A walk through the streets of the 16th arrondissement of Paris is prone to inducing a montage of filmic flashbacks, with iconic movies such as Last Tango in Paris, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue, and even Inception all showcasing parts of the polished ‘BoBo’ neighbourhood. But away from the glamour of celebrity, tucked within one of the elegant buildings of the quarter, Hotel Sezz is a serenely modern boutique dwelling that provides welcome repose from a solid day’s wanderings.
Leonard Cohen’s distinct baritone sashays from the stereo speakers as the taxi driver hums along in tune. The perfect soundtrack to a rainy day in Paris, he tells me. Already this taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle has been unique from any other I’ve had, and not only because I’ve been testing my conversational French for the first time in Paris. The topics of discussion (all initiated by my driver, Pierre) have already covered my preferred style of underwear (and what colour) and whether European men are better lovers than Australian men.
While I try to attribute the intimacy of our conversation to a quirk of my host country’s culture, I am quite relieved when we finally enter the immaculate streets of the 16th arrondissement and pull up outside Hotel Sezz. Pierre gives me his number with the promise that it would be a pleasure to give me a ‘private and special tour’ of Paris. I smile and bid him goodbye, happy to escape and quietly sure that it’s an offer he makes to all of his female passengers.
At 26 rooms, Hotel Sezz is rather understated in its presence just off Avenue du Président Kennedy, which winds along the Seine on Paris’ right bank. You need only stroll 30 seconds for a glimpse of the city’s most famous landmark, its metallic point piercing the clouds across the river. But the hotel itself remains tucked away in a side street exuding a peaceful ambience that contrasts emphatically with the swarms of tourists milling about across the nearby Pont de Bir-Hakeim.
The serene atmosphere grows as I step through the entryway of the hotel. But something seems amiss, and as I rack my tired brain to elucidate exactly what, a smiling grey-suited gent relieves me of the menagerie of luggage that has followed me across two hemispheres. He ushers me to an elegant Zen-like lounge where I sink gratefully into the sofa while I await his return. Finally the clouds around my brain begin to dissipate and I realise what is missing in the hotel’s petite lobby: the enormous reception desk and steady stream of guests, porters and maids that usually greets you in Parisian hotels.
Built into one of the floridly charming buildings signature to the ‘BoBo’ (Bohemian-Bourgeois) arrondissement in which it takes residence, Hotel Sezz offers a designer refuge without the pomp of the city’s larger, more staid hotels. The sheen of its interior facade yields no weathered surfaces, cracks or stains, and is instead fastidiously fresh. A glamorous spiral staircase snakes up the centre of the building, each floor’s landing like an ornate vertebra distinguished by the art on the wall.
As my charming Gallic host shows me to my room, I soon gather that the members of staff of Hotel Sezz are well-practised in the art of discretion, appearing only in the moments when they are needed to solve the quandaries or satisfy the whims of guests. The rest of the time they somehow blend into the interiors, making themselves graciously scarce so as not to disrupt the air of serenity that lingers throughout the luxury hotel.
After 48 hours travelling, I would have found any room with a bed to be a welcome paradise. But my suite on the building’s fifth floor is a sight for weary eyes and an aesthetic relief from the grey interiors and stale air of an endless series of airports. A calming palette of grey, black, red and white is splashed across the room, with sleek ebony floorboards and tactile slate walls preserving the tranquillity. The rain showerhead – a cherished sight to any exhausted traveller – shimmers in the bathroom, with a generous kitty of Acqua di Parma grooming products making it all the more inviting.
But, for now, the most eye-catching element of the room is the thoughtfully placed plate of fresh pastries upon the table – a fitting first meal in France. I nudge open the double glass doors to let in a breath of morning air and a steady stream of sunshine pours into the room, signalling that the rain has cleared. Settling into a chair on the balcony, I delve into the buttery pastries and let each flake melt deliciously into my tongue.
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