Green Sojourn In Paris And South of France

Traveling eco-friendly takes a little bit of extra effort, let’s face it. In France, it’s not as if Eco Hotels are few and far between, but if traveling Eco-Friendly is a priority, they are accommodations you have to look for.

Paris offers several authentic choices, each distinctively different, offering up unique glimpses of the city and its environs. Two charming Parisian hotels that are both doing their share for the environment while providing excellent hospitality are The Hidden Hotel nestled in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris’s 17th arrondissement and Hotel de la Porte Dorée just at the steps of the Bois de Vincennes, Paris’s rambling vast public gardens near the Chateau de Vincennes.  And if you venture south, towards the Mediterranean Sea, we have a lovely little hotel to recommend for your stay while delighting in France’s southern wine, sea and sand region.

The Hidden Hotel

If you’re a fan of L.A. or NYC modern chic, then you will feel right at home at the Hidden Hotel. The décor includes modern furniture handcrafted out of whole logs, chrome-free cured leathers, natural fiber linens and piped in lounge music. Located on the quiet side-street of rue de l’Arc de Triomphe, you would never guess that you are mere steps away from the Champs Elysees, the famous Parisian boulevard that is alive day and night.

Hidden Hotel Lobby, Paris, 17th Arr.

The façade of the hotel resembles a “Living Wall,” such as is featured at the Museé de Quai Branly, and guests have been known to walk right past the hotel, situated across the street from what locals say is Paris’s best sushi restaurant, so discreet is its demeanor.

Once you enter through the sliding glass and wooden doors, however, you instantly feel like you’ve entered into some chic lounge club that only the hippest of the hipsters are dialed in on. A small terrace in the heart of the hotel lobby invites you and a friend to take a moment to relax, breathe and order an aperitif. In fact, the lobby is so welcoming that Guests routinely use the space as a workroom, their glistening white MacBooks open atop their laps as they lounge on the linen and leather chairs and couches.

Hidden Hotel "Petit Salon"

Hidden Hotel Room, Paris, Quartier Arc de Triomphe

The hotel and its rooms are furnished with partner design firm, Hidden Cabin’s exquisite pieces of both linens and furniture. This natural textile and materials design firm owned and operated by husband and wife team Diane and Jamie, expresses the hotel’s philosophy of Luxe Naturel harmoniously. If you believe the saying, “God is in the details,” you’ll find it here: The buttons on the linen duvet covers are stamped with the logo “Hidden Hotel,” and the towels are luxuriously oversized organic cotton.

Each room is open to the spa-sized bath and shower which feature the “rain”shower and all but the top floor rooms have a canape-curtain encircling the beds that provide an added sense of privacy. The beds used throughout the hotel are the CocoMat beds, an Eco bed manufacturer out of Greece. All the layers and fibers used in the construction of the beds are either recyclable or made from recycled products. The Hidden Hotel’s top investment and design priority was in its beds: “People primarily check into a hotel to sleep. So why not provide them with the best facilities to allow them a good night’s sleep?” explained Elsa Biscaut, Hidden Hotel’s Manager.

Hidden Hotel Bathroom, Paris

Hidden Hotel Rooms, Paris 17th

The top floor rooms look out onto the Parisian rooftop landscape and are a bit larger than the other rooms, each featuring a unique layout. The Hidden Hotel is one of only two Parisian hotels that features hardwood floors. The designers have made this choice as both an aesthetic and a hypo-allergenic one.

Breakfast is an organic feast. The Hidden Hotel is graced with repeat guests so they like to keep the breakfast menu varied, sometimes featuring freshly-made organic yogurt and fruit smoothies, other times seasonal fruit salads along with the standard fare of fresh croissants, organic jams, cold cuts, cheeses, eggs and more…The long “picnic” table on which breakfast is served encourages conversation among guests.

Rates are reasonable here especially considering the prestige location and the top-quality service and luxury accommodation. It’s advised to book in advance as it’s a popular weekend romantic get-away – even for Parisians.

Complimentary WiFi   www.hidden-hotel.com

Hotel de la Porte Dorée

Hotel de la Porte Dorée, nestled just on the steps of the Bois de Vincennes in Paris’s 12th arrondissement, is exactly the charming little French hotel people dream about when they dream of coming to Paris.

