The Left Bank is synonymous with literary cafes, the Existential philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, boutique art galleries and gauche chic designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Sonia Rykiel.
Nowadays, the philosophers may have decamped from the Café de Flore, but there are still plenty of students from the Sorbonne university and academic bookshops to keep up its intellectual atmosphere.
On one of our many Paris visits last year, Steven and I stayed at the Hotel Design Sorbonne, just a few steps away from the Boulevard Saint Germain, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, the Seine and of course, the Sorbonne.
Tucked away on a peaceful side street, the hotel is accessed by a quaint courtyard behind white French doors. The reception/lounge is a mix of a typical French salon interior and bold, contemporary colours, flock wallpaper and striped velvet seating.
The hotel’s strong design influences are apparenty with a number of coffee table books, magazines and Paris attraction maps, as well as an iMac for web browsing.
On the way to our room, the corridor looked surreal, like something from a Jeunet and Caro film, with custers of quirky photographs and lines of poetry emblazoned on the carpet.
Our room had a dark, romantic atmosphere with a colour scheme of chartreuse, silver and black – even curtains and doors were black! The bed was extremely comfortable with fluffy pillows, crisp cotton linen and a decorative throw in complementing colours.
The bathroom had beautiful dusky brown and gold flock tiles but was really tiny, although I’ve heard that they have rooms with larger ones if you’re staying for longer and need more space.
Like most forward-thinking hotel, they have installed an Apple iMac in each room, so you can access the web and watch TV and DVDs without hassle.
It feels like the hotel wants to give guests a more homely experience, rather than leaving us detached from the world, charging guests 10 Euros a day for using wifi. I’d much rather be my own Concierge from the comfort of my own room and then ask the hotel staff if I need anything.
We ate breakfast outside and tried out the bakeries around the rue de Buci for a croissant and café crème, although the breakfast room at the hotel looked delicious.
One thing that impressed me most about the hotel is that they have since kept in touch by email and regularly report on their fabulous meanderings around the city on their Paris newsblog. I had serious food envy over their tasting session of mille-feuilles by legendary Paris pâtissier, Pierre Hermé and am planning to eat at La Bouche, a laid-back restaurant with innovative cuisine in Ménilmontant, which they visited and recommended.
Hotel Design Sorbonne is part of the Hôtels de Paris Rive Gauche group, that runs three other boutique hotels on the Left Bank, with the hotly anticipated Belle Juliette luxury design hotel (formerly the Hotel Ferrandi) opening next Autumn. If you want a ‘home away from home’ or a more private stay, they also have a designer studio in the Marais, a bijou apartment by the Canal Saint Martin for up to four people and a luxury apartment in the Mouffetard area.
Hotel Design Sorbonne is the perfect base for Paris newbies, as it is within walking distance of the chic designer shops on the Boulvard Saint Germain, the buzzy Latin Quarter, the markets on Rue Mouffetard and of course, the Seine. The hotel is quiet at night due to its side street position, so if it’s all about getting up and out in the morning, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good night’s sleep.
Rates range from 100 – 350 Euros per night and a continental buffet breakfast is 12 Euros.
Hotel Design Sorbonne, 6, rue Victor Cousin, 75005 Paris. £
Metro: Line 10 : Cardinal Lemoine, Cluny Sorbonne. RER B : Luxembourg.