For savvy travellers who wish to have a real Parisian experience, it doesn’t get more authentic than this. More exclusive than a bed & breakfast but more personalised than a luxury hotel there is a ‘third concept’ taking hold in Paris. It’s hard to put a label on the rare pearl that is the Relais 12bis, so let’s call it a ‘Boutique Bed & Breakfast’.
Owners Sabine Knab and Philippe Schwartz love their elegant corner of Paris, and it shows. Quite a corner it is. Philippe’s family owns the whole late-Hausmannian period building in the patrician 15th arrondissement. Each of the three generations of the family takes up one floor, and, in their latest project, they converted the first floor into a smart and chic maison d’hôtes – mere steps from the Tour Eiffel yet in a leafy and peaceful street.
Sabine is experienced in high-end hotel operations and has an impeccable eye for design.
In each of the five en-suite rooms she took inspiration from a poster of an artist’s exhibition, coordinating the subtle colour scheme and textures accordingly. Here you can choose to dream in Matisse, Raysse, Hantaï, Braque, or Mondrian.
Guests arrive as if to their private residence, with their own code and key, and have full run of the living-dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen TV and a 24h self-service selection of coffees and teas. As with everything in Relais 12 bis, it’s not just tea, it’s Mariage Frères tea and designer Damman Frères herbal tissanes, plus dainty home-baked cakes. With the same attention to detail the toiletries in the sparkling white marble bathroom, Anne Semonin exotic verbena, are divine. If all these names don’t mean anything to you right now, don’t worry, they will after your visit. You’ll be bringing lots of ideas to add a touch of Parisian art de vivre to your home.
The breakfast ranges from a Parisian style croissant-and-espresso, to the full display of filtered coffee, eggs cooked your way, ham and cheese, fresh fruit, yoghurt, and fresh baguette tartines with a choice of organic orange marmalade, jams and local honey.
In line with their ‘one-of-a-kind’ service, there is an exclusive offer at the Anne Semonin Spa for guests of the house, and access to a private licensed tour guide who has a particularly popular tour for children. You could combine both and keep ‘les petits’ culturally entertained while you indulge your senses in the spa.
One challenge in this type of building, with high ceilings and parquet floors, is sound proofing. In the morning, Philippe asked if my Hantaï neighbours had disturbed my Matisse slumber, as they had left at dawn to catch a very early flight. They hadn’t. I had slept on a bed of clouds. But then I am known for snoozing through the rural din of tractors, church-bells and roosters, so perhaps I’m not the best judge in the matter.
Make sure to book well ahead of your trip because already 2 weeks after opening, Relais 12bis was operating at 100% capacity. Whether we choose to call it Relais 12bis, maison d’hôtes, 5-star bed & breakfast or boutique B&B, the one label that we can agree on is to call it a truly special place.
Relais 12 bis, 12 bis, rue Desaix, Paris 15th. Métro: Bir-Hakeim ou Dupleix ot RER C Tour-Eiffel. Tél.: 06 80 92 65 68. www.relais12bis.com. Double rooms starting at €200 breakfast included