My two favourite hotels are in Paris and Puerto Rico
GRAND AMOUR IN PARIS
Paris is synonymous with all things romantic and sometimes those that are a little risqué. Both are encapsulated in a hotel in the city’s 10th arrondissement. The area was a ‘no go’ a few years ago, but is now very much a happening media hub and home to the aptly named Grand Amour. You find this surprising hotel down the Rue de Fidelite, just a short 15 minutes’ walk from the Gare du Nord.
It was opened by three friends behind the Hotel Amour in Pigalle, also a former red-light district. The two hotels share a unique style, comfortable ambience and unusual décor. In Grand Amour, the owners have combined memories of places they have stayed over the years to create a hotel that is filled with antiques, 50s and 60s décor from flea markets, street art from friends and piles of art and rare books. A retro turntable plays vintage vinyl in the popular brasserie on the ground floor and the walls are adorned with erotic drawings and photomontage.
There are 42 rooms, all with their own individual character. Some have free freestanding bathtubs and all have beautiful Italian ceramic tiles and lovely Hermes toiletries. There are no TVs in the room but there is free Wi-Fi throughout, and you can expect to find piles of old books and art magazines to pursue. Each of the six floors is decorated in a different colour, ranging from pink to pea green. There is a suite on the top floor for families and groups and when you look out of the window most rooms have foliage tumbling gently from the windows.
Dining is in the brasserie on the ground floor