Fancy skipping town without spending half a day at an airport? Jump on the train for an autumn weekend break instead: we know some enticing Eurostar stays just a hop, a skip and a train ride away from the UK. Eco-friendly ‘traincations’ (sorry) are easier, quicker and – seeing as there’s no weight limit for luggage – you can stock up on extra souvenirs. You can even take your wine/cognac/full-size French beauty products through security… pre-Christmas shopping tip to Paris, anyone?
BEST FOR ART LOVERS: LE ROYAL MONCEAU
From October 3 to November 3, Le Royal Monceau in Paris will be home to a monumental art installation from Royal College of Art graduate Kate MccGwire. MccGwire’s work (above), which appears at the hotel’s Art District Gallery as part of the FIAC Art Fair 2013, promises to include mysterious and magical animal-like forms; the artist has been fashioning her own fairy-tale-esque hybrid creatures since 2008, attracting a suitably wowed following. The Starck-designed hotel, a Raffles outpost in Paris, has an art-book shop and a dedicated art concierge, as well as decadent, modern decor: when it comes to where to sleep, we’re big fans of the Executive Rooms.
If you want to sneak away for a long weekend (checking in as Mr & Mrs Smith, of course), Paris is the obvious choice… and who wants to be obvious? Do something different: go to Belgium. Odette en Ville in Brussels is a seductive art deco townhouse with nine secluded rooms, lashings of vintage-chic charm and a handy array of boutiques selling chocolate and lace just steps away. (And if all that inspires enough, um, Belgian kissing for you to work up an appetite, the hotel’s restaurant serves what are rumoured to be the best chips on the planet, as well as more sophisticated fare.)
If you’re whisking someone wonderful off to the Continent for a wild weekend, where better than the theatrically glamorous Saint James Paris hotel? It’s a trompe l’oeil, striped, leopard-print, red-velvet-covered, hot-air-balloon-adorned wonderland – the ideal place for wowing the object of your affections, no matter how hard-to-impress he or she may be. Our favourite room in the house is 204, a split-level junior suite on the first floor that overlooks the grand entrance and the grounds, and has plenty of witty details.
La Régalade Conservatoire at Hôtel de Nell is still a relatively new face on the City of Light’s crowded dining scene, but chef Bruno Doucet’s intimate restaurant is firm favourite with in-the-know locals. The three-course dinner menu is delightfully interesting, decadently delicious and astoundingly non-expensive; reservations are a must, of course. Book yourselves into one of the relaxingly minimalist room upstairs so you can soak in the Japanese bathtub pre-dinner and linger in the lobby bar for a cocktail late into the night.
BEST FOR SOPHISTICATED SHOPPING: HOTEL PARADIS
Hôtel Paradis in Paris’ très cool 9th arrondissement is a mid-century-style fan’s whimsical dream hotel, but it won’t break the bank: once you’ve congratulated yourself for finding such a bargain design den, take the money you’ve saved and saunter out onto the nearby Grands Boulevards for top-notch present shopping to impress your friends and family come Christmas. When you arrive with suitcases empty, it’s an easy stroll from Gare du Nord (when you’re heading home laden with Ladurée macarons and other French fancies, you might prefer to take a taxi).
Does all that has you dusting off your passport? Wonderful: why not explore our full curated collection of Eurostar hotels? If you’re a GoldSmith member, book your first-class Eurostar fare through Mr & Mrs Smith for a discounted price.