Hotel Grimaldi

The Grimaldi Hotel has re-opened, following its renovation and new management – a sort of German/French family endeavor.  I was graciously given a tour of the hotel’s rooms and the ‘penthouse’ suite, with its panoramic view and terrace – a true “nid d’aigle.”  I recently ate dinner at the restaurant of this hotel, located in the medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes-sur-Mer. The food was delicious, the ambiance warm and welcoming, and I especially like the classic decor of the restaurant, which fits in well with the overall village look.  Ideally situated on the village’s main square, which has been renovated as well. (Before/during/after photos here), this charming hotel is worth a visit – to stay and/or dine !

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Famous Hotel Piano Bar

I recently had a morning coffee on the terrace of the Palais Mediterranée, a well-known hotel on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.  It was served from the piano bar, called “le 3eme” – aptly named since it’s situated on the 3rd floor of the hotel.  This small, intimate-feeling bar/lounge is cozy and colorful, with rich velvet fabrics and luscious sofas in deep purples and reds. I felt transformed to the time where a formal salon welcomed guests, in a sort of den-like setting.

Live music at “le 3eme” is on Thurday, Friday, and Saturday evenings – so, step into a romantic French parlor-type ambiance and listen to the music, oh, oh, oh…..listen to the music !

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piano corner

sofas

bar

intimate corner

outdoor terrace

Fontainebleau & Hotel Recommendation

I recently stayed at the 4-star hotel, Aigle Noir, due to a off-season, reduced rate and its great location across the street from the Chateau de Fontainebleau.  When I checked in, my designated room was not yet ready; however, the very friendly young man at the front desk offered to upgrade my reservation to a suite (at no extra charge).  Why not?  I really just expected a larger room at any rate (pardon the pun).  I also noticed the charming lounge with a fireplace, just off the lobby and mentally noted to have a drink there later that evening.

The “suite” was indeed “sweet” and comprised two full bathrooms, very large bedroom with table/sitting area and desk, a separate living room, and a complimentary beverage area along the corridor – Wow – I was impressed!

First important test, though, was connecting to Internet via the hotel’s free wifi:  my netbook connected fine to wifi but “no Internet access.”  So, I took my netbook to the lobby to ask for help (ok, really to complain).  Fabian, the same young Frenchman at the reception desk, kindly spent about 20 minutes checking out my netbook settings, etc. (all in English) to solve the access problem, while chatting and with my translating in French (although he understood a little computer English)  Eh, voila!  OK, now I was doubly impressed – the customer service was great.

Although I only stayed one night here, Aigle Noir provided royal service and was well worth splurging a little — after all I was just across from a royal chateau!

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Château Hotel Restaurant – Unique & Unbelievable Beauty

I recently discovered a “hidden gem”:  an amazing five-carat luxury hotel restaurant in a medieval village, with magnificent views to match.  If that’s not enough, the building dates from the 13th century and exudes history and art, keeping its heritage evident amidst the upscale decor.

I wanted to know more about this beauty and recently interviewed the General Manager, Frida, a friendly Swedish woman who first came to Nice at age 19 and was “taken with France.”  With a background in the hotel and restaurant business, in both Sweden and Nice, in an events business in the U.K., and having an International Business degree from the U.K., Frida is well equipped to run this luxury hotel and restaurant, “Château Le Cagnard.”  Now fully renovated to a high standard, the reputable hotel re-opened in October, 2012.

24/7:   Obviously history and art have a major influence on the hotel – how has this aspect been preserved during the renovation?

LC:  The hotel has been updated and refreshed to maintain its romance and charm, as well as to enhance the artistic aspects, such as the “Salle des Gardes” – the dining area where knights once dined – with its unique elephant frescoes painted in 1928 by Emile Wéry that I restored.  Instead of room numbers, our 26 suites and rooms are now named after a local artist, to add a touch of personal artistic romance with a trompe l’oeil, not to mention the 200 hand-painted roof panels in the restaurant with the ceiling that opens up to the Mediterranean sky.

24/7:   What in particular attracts your clientele to your hotel in this small, medieval village?

LC:  I think it’s the hotel’s uniqueness, attention to details,  and its charm, with an overall concept of being a great get-away, but yet centrally located to Nice.  We also have a lot of activities at the hotel: language courses, wine and champagne tastings, cooking school (all by request, for the moment) to provide guests with a chance to experience France in one location.  We are open seven days a week, all year round too.

24/7:  What nationalities have you welcomed into your hotel?

LC:  Our clientele, due to our hotel’s long established reputation, are multi-national, coming from Mexico, Canada, Japan, Germany, U.S., and the U.K.  Since there is a large Scandinavian sector who live in the village, they generally frequent the restaurant.

24/7:  How do you decide on special promotions and publicity campaigns?

LC:  I collaborate with the chef, Stéphane, for what would attract foreigners because we are selling a unique experience and feel for our clients, in keeping our high standards of excellence.  Yes, the three-night stay for the price of two, and market shopping with the chef with the meal then served on the terrace, has proved to be popular promotional package and is a perfect gift idea too.

24/7:  Do you distribute guest surveys?

LC:  Yes, we provide a paper format and have a reception area guest book, as well as social media sites for guests to provide comments.

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Frida then gave me a personal tour, showing me a couple rooms and suites – the overall beauty of the antique decor juxtaposing the modern amenities, with each room having a French-style trompe l’oeil wall painting left me virtually speechless (good that this part took place after the interview!)  — self explanatory when you see the below photos.

(All photos provided by Le Cagnard, except for the first four)

A Wifi Rip-off

Isn’t it only logical that the higher the hotel rating, the more amenities and services are provided and included in the upward prices to match? You would think, right?

Well, I recently traveled to Paris and the surrounding area, staying in a variety of hotels, from 2 to luxury 4-star, chosen for their central locations, breakfast included in the price, and my must-have requirement of wifi.   I benefited from off-season rates, being November, and all was going well, until I refused one hotel’s wifi, as a matter of principle  (sorry, dear readers, for any lapse of regular posts during this time).

Here’s my list:

1.  Lutèce Royal Hotel in the 13th arrondissement of Paris = four star hotel which had a nice size room, friendly staff and free wifi.  Not as central as I would have liked, but good breakfast buffet.

2.  Hotel de France in the 5th arrondissement of Paris = three star hotel with nice room, friendly staff, and free wifi.

3.  Hotel Aigle Noir, located across from the Chateau of Fontainebleau = four star hotel with free wifi (blogging a separate post about this hotel)

4.  Familia Hotel in the 5th  arondissement of Paris = two star hotel with friendly staff, and free wifi.  The room was small and average, but chosen for its easy access to my departure train station.

5.  Trianon Palace Waldorf Astoria about 1 km from the Chateau of Versailles = four star luxury hotel with wifi, spa and pool, elegant restaurant and bar/lounge area (a glass of champagne cost 17 Euros), and formal and professional/polite staff.

Oh yes, they had wifi alright, but every service was à la carte – this meant that they charged 4,50 Euros for 15 minutes of Internet access at the concierge desk, or if I was only going to be “two minutes”, I wouldn’t be charged.  Two minutes, really? They charge 25 Euros for room Internet access (not sure if this is per day) or 14 Euros to rent a plugin access cable (not sure if this is per day) – at this point, I was so annoyed, I stopped listening to the details.  How absurd, I thought, to charge extra for wifi, especially at a luxury hotel, not to mention that it’s free at lesser rated hotels – how can they even justify charging for it?

I guess if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it came into play for this hotel, although I did get a end-of-summer room rate.  I wrote my critique and handed it into reception, stating that I would not stay at their hotel again…..as a matter of principle!

Go figure: this morning I received an email for submitting an electronic survey for my stay, so I guess my letter went into “la poubelle”!