the Molitor, a Paris institution

Piscine d'Eté

Isn’t this a gorgeous photograph?  In the upper left background you can see the glittering Eiffel Tower.

And what is the Molitor, you might well ask.  Why, it’s the city’s most fashionable swimming pool, darling, and it has quite a history.  Constructed in 1929 in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, it was intended to resemble an ocean liner, with different levels, white railings and circular windows.  It’s a marvellous example of the Art Déco style of its time.

Future Tarzan actor, Johnny Weissmuller, was a lifeguard there.  He spent a season giving swimming lessons and rescuing damsel bathers in distress.

The Molitor is also remembered by Parisians for its transformation into a skating rink in winter.

“I remember a confined, very crowded place”,  reminisces Corinne, a Parisian schoolgirl in 1958.  “We used to turn endlessly, bothering each other.”

“It was a place where rich kids from the 16th arrondissement and Boulogne-Billancourt picked each other up.  All the girls wore crew neck cardigans buttoned on the back and Hermes scarves crossed in the front and tied up on their backs.”  Chic !

molitor skating rink

By 1989, though, the 60-year-old pool fell into ruin. The city of Paris didn’t have the funds to renovate, so it closed.  It became a venue for raves and a canvas for graffiti artists.

molitor graffitti

Oddly enough, 4 years later another famous swimming pool in Paris – the Deligny – which was a floating pool on the river Seine, would sink.  I used to go to the Deligny when I first arrived in Paris in the early 1990s.

But all’s well that ends well, my darlings.  Today the Molitor is swank – restored back to its former glory, but with a modern twist.  It’s part of a hotel.  A luxury hotel.  For many Parisians, though, it’s an unaffordable luxury. People can use the pool if they stay at the hotel (from 215 euros per night), join the Molitor club (3,000 euros per year) or pay for a one day membership (150-180 euros).

Here’s a beautifully-done video of the pool’s history and its sparkling new life today. Watch how the Molitor re-invents itself over the decades.  Chic !

Hotel Belle Juliette

I’ve just found this new, 4-star hotel located in the chic and charming 6th arrondissement.  If you scroll down to the bottom of their page, you’ll see a few other hotels listed.  But this one looks very inviting indeed.  If you book well in advance, the price lowers.

http://www.hotel-belle-juliette-paris.com/en/

More budget hotels in France

For those of you travelling to the French Riviera, Brittany or Normandy, here are some lovely offerings culled from The Guardian newspaper in London:

The Côte d’Azur’s top 10 beach hotels and B&Bs on a budget:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/jun/08/cote-dazur-france-beach-hotels-budget?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

Brittany’s top 10 beach hotels and places to stay on a budget:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/jul/18/brittany-top-ten-beach-hotels?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

Normandy’s top 10 beach hotels and places to stay on a budget:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/mar/02/top-10-beach-stays-normandy

Cycling holidays in France:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2013/jun/21/cycling-holidays-in-france-readers-tips

12 Parisian hotels with character:

http://www.thehotelguru.com/best-hotels/france/paris-character

Small design hotels in Paris

People are always asking me for names and addresses of Parisian hotels.  Because I live here, I‘m often stumped for an answer. I either put friends up at my place, which can be challenging because I live in a micro-apartment, or I recommend the moderately-priced IBIS, of which there are several dotted around the city.  There’s also the more expensive, and excellently-located Hotel Duminy where my Californian cousin stays.  It’s located on a quiet backstreet with the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre museum on one side and the glitzy shopping street, the rue Saint-Honoré, on the other.  Here’s the link:

http://www.hotelduminyvendome.com/uk/

Here’s a stylish haven of calm in the heart of the bustling 9th arrondissement called the Residence Nell.  It’s an establishment that rents out beautiful small apartments and studios for a single night, a week or a month.  When I first moved to Paris, I lived near  this address in the lower 9th arrondissement. It’s fantastically central; you’re close to everything.

http://www.residencenell.com/index_eng.php

Below is an exclusive list of small, trendy hotels published last month in one of the glossy French magazines.  These boutique hotels are relatively new, design-based, and surprisingly affordable.  The titles are the ones used in the magazine:

Le Plus Audacieux (the boldest)

I’d stay here in a heartbeat because I love the décor and the location which is mixed, very central and close to absolutely everything:

http://www.hotel-o-paris.com/en

Le Plus Délire (the wildest)

Chantal Thomass is France’s eccentric lingerie designer. The location of her new hotel is off the beaten track in the lower part of the 15th arrondissement (south-west corner of Paris), however the efficient metro system will swiftly carry you into the center, or anywhere else you want to go in the city:

http://viceversahotel.com/

Le Plus Urbain (the most urbane)

Excellently located in the Marais, right near Saint Paul metro station.  It’s reasonably-priced and breakfast is included.  I’m guessing the rooms are small:

http://www.hotelemile.com/en/

Le plus Sophistiqué (the most sophisticated)

This is more expensive and also centrally located just east of the place de l’Opéra and not far from Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps department stores:

http://www.lamaisonfavart.com

Le plus Elégant

For the location, this Left Bank hotel looks surprisingly affordable. The very chic rue Verneuil runs parallel to the Seine River and the boulevard Saint Germain with its famous cafés, the Café Flore and the Café aux Deux Magots (tip: go to the Flore, it’s where Parisians go in order to avoid the tourists at the Deux Magots.)  The musée d’Orsay and all the fabulous, small shopping streets are here too. Cross the Pont du Carrousel bridge and you’re at the Louvre museum on the Right Bank. It’s all there – the best parts of Paris in the chic 6th arrondissement:

http://www.hotel-verneuil-saint-germain.com/

Le plus Précis (the most precise)

I would be inclined to stay here because Le Grey professes to be a quiet hotel that focuses on its inner environment. The 33 “soundproofed” rooms are dedicated to comfort and sleeping well.  The location in the upper 9th arrondissement is quite central, however as you approach the Place de Clichy north of the hotel and the Place Pigalle further east, the district becomes somewhat rough and tumble. Don’t be put off; it’s a perfectly OK area; just head southwards where everything you’ll want to visit is located (except for Montmartre which is due east):

http://www.legrey-hotel.com/en

Le plus Roots (I’m not sure what they mean by this term….earthy?)

This new, inexpensive hotel is getting a lot of buzz in the press. Industrial design with New York and Scandinavian influences. Near the Gare du Nord, it’s practical for those coming in on the Eurostar. I hear the elevator is miniscule and I suspect the rooms are pretty small.  But how much time do you spend in your room?  This is not a chic location. The district is densely populated and gets gritty as you go east, but it’s central, perfectly decent and interesting:

http://www.hotelparadisparis.com/