Sunday, June 17, 2012

Like a magnet, Paris and the Hotel Napoleon have attracted fame and celebrity. Numerous stars, writers, artists and even royalty; among them Errol Flynn who called the Napoleon “the place”, Orson Welles, John Steinbeck, Salvadore Dali, King Constantine of Greece and Ernest Hemingway who as well as writing his now classic stories was also at one time the Toronto Star’s man in the Paris bureau, have all enjoyed the hotel’s hospitality.

We had our own brush with celebrity when riding the elevator one morning. We struck up a conversation with a charming American who thrust out his hand and introduced himself as Constantine Orbelian. He was, we discovered, the conductor of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, “the greatest chamber orchestra in the world” according to Dmitri Shostakovich. Much admired in Russia and worldwide, in 2004 Orbelian was awarded the title of “Honoured Artist of Russia” by President Putin.

On our way to breakfast I was drawn to a pseudo art gallery displaying a series of comical oil paintings. Depicting members of French society, some in full military dress…..all had canine faces. When I questioned the maitre’d about the paintings he agreed that “Some may not like them”. But then, unbowed and with a glimmer of sly humour, he leaned forward and whispered, “but we do”.

In a perfect location for touring guests, Hotel Napolean is just steps from the Arc de Triomph and the Champs Elysees. The Arc de Triomph seen from the hotel is the largest triumphal arch in the world. At 49.5 metres in height and 45 metres wide, the daredevil Charles Godefroy in the early 1900s successfully flew his bi-plane right through its center.

Cartiers, the jeweled emporium frequented by the rich and famous is on the Champs Elysees. High priced restaurants and boutiques abound, but bargains do not. A cruise on the Seine at the foot of Paris’s famed boulevard provides a memorable and peaceful interlude and attractions are a dime a dozen along its banks.

Returning to the hotel that evening I came upon a message of love etched on a gilded railing that appealed to my natural curiosity. “Jean-Philippe + Luclivine = Amour Pour la vie”. Wistful but hopeful words that confirmed in my mind that Paris is a city for lovers.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Sunday, 17th June, 2012



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