[Published in the Toronto Star.]
When you go to Paris and say you’re staying at the Athénée, expect eyes to balloon and voices to “ooooooh” with excitement and, perhaps, a tinge of jealousy. The Plaza Athénée is the super-luxury residence of choice for celebrities when they’re in Paris, a hotel made even more famous when it had a starring role in the final season of “Sex and the City.” The Hôtel Athénée, on the other hand, is a recently refurbished and renamed boutique hotel with only 20 rooms on a narrow street in the 9th Arrondisement. It doesn’t have an Alain Ducasse restaurant or 250-euro airport shuttle service or an outrageous spa experience like the Dior Institut. What it does have, though, is beautifully appointed rooms with comfortable beds, room-darkening curtains, large bathrooms and a cheerful, welcoming staff.