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Paris Behind the Clichés

If you think you know it all when it comes to Paris, then think again. Paris holds its secrets behind its popular clichés. Yes, the baguettes are under the arms, yes the men with obligatory moustaches smile at style as it breezes by in its flats or stilettos. But why, why so smug? Well, perhaps with good reason. Paris has some of the finest architecture in Europe, some of the finest hotels in any city and some of the finest boutiques in the world!

The five star Hotel Meurice could never disappoint. Its classical architecture is so perfectly situated overlooking the Tuileries Gardens and the steps to the Louvre. Style and elegance permeate every cubic centimetre of this hotel and after a long day in the Rues, the tranquil spa will rejuvenate and revive to perfection. If Paris immediately throws the Eiffel Tower to mind then stay at the Hotel Plaza Athénée, made famous in that Sex in the City trip to the French capital, perfectly positioned on Avenue Montaigne right by the river Seine, overlooking this extraordinary world trademark. Stay in total luxury, feast your eyes on the spectacular surroundings and feast your culinary desires in Alan Ducasse's finely-tuned, three Michelin-starred restaurant.

Once outside either of these two faultless grand luxe hotels, you will, of course, need to shop. Start at Colette (213 rue Saint-Honore, www.collette.fr) for its unparalleled magnetic eclecticism. You are drawn from one table to the next shelf around the next corner and all the time you are discovering potential purchases that increase the pulse at an alarming rate. It is referred to as "the heart of cool", albeit situated in a somewhat conservative part of Paris. Then a little petit four, peut-etre? Or a tarte tatin? Laduree, on 75 av des Champs-Elysees, is, in archetypically Parisian style, where you indulge in just a little more than you should... then for something heaven scent, you visit the revamped Guerlain (68, av.Des Champs-Elysees) and purchase limited edition re-issues from the 1930's and 1950's in a boutique and spa tiled in gold mosaics. There is so much to do and see in this incredible city made from 20 'villages', each with its own style and all holding their own secrets. The autumn is a fabulous time to unravel the Paris behind the clichés.

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