There are countless ways to experience a luxurious getaway in France. But there’s just something about going on amenity-filled adventures in the snowy Alps or jaunting over to vibrant Paris for an action-packed week that never gets old. Here’s how we suggest tackling both destinations.
THE FRENCH ALPS
Where to Stay
There is nothing quite like the picture-perfect natural elements found in the French Alps, especially when the pine trees wear heavy white cloaks of powder. A driver will bring you up the winding roads and you’ll watch the cold, misty air turn to snow-covered mountain peaks. You’ll arrive at the ultimate location of piste possibilities, Courchevel 1850 (called so for its elevation in meters), and your home for a few days, Cheval Blanc, Courchevel. The famous LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey) bear and larger-than-life, mirrored cheval will be there to welcome you as you step into the sweet and refined surroundings.
From that moment, you’ll be enamored by the property’s warmth. At just 36 rooms, Cheval Blanc celebrates the guest as if each person is a beloved family member. Locals call this kind of welcome l’art de recevoir (the French art of receiving).
Upon check-in, you’ll be greeted with the smiling faces at the front desk, and then escorted to the bar, where you can sip on hot chocolate with fresh crème chantilly. Immediately, the rich and textured style and design of talented interior designer Sybille de Margerie encourages you to relax and take in plush fabrics, dark woods and playful Alpine cuckoo clocks.
In the guest room, you may find housemade caramels, delicate pink marshmallows, a bottle of champagne and fruit nectars for morning mimosas in bed. The selection of pillows won’t leave you disappointed as there is an option for every sleeping head. In the guest bathroom, you will find a hammam rain-shower with chromotherapy and a super deep soaking tub, extra soft slippers along with winter-spiced and alpine-scented amenities you will want to hoard for home.
Indulge in a meal at Le Triptyque or the exclusive Le 1947 at Cheval Blanc, where chef Yannick Alléno lets his artistry fly with measured grace. You will dream of those memories for months after you’ve laid down your fork. Maybe you will savor local foie gras, delicate and rich at once, or a serving of the decadently pungent Mont d’Or cheese delivered from Sancey Richard Fromagerie. Either way, the talented team will happily discuss any culinary needs you might have.
At the Cheval Blanc spa, Guerlain-trained beauty coaches will treat you to a variety of body treatments, but whatever you do, don’t forget to enhance it with the array of scents (like Guerlain’s Eau de Cashmere). Perhaps the trip calls for a customized aroma of your own design — a timeless gift to self.
Regardless of what you do, a dip in the indoor infinity-edged pool or a soak in the muscle-loosening Russian banya hot tub after a day on the slopes are musts.
Where to Eat
Before departing Courchevel, stop in to L’Anerie for the dynamic fondue savoyarde, made with kirsch (a sour cherry brandy), white Savoy wine infused with herbs and the combo of Beaufort, Comte and Reblochon cheeses. When he is not guiding confident skiers through the mountain forests, the charismatic Emile will serve you with gusto and share stories of the history and traditions of Savoy.
What to Do
As for the shoppers who may prefer to hit the boutiques rather than the slopes, a visit to Louis Vuitton, right at 1850, will be a feast for the senses. Pop in to Blu&Berry for Celine, Isabel Marant, Dries Van Noten and other designer brands. While you’re in the village, don’t forget to peruse Loro Piana for elegant cashmere scarves and clothing. And when you’re done shopping and skiing for the day, take the gondola to the top of the mountain for an extraordinary sunset view.
Where to Stay
At The Peninsula Paris, which was once the historic Hotel Majestic and just a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe, you are struck by the balance of classic elegance and contemporary design. If you want to really splurge, the Katara Suite, located on the top floor of the Five-Star hotel, comes with a terrace, rooftop garden and astounding views of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Parisian skyline.
For an afternoon tea that would be shame to miss, visit Le Lobby. The traditional service here includes sweet and savory finger sandwiches, mango tarts and mini cakes.
With some advance planning, you also can visit L’Oiseau Blanc, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, where panoramas of the entire city can be enjoyed. But most memorably, on display is a suspended replica of the actual white aircraft, the restaurant’s namesake, with a 36-foot wingspan. The original plane, flown by Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli, was the first to attempt a nonstop, trans-Atlantic crossing.
Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris is another luxurious retreat in the city. This golden child of the storied brand never disappoints. You’ll find the Five-Star property’s location ideal (walking distance to the Champs-Élysées), its service refined (the guest relations staff is a gem), the amenities world-class (marble-lined hammam) and the food flawless (more on that in a bit).
Hotel George V’s guest rooms are enticing. The French Suite, for example, is 1,500 square feet of opulent blues, stark whites, a marble fireplace and spectacular vistas of Avenue George V and courtyard below. Order afternoon tea via room service — and add on champagne to make it a teatime to remember.
Where To Eat
While a meal at Hotel George V’s divine Le Cinq, helmed by chef Christian Le Squer, is essential, one of our favorite recent dining memories happened at one of the property’s other establishments, Le George, where chef Simone Zanoni wowed with satisfying Mediterranean dishes and service that astounded as much as the food.
If you are wise, start with the tomato tarte tatin accompanied by a cacio e pepe glace that melts in your mouth. Pair it with a glass of Lambrusco Saetti, a deep sparkling red that is shockingly bold and crisp next to the acidity of the tart.
As the sun goes down, stop by the hotel’s Le Bar for a warming cognac and a plate of Comte cheese and thinly sliced ham. The cozy ambiance and inviting leather couches allow for an evening of lingering alongside other guests with de-stressing and digestifs on the mind.
When you’re exploring the city, be sure to walk the 4th Arrondissment streets of what was once the Jewish Quarter of Paris, Le Marais, and find some of the best falafel outside of Lebanon at L’As du Fallafel. Lines are long, so get there early or really late.
A few of our other favorites around town depend on the craving: Eric Kayser, for some of the most consistently made baguettes and delicate financiers; Hugo & Victor, for great pastries and playful tarts; Patrick Roger, for architectural chocolates; and D’Chez Eux, for an overdose of escargot.
What To Do
There are adventures to be had outside of eating and shopping in Paris, to be sure. On a weekday evening, when the crowds aren’t quite so thick, sunset near the Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a charming and peaceful way to wind down the day.
If you’re looking for something to do while everyone else is queued up at the Louvre, a visit to the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine is an unforgettable tour of some of Europe’s finest murals, monuments and structural designs.
The same goes for a wine-tasting journey in the remarkable caves at Taillevent. This experience comes with a private sommelier, an overview and history of wines and vineyards, and the potentiality to customize an outing based on your own taste preferences.