeurs.