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island hopping with a difference

Nobody loves a good island holiday more than me. In fact, I’m a sucker for ‘em and this one was no exception. So mon cheri, come with me to gay Paree and one of my favourite islands in the world, the tiny and quaint Ile Saint-Louis.

The Ile St Louis is one of the oldest parts of Paris, and certainly one of the most romantic. It is perfect promenading territory and very à la française. It will provide you with an authentic French experience that will have you feeling like an oh so chic local in no time.

Here you will find glorious mansions on narrow streets, bakeries, restaurants and cafes, and interesting boutiques that will pique your curiosity so much they leave you with no choice but to enter and see what wonders they behold. It is as though a little village has been plucked straight from the 17th century and placed in the middle of the Seine.

Coming back to the 21st century is as easy as crossing one of the four bridges that link the island to both sides of the river. You will then find yourself in the Marais quarter, the Place de la Bastille and the St Germain quarter. Lots of the city’s famous attractions are within walking distance. Or crossing the tiny Pont St Louis will have you on the Île de la Cité and a short stroll from the one and only Notre Dame Cathedral.

The island is one of only two natural islands in the Seine, and once upon a time was nothing but swamp. That was until some olden day version of a property mogul saw its potential and by 1660 it was transformed. In the 1800s it was a very hip bohemian hang-out, and played host to the likes of Dumas, Beaudelaire and Delacroix who once a month met at one of the hotels to get high on hashish.

These days it is more famous for being the home of Berthillon ice cream than being the home of hashish. After a drink at the Au Franc Pinot wander along the tree-lined quais with a chocolat noir Berthillon in hand, and soak up the atmosphere of the fairy lights and street performers on the Pont St Louis. You will regularly find jugglers and jazz performers here and it’s a great way to finish your day with some local joie de vivre before heading back to your hotel.

The Hotel Saint-Louis en l’Isle is warm and inviting with old oak beams and stone walls, velvet furnishings and terracotta floors. Rooms have the juliette balconies so synonymous with Paris; balconies that could have you throwing caution to the wind and opening up your shutters in the morning and yelling bonjour to the waking street below. Luxurious bathrooms contain all the mod cons, and the beds are like clouds that will have you dreaming of Nicolas Cazale (j’adore) before you can say croissant.

J’aime Ile St Louis, and I have not doubt you will fall in love with it too. It will appeal to those of you who prefer to be a traveller rather than a tourist, and those who prefer to live like a local yet still be in the centre of the action. Bon voyage mon ami!

(click on photo for full size image)

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