Issue 12 / Exploring The Legendary Left Bank Of Paris

Exploring The Legendary Left Bank Of Paris

Aug 26, 2015

Whether you’re writing a novella or chasing artistic inspiration in Paris, head to the artsy side of town, la Rive Gauche (the Left Bank), for a rendezvous with period romance and contemporary style.

With less than 45 hours to spend in Paris, I am determined to steer left. After one night at the tony 16th arrondissement — packed with long walks on posh boulevards, a quick stroll at the Bois de Boulogne park and late-night dinner on quattro formaggi pizza — I cross over. Traditionally home to financially challenged artistic geniuses like Picasso, Matisse and Hemingway, the Left Bank may not have the wealth and hipster rise that the Right is witnessing, but with Montparnasse’s refurbished ateliers, the Latin Quarter’s cobbled lanes and Saint-Germain-des-Prés’s café terraces, home to well-dressed gents and tousled-haired girls in striped tees with scarlet lips, there’s a classic charm to this side of town that’s captivating.

A soft twilight glow descends upon Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


One of the two highlights of my time out left was the most delightful pied-à-terre. Every writer worth her worn-out lappie fantasizes about that little Paris balcony in a tiny (but awfully fashionable) little home where she can bang out her next bestseller. Hotel Da Vinci, squeezed into the traffic nightmare of Rue des Saints-Pères, is a terrific four-star find, just cosy enough for a singleton or couple to feel at home and just fashionable enough to not feel like you’re living it up. The hotel is packed to capacity but offers to hold my luggage while I take a whirl around the area, pack a little box of macarons from Ladurée and gaze over a cappuccino cup as life goes by.

The Da Vinci Hotel exterior is tucked into bustling Rue des Saints-Pères.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

Checking in, I find a mint leaf–infused iced water at the plush but intimate reception room, where I read up on the hotel’s history. It appears that this very building played host to the world’s most famous painting for a week in August 1911. Pulling off the theft of the century, a Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and took refuge here for a few days before attempting to smuggle it into Italy. When the refurbished hotel opened in 2014, it named this room the Thieves’ Room after the brave fugitive.  

Da Vinci Café is alongside the atmospheric hotel lobby.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

I don’t bag either the Thieves Room or the coveted Mona Lisa room with a terrace opening out into the patio garden, but I’m thrilled with my Renaissance Room on the poky fifth floor. It's awash in pastel shades with a Da Vinci fresco above the bed, fresh fruits with a personalized welcome note, Roberto Cavalli toiletries in the bathroom and a wrought-iron balcony to die for. Details are everything; in particular the vintage-style dial-up phone that I’m tempted to steal. There’s always a danger of bumping into the cleaning staff or a neighbour while stepping out — it’s a marvel that they’ve managed to artfully arrange so much luxury in such small spaces. The in-house café has a Venetian machine (another neat Renaissance touch) that brews a sensational espresso, and I consume several shots along with madeleines and crèpes for breakfast, where, again in typical Parisian fashion, one sits cheek-to-jowl with fellow breakfasters. I digest with a dreamy walk on Les Berges, the new pedestrian stretch along the Seine.

The Invention Room displays Da Vinci's gorgeous Battle of Anghiari fresco in muted ochre lighting.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

A personalized welcome note from management and a peek outside Da Vinci Café.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Back at the hotel, it’s time for the complimentary sauna, which leaves me a tad underwhelmed until they show me the pool. Located on the lower level, it’s a private area with a ceramic life-size tiger cub guarding the entrance. Barely 400 square feet in size, it’s absolutely lovely; the mosaic-lined pool is surrounded by lights reproducing the colours of the Mona Lisa with a very '80s star-studded arch and a glass partition stained with Da Vinci’s famous Renaissance Man.

The private relaxation area features a jacuzzi and massage chairs.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

After an entire day spent lazing and writing on the balcony, I have a last (huge) surprise before bidding Paris goodbye. A reservation’s just come through at Guy Savoy. The legendary French chef’s three–Michelin starred restaurant has relocated to the Paris Mint (a breezy walk from the hotel) and is a vision with its red-carpeted staircase and massive Seine-facing windows. It's safe to say the service wasn’t as scary as expected and the food was a treat for the senses. Through a posse of awfully pretty-looking plates, two signature dishes are memorable: the buttery, sinful yet refined Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup and the Vanilla Mille Feuille, which was so delicate I couldn’t ask for a more fitting climax to this Paris rendezvous.

Neon Sign at the Entrance to Guy Savoy
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

The restaurant's signature dishes include Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup and Vanilla Mille Feuille.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Main Image Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

Aparna Pednekar


 Aparna is an India - based travel writer for leading lifestyle and fashion publications. She's also a gemologist and jewelry designer. New cities, new food, cats, dogs, snakes, hours of walking and driving fuel her incurable ADD.


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