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LUXURY HOTELS: Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris, FRANCE
Style: Crimson red awnings and ivy-clad courtyard
Scene: A croissant toss from The Champs Elysees
Seen in the lobby: Famous families, repeat visitors, those who just love this hotel (it inspires loyalty)

At the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, with it geranium-red awnings and ivy covered courtyard, a matching red teddy bear with the hotel's name emblazoned on his chest, is propped up on the bed to welcome us. There is also a child pack with a colouring book of Parisian scenes and crayons. When we come back from a stroll up the Champs Elysées, a croissant-toss from the hotel, a surprise of milk and an enormous homemade chocolate chip cookie is waiting. These little touches continue throughout our stay and make this a surprisingly family friendly hotel.

exterior plaza athenee
exterior plaza athenee
plaza athenee suite 888
hotel plaza athenee suite
plaza athenee le relais plaza
bathroom royal suite
le bar du plaza athenee

In autumn an old fashioned carousel revolves in La Cour Jardin, the hotel's courtyard, and for winter (December to the end of January) the courtyard is transformed into an ice rink that families can skate on. At Christmas there is also a complimentary horse drawn carriage to trot you down to Place de la Concorde; younger guests get a blanket to cuddle under and creamy hot chocolate to drink. Those looking for a suitable hotel souvenir can take home little red baby shoes, teddies, mini umbrellas, red pint-sized bathrobes and best of all a children's working cabriolet car modelled on a 1930s BMW and available to order at a mere 15,000 Euro; which makes those one-Euro Eiffel Tower key rings they flog on the Champs Elysées look a trifle tacky. The car's top speed is only 12 kilometres an hour, so the only accident will be in the vicinity of your wallet.

Currently there is even more in store for les petite fille because Barbie  moves into the hotel during August and September. Yes, Hôtel Plaza Athénée has given two of its bedrooms a makeover using the famous doll's favourite colours. Plaza red gives way to bubblegum pink. Decorated with 'exclusively signed' furniture, (I didn't know a plastic doll had such talent) and other suitably blush-coloured accessories. What will they say down the road at Chanel?

Luckily Hôtel Plaza Athénée has plenty of treats of adults too. Such as the association with Alain Ducasse (he is the hotel's executive chef) and Le Bar du Plaza Athénée designed by Patrick Jouin, a protégé of Philippe Starck, with its mix of trendy & tradition style.

Then there is the 191 recently renovated rooms and suites, show-casing the best of classic of French style. When you walk in each has a scent of amber, the hotel's signature fragrance. The Luxury Travel Bible especially likes the Art Deco Suite Eiffel Terrasse with its wide terrace, 180° panorama of the Paris skyline and views of that famous tower of Monsieur Eiffel's .

Best special offer for adults currently is the chance of a two hour private cruise on the Seine in an old-style motorboat (Think 1950s Riviera). The hotel is offering this until October.

From the Plaza it is an easy to walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We climb it and stare down at the broad boulevards, which span out from the monument like the spokes of a bike wheel. In the other direction we can stroll down to the River Seine and across to the Eiffel Tower. On the river we hop on a Bateaux Mouche boat and take a watery ride down to the Musee D'Orsay and Notre Dame with its Hunchback stories and fantastic gargoyles as scary as cartoon super-villains.

Children behave well in Paris, they seem to rise to the challenge of all that art and culture and politeness; they acquire a sort of Parisian polish and handle white table-clothed restaurants and five star lobbies with aplomb. Amazed I watch as my knock-about son shakes hands with the concierge, offers his name politely - " Bonjour Je m'appelle Alex" - and enquires as to the gentleman's health -" Comment ca va?"- all unprompted. Granted he can't understand the reply, which differs from the one we have practiced back home, but nevertheless the city's sophistication is obviously rubbing off. The joy of Paris is that there are also plenty of places to let off steam. A day at the Bois de Bologne riding the toy train or a pony or dashing about the playgrounds works well, so does a bike ride along the Seine or you can even take a sewer tour under the city - very Victor Hugo.

If after all this you still have a hyper-active child I recommend walking them up the Eiffel Tower. That will fix 'em. The added advantage of this is that the queues for the lifts can stretch half way along the Seine but the legs of the tower, which you walk up, are rarely crowded.

At first glance, sophisticated, stylish Paris might not seem like the ideal destination for the young and sticky fingered. The French after all are not as doting as the Italians who love to kiss every new bambini they meet on both chubby cheeks and then whisk them away to be admired by half the town. The French are more reserved more chic, more superieur. However the Plaza and its stylish sister hotel Le Meurice (more of that later) may be two of the chicest in the capital but they are also phenomenally child-friendly. Managing somehow to be five star and fabulous while still making les enfants feel at home.

" A bientot" says our 9-year-old to the pretty girl on the check-out desk blowing her an extravagant kiss - clearly a born-again Frenchman from now on.

Check in: Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris 25 avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, France , Phone: +33 1 53 67 66 65,
Ultimate Luxury: The Suite with its huge wrap around balcony and views of the Eiffel Tower.
Most Indulgent Moment: The Dior Institut spa
Insider Secrets: The hotel's General Manager, François Delahaye is also the Chief Operating Office of Dorchester Collection. This is also the hotel that Carrie stays at in Sex and the City at the end of the TV series.
The Little Things: The scent of amber in the rooms
Junior Luxies: Welcomed with open arms and French panache
Dress code: Designer. After all the hotel is on avenue Montaigne which is also home to some of Paris's most exclusive designer shops including Christian Dior, Chanel, Max Mara, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Céline, Valentino, Calvin Klein and Hermès.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.plaza-athenee-paris.com www.dorchestercollection.com
Hilary Doling 9/7/10 Updated 8/12/10.
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