Hotel de la Porte Doree, Paris 12th Arr.

This beautiful little hotel on Avenue Daumesnil is the fruit of “amour” and that warmth can be felt as soon as you walk through the doors into the fresh and inviting lobby with its red color schemes, polished hardwood floors, bouquets of fresh flowers that proprietor Christina has likely just brought back from the fresh market that morning and Pierre, the front desk person, who is there to help you practice your French.

Hotel de la Porte Doree, Paris

Christina, a native Californian, and her husband Laurent Greveldinger, met some twenty years ago when she first came over to Paris on a study abroad program. They met, fell in love, and now with beautiful children, an enchanting Parisian hotel and years of a successful marriage behind them, Christina is very much enjoying life as a Franco-American in Paris.

“I’ve lived in France now as long as I had lived in the States when I first moved here,” she noted when Greening Hollywood spoke to her. Mme. Greveldinger is every inch the “Lady of the Manor,” though in this case the Manor is the charming 43 room Hotel de la Porte Dorée. Chic, slim, blond and blue-eyed with that mega-watt California smile that seems to transport the Golden State’s sunshine to Paris even on the rainiest of days, Christina most definitely found her calling when she transformed her dreams of owning and running a hotel with her husband in Paris into a successful reality.

Hotel de la Porte Doree

Hotel de la Porte Doree, Paris

The bedding and décor throughout the hotel are of 4-star quality. The Queen-sized beds in the larger rooms are all luxurious and are an overt invitation to slumber, the soft crisp linens enveloping you as you tuck in for a good night’s sleep. I would advise travelers to pay no mind to the hotel’s two-star designation as the quality and service you receive, especially for the exceedingly reasonable rates, put this hotel way above and beyond. They also offer special promotions, as well, for guests who book in advance.

The décor of the hotel has been done up in primarily Henry II pieces which, for Americans, qualify as antiques, but for the French would be merely “reclaimed” furniture pieces, all heavy, sculpted wood from an era when things were made to last. “My mother-in-law is very ‘Eco’ without even trying,” explained Christina who is quick and generous to attribute credit of the chosen and exquisitely framed artwork – all reproductions of pieces on display at the Louvre – and the hand refinished furnishings to both her mother and father-in-law. “My father-in-law bought old dining tables, cut them in half and used them to make the desks in the rooms, which we fastened to the walls,” explained Christina.

Throughout the hotel, Christina and her best friend, Jodie, who came over from home-town Sacramento to join in on living the Parisian life, have put in energy and consumption efficient tools to minimize wastage. Features such as lights, water, showers, dual-flush toilets are all of the highest standard toward efficient use of resources. The toiletries in the bathrooms are all organic and shower dispensers are gradually replacing the travel-sized toiletries which many note for their container wastage. For cleaning products, Christina’s staff have discovered that the age-old vinegar is not just organic, it’s a magic cleaning ingredient.

“We’re contemplating putting in a resource-saving card in each room but we want to maintain the old-world charm,” explained Christina when discussing how far to push the eco agenda. She and her staff take the time each day to do a daily audit of “lights off” throughout the hotel to minimize needless energy wastage.

Hotel de la Porte Doree Breakfast Room

Breakfast is all organic OxFam juices, Fair Trade coffees, AB (agricultur biologique) certified jams, cage-free eggs. That’s in addition to some of the best croissants and breakfast pastries you’ll find in Paris, delivered fresh from the boulangerie across the street who was named for the best croissant in Paris a few years back. The breakfast buffet is free for children under 10. There are also toys and other amenities provided for children which make Hotel de la Porte Dorée a very family friendly hotel.

The surrounding environs of the Hotel de la Porte Dorée add tremendously to its green appeal. The Promenade Planteé is one of the most beautiful nature walks you’ll find in Paris, and the start of it happens it to be only steps away from the front door of the hotel.

