TRAVEL BY DESIGN
OH LA LA LUXE! WHEN IT COMES TO THE ART OF LIVING LIKE A KING, FRANCE REIGNS SUPREME
Hats off to Louis XIV for bringing luxe to the masses. Thanks to his court's lavish spending from 1643 to 1715, Louis left behind a grand legacy of home furnishings, fine art, perfume, cuisine and even jewelry.
Happily for travelers, a lot of Louis' most exuberant work is on display in and around Paris. In fact, the best way to get an overview of the Sun King's extraordinary style is with a visit to his Palace of Versailles—less than an hour by train from the city. Marvel at the opulently decorated salons (all hand-gilt) and the floor-to-ceiling mirrors (another Louis XIV invention) in the Galerie des Glaces. Stroll the manicured gardens past the Petit Trianon palace built for Marie-Antoinette. Check out where the Treaty of Versailles was signed and spend the night at the recently renovated Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf Astoria Collection hotel, whose stunning neo-classic interiors were done by Brit Fiona Thompson (www.trianonpalace.com).
In Paris, the good life continues at Hôtel Édouard 7 (39, av de l'Opera, edouard7hotel.com) where newly decorated guest rooms reflect the Belle Epoque and Napoléon III eras. From there, it's a short stroll to the heady splendor of Place Vendôme, where many of the ateliers and artisans that serviced Versailles and Louis XIV's court set up their boutiques, and continued to flourish after his fall. Best known today as the home of the magnificent Ritz Hotel, the Place Vendôme's elegant buildings are where you'll find haute joailliers such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Buccellati, Cartier and relative newcomers Chaumet, FRED, the reclusive JAR and the wildly talented Lorenz Bäumer.
Surrounding side streets radiating off the Place Vendôme reveal exquisite parfumeries. Rising stars like Francis Kurkdjian (5, rue d'Alger) and Frédéric Malle (21, rue du Mont Thabor) offer indepth scent demonstrations and customized fragrances, while Jean Laporte L'Artisan Parfumeur (209, rue St. Honoré) and Maître Parfumeur et Gantier (5, rue des Capucines) have more "off the shelf" selections. In the mood for another kind of indulgence? Consider a precious skincare product from Gem Essence by Bulgari (25, Place Vendôme), touting crushed gemstones as a key ingredient.
This month in Paris:
World's most prestigious antiques dealers and jewelers (Van Cleef, Piaget and Chanel among others) at the 25th Biennale des Antiquaires, September 15 to 22 (www.bdafrance.eu). ¶ A Claude Monet retrospective at the Grand Palais, September 22 to January 24, 2011 (www.grandpalais.fr). ¶ Masterpieces from Rubens and Poussin at the Jacquemart-Andre museum, September 24 to January 24, 2011 (www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com).