Luxury must be comfortable, other wise it is not luxury.

(Coco Chanel)

Every time I arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport I am filled with anticipation of all that awaits me in Paris. From the airport I make my way through Paris to my destination, the Castille Hotel. From Place de la Concorde, I walk down rue Cambon where I notice the festive atmosphere at the Chanel boutique. As I pass by I see clients sipping Champagne filled flutes all the while as they are actively engaged in making their selections. I keep walking and observing. Rue Cambon is an easy stroll to the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, and to some of the world’s most beautiful shopping - that even makes the minimalist in me swoon. As I approach the Castille, I take note of the bloom-filled window boxes that grace the façade and add a pop of color.

The Castille

The Castille Paris is a Five-Star-Hotel and is a part of Starhotels Collezione.

It was here that I met with Alessandra Bragoli, the General Manager and Alexandre Cochet, Director of Sales. They are both very personable, observing their genuine welcoming manner, it’s immediately obvious that they love their jobs. Alessandra speaks eloquently in French, English and Italian, and changes languages without having to change lanes. She found her passion in hospitality at young age and it is no surprise that she has many returning guests asking to see her. Alessandra manages 95 to 100 employees and has been with the Castille for two-and-half years.

I asked Alessandra and Alexandre to share a few of their favorite museums. Alessandra suggested a visit to the Musée D’Orsay and the Van Gogh - The Starry Night exhibition at the Atelier des Lumiéres, and Alexandre recommended the Jeu de Paume, which is an art center dedicated to photography. They also proposed Ducasse Sur Seine - a unique way to combine gourmet dining and seeing Paris in a leisurely way - cruising down the Seine, as well as to visit Montmartre and Le Marais. I was invited to stay for lunch at their restaurant, L’Assaggio which is blessed with a Michelin-starred chef Ugo Alciati. The restaurant features delicious Piedmontese specialities. It was a memorable dining experience and I look forward to going back with hope of dining in the courtyard, or to have dream picnic in the Tuileries Garden with Champagne, with a desert of strawberries with cream and chocolate.

All of Paris is magical.

(Alessandra Bragoli)

The atmosphere and interior design at the Castille struck me as the right balance between contemporary and old world furnishings - accented with antique furniture and paintings. The reception area walls are painted in teal, and the seating area features two sofas - one upholstered in a contemporary black and white cut velvet, and the other upholstered in lavender. I found Eliot, a grey cat and the hotel’s mascot, sleeping on a contemporary tête-à-tête. I stayed in a deluxe suite overlooking the courtyard with an exquisite antique fresco.

The Castille has 108 rooms including 26 suites. (Another suite is blessed to have a view of the Eiffel Tower.) The view of the courtyard from my suite was beautiful. The interior decor of the rooms and suites epitomize comfort and elegance. Coco Chanel’s apartment was one of the sources of their inspiration and one can see that in their color palette of black and white, beige and the occasional red accent. The inclusion of red seems to me to reference Coco Chanel’s red coromandel screen, or perhaps her lipstick. The Castille provides everything to lull you to a blissful sleep. If you require a special pillow it’s quite possible they have it. The bedlinen is from Bellora, accented by an added boudoir pillow in their turndown service with the words “buonanotte” embroidered in red on it. The rooms are either complemented with Aqua de Parma or Etro toiletries - and even the hairdryer is stellar. Nothing like having a good hair day whilst away. One feels as one should away - pampered and ready for ones day.

Studio Visit with Sculptor Daniel Hourdé

I was greeted by Daniel Hourdé at the entrance of his building, where he led me to his expansive studio. It was an impressive sight, as he has carefully arranged the studio with his own art, and his collection of African art, antiquities, and antique furniture. The over-scaled gilded baroque sofa upholstered in red velvet caught my eye immediately and is similar to the one in Luchino Visconti’s movie The Leopard (Il Gattopardo, 1963). There are elements of theatre in Daniel’s art and in his space that remind me of Salvador Dali’s art at the Dali Theatre- Museum in Figueres, Spain. For instance, there is a very large bright green-cross blanket cover on a bed in his studio, and in front of this bed there is a table that Daniel designed which is a glass-topped gilded bronze crown-of-thorns. Daniel embraces the traditional method of lost-wax casting, as well new techniques such as having his drawings digitally printed onto metal cut outs. Daniel offers a contemporary and deeply personal approach to biblical and mythological stories. His larger- than-life, mostly male humans look as though they have been skinned, and some of them have masks in lieu of faces, one has a satirical Mickey-Mouse head. We see that there is beauty in the anatomy of the human form and of what lies beneath the skin. These oversized sculptures reflect our fragility and strength in the face of our everyday challenges. In addition to Daniel’s sculptures, his creativity extends into functional art such as furniture, decorative objects, rugs, and jewelry. The interior designer in me is drawn to his candelabras in silvered bronze. Daniel sells his art in limited editions of six or eight and some one-of-a-kinds too. His installation at Les Ponts des Arts in 2016 incorporated sculptures he created at different times, arranged to create the Enchanted Footbridge. This year at La Chapelle Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière his work So Close to Paradise was installed, and featured a combination of his drawings printed onto metal cut-outs forming a sculpture and four bronze statues.

I took up Alessandra Bragoli’s suggestion and I went to see the Van Gogh -The Starry Night exhibit at the Atelier des Lumières shown in conjunction with Dreamed Japan and Verse. I was dazzled by this exhibition and found it a very relaxing experience. I continued my pursuit of sculpture at the Giacometti Foundation, the Zadkine Museum and at the Tuileries Gardens. It is Paris’s tradition and history that are blended into everything, and that is what makes Paris wonderful. I can’t wait to visit again, and again.