The Promenade Planteé is a nature path right through Paris that extends for kilometers. It is unrivalled in any city that I’ve visited so far. For much of the path, you are walking at the height of the treetops so the view onto the Parisian streets is one that allows perspective. You can start from the Bois de Vincennes and follow the path all the way to the Bastille. During your walk, you will traverse suspended bridges, flower gardens, city-scape walls of water, expansive green parks and elevated arbors with park benches. This is truly a Parisian gem and for a breath of fresh air while still getting a good tour of the city, I highly recommend it.

Complimentary WiFi. Complimentary use of computer room. Ice machine (probably the only one in Paris!) on lobby level.  www.hoteldelaportedoree.com

The French Countryside

In August, in France, everyone goes to the countryside. We recommend taking a few days and stopping to see the ancient medieval town of Montpellier, located a few kilometers from the southwestern shoreline of France. If you compare the area to its glitzy sister, the Cote D’Azur, one would have to describe it as the sister who stays home and cooks. As the French describe it, the region is more “family-oriented” than its yacht bejewelled sister to the east.

Le Clos de l'Aube Rouge, Montpellier's Green Key Certified Hotel

The hotel to book your stay in which has recently been certified with a Green Key certification is Le Clos de l’Aube Rouge in Castelnau-Le-Lez which is the upscale suburb of Montpellier, connected by the convenient and clean “flower” tramway that runs continually throughout the day. The tram ride from Castelnau-Le-Lez to Montpellier takes only 10 minutes and costs about 1 Euro.

Montpellier is the capital city of the Languedoc-Roussillon. As such its lure is its history, its charm, and in June and July, its nightly classical and jazz concerts and dance presentations. In addition, its nearby beaches and its proximity to notable wine regions that are accessible by car, also make it an attractive region to visit.

Le Clos de l'Aube Rouge, Montpellier, Sud de France

Old, medieval cities can become oppressively hot during the peak summer months, which is why booking your hotel a bit outside the city, where the air is still fresh and the vibe is relaxing, makes perfect sense. If you are driving, it is also a good idea as Le Clos de l’Aube Rouge provides free parking and direct tram access to the old town of Montpellier, which is zoned entirely pedestrian.

Madame Noëlle Obegi is the proprietor of this hotel along with her husband who mostly lets her run the business. They have run the hotel for 20 years now and it has the charm of a family-run hotel, one that provides comfort and a feeling of being “at home” when you return to your hotel room.

The property itself, up until the 80’s, was a working vineyard, hence the name Le Clos de l’Aube Rouge which the proprietors kept when they transformed the vineyard into a hotel. The upstairs conference room, a popular choice for business groups who meet throughout the year, is in fact an old cellar room and is still very reminiscent of this with its exposed beams and thick stone walls.

In August in Montpellier, where the days can get very hot – 32°C and higher – a dip in the unheated pool is like an elixir. Madame Nöel has changed the landscaping to Mediterranean plants throughout the hotel grounds for aesthetic reasons and also with an eye toward native plant landscaping. Her Green Key certification was only just awarded in May 2010, and she remembers well how extensive the 200 questions application form was in documenting just what the hotel was doing towards environmental initiatives.

She has outfitted the rooms of Le Clos de l’Aube Rouge with water-saving devices for the showers and the toilets and has installed water-heating energy efficient devices. Likewise, the rooms are individually temperature controlled and the sheets and towels, while not organic cotton, are changed out at guests’ request. Pens provided for the seminar rooms are all made from recycled plastic. Renovations are a process, conceded Mme. Nöel and they are approaching it on a “one thing at a time” basis especially for the systemic changes.

The hotel provides both a breakfast and dinner buffet in the old farmhouse or out on the terrace. Most of the featured dishes, especially the fresh fruits and vegetables, are sourced regionally. For their business guests who frequent the hotel for seminars during the year, this proves to be a convenient feature, both for networking and for accomplishing business meetings adjacent to the the structured seminar meetings. The dinner feature is also a popular choice for the many families who choose to stay at the hotel during their July and August holidays as it makes dining “en famille” much more convenient.

There is a fully equipped gym on the premises as well as a hot tub and sauna. There is a business office located on the ground floor. 45 rooms in all. WiFi service complimentary.

Le Clos de l’Aube Rouge, Castelnau-Le-Lez, Montpellier   www.auberouge.com

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