Some things I hate. Strong coffee, especially with oat milk; clichés like calling Paris ‘the City of Lights’; when people write about travel using words no one ever says in real life, like ‘idyllic’ and ‘azure’; button-down collars; mice. There, I’ve said it.
Some things I love. Paris, even when people refer to it as ‘the City of Lights’ (the fools. They probably don’t even know it was because of nothing more interesting than an initiative to get more street lighting back in the day to cut crime); parquet flooring; Business Premier on Eurostar (especially when you’re joined on the ride by Sharleen Spiteri off-of Texas, who’s popping to Paris to do some telly. Because what’s the point of having tip-top celebrity friends if you don’t tell people?); rooftop bars; grand old buildings where they just let the elegance speak for itself.
Which leads me to Madame Rêve, a beautiful new hotel in a beautiful grand old building where they just let the elegance speak for itself right where you want to be in Paris, the First Arrondissement, with galleries down there, gay bars up there and beauty everywhere you look. It even has parquet flooring and a rooftop bar.
Carved out of what was once La Poste du Louvre, the main Post Office (we feel as if there’s still some Post Office-related activity going on next door and you can drop your postcards on the second floor. Postcards! Remember them?), Madame Rêve has a hushed luxury from the moment you walk into the tiny reception area with just a two-person desk, some art, a vitrine, a little table to sign love letters at and some Louis XIV-style lighting (we’re guessing, we get our Louis mixed up). Understated, elegant, delicious.
If you go through those doors, right there, you’re in the Madame Rêve Café, so grand it’s more ballroom than regular café, apparently another part of the old Post Office, from a time when posting a letter was a lavish affair. Sky-high ceilings hung with huge chandeliers, a bar that stretches into the distance and little nests of tables and fauteuils (that’s armchairs in French) that serve as coffee spots, meeting venues and workspaces during the day and for cocktails and full dinners later on. And, if the weather’s OK, a terrace on a no-traffic stretch lined with planters outside.
There’s another restaurant, La Plume, up on the top floor, which is, if possible, lovelier. Cooler, for sure. Clad in dark wood, dotted with Fornasetti tables and with a huge marble horseshoe bar up one end, this is an indoor/outdoor space where you can do breakfast or dinner or lunch or brunch or cocktails inside or out there on the terrace. The slanted windows look out across the city while, in the summer, and if you’re staying at the hotel, you can go up those stairs out on the terrace to a whole secret rooftop with golden loungers, bars, and a 360-degree walkway so you can take in the whole of Paris with a drink in your hand. We’ve been told it’s the biggest rooftop space in all Paris and we feel forced to believe it.
But it’s the rooms at Madame Rêve that will put a lump in your throat. With the same dark wood paneling as in La Plume, only with a gold-lined cut-out, which acts as art and throws out beautiful light. And the same slanted windows, meaning you’re looking up at the sky and the tops of the buildings opposite. The whole effect is retro, but Jean Cocteau retro, arty (the art is good as are the rugs, which, if you look closely, resemble huge antique envelopes), woody, classy, warm. There are touches of mustardy-gold throughout, which can’t help but remind you of Veuve Clicquot.
Bathrooms are mosaic-ed and in similarly retro muted colours while views can be over the specially planted roof garden in the centre of the building, or maybe you’d prefer a terrace with views across to the Eiffel Tower.
Yes, there’s an Espace Bien-Être (they’re not calling it a spa) and a fitness room (which they may or may not be calling a gym) and a list of treatments as long as the arm of the law, but we’re getting all the bien-être and exercise we need sitting up at one of the high stools at the bar downstairs tucking into perfectly cold vodka martinis or up on the roof with something sparkling.
And are you ready for your denouement? Sweet dreams really are made of Madame Rêve, and who are we to disagree? Now try getting that out of your head for the rest of the day.
Oh, and before we go, another thing we like about Paris: the daft-as-a-brush gay afternoon-nighter at Rosa Bonheur in the Buttes Chaumont park on a Sunday. Idyllic, it is. Not azure though.