They say this party house was so exclusive that it had a silver bath tub with a third tap that was only used for the litres of bubbly that used to flow through it. Not surprisingly, the Traveller Paris started out as the most decadent address of the 19th Century but now it’s a fantastically well located members club, filled with rooms so full of character that I felt like I was Phileas Fogg.
My stay there was the start of a two week getaway to the French Riviera and provided the opportunity for a scenic train journey across France. The short few hours on the train from London were punctuated by the animated conversation of French housewives as they debriefed their London experience on their home journey. I somehow doubted that their time in London was as impressive as what I was about to find in their home city.
My destination that evening was the Travellers Paris. Established in 1903 it is now considered as one of the most exclusive members clubs in Paris. With a visitor’s book filled by some of France’s finest businessman and entrepreneurs, it nestles gracefully amongst the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Elysées
Stepping out of the station and in to the quiet hum of a Parisian evening, I rang the buzzer to a set of large wooden doors and walked off the streets and back in time. An old rickety elevator with those pull-across steel shutter doors carried me to my room. The ancient lift was too cramped for me and my luggage and I was told by the Concierge to shout down for it once I had reached the top so he could send it up.
Out of the seven or so bedrooms, mine was the ‘Les Indes’, an exceptionally characterful room on the highest floor of the building. Scenes from the Raj of tiger hunts and marauding elephants adorned the walls and through the rounded windows I could just see the top of the Eiffel Tower as its lights swung round like a lighthouse beckoning the world in. The shared bathroom was down a rather long wood-panelled corridor and although ornate, there was no trace of the silver bath tub with its magical third tap for dispensing champagne.
The Concierge was kind enough to take me on a tour which started with perhaps the clubs most famous feature, the magnificent spiral staircase. Carved in yellow onyx in the style of the Italian Renaissance it is lined with golden statues of the poets Virgil, Dante and Petrarque and leads lavishly up to large and impressively ornate dining rooms. Perhaps the most unique room lay quietly behind a hidden entrance set into the wall. Large doors barred the entrance to the main rooms, each one protected by a golden bust of a maiden expounding words such as fortitudo, nobilitas, gratia and divitiae (just in case you hadn’t got the point yet that this is a really classy place).
Downstairs the club has more of a feel for entertaining guests. There is a long, well stocked bar that lies to the side of the large billiards room and a member’s only area where one gentleman had escaped work to briefly catch up on the tennis at Wimbledon which was playing out in silence on the television.
It was later that evening that I ventured down one of the many streets that branch off the Champs-Elysées to find a local French restaurant that had come well recommended by the Concierge. Inside a quaint façade lay a well-stocked steak house that smelled like a butchers, with massive cuts of beef stacked up behind transparent refrigerator doors barely an arms-length away from the tables they would serve that evening.
With the morning came the sound of Paris as it warmed up to the week. Breakfast was signalled by a knock and an elderly lady appeared from around the door pushing a trolley covered in a starched white tablecloth. Silverware and fine china adorned the top, making up my continental breakfast in bed. I confess that a few dollops of fig conserve went amiss and ended up on the fine bed linen. I consoled myself that such things are bound to happen in a situation where you have to ladle your croissant up so far from the bed!
Later, as my TGV sped southwards for some much needed sunshine the coffee was served in cardboard cups and the cutlery was disposable plastic. Traveller’s Paris was a golden memory, a dream of more elegant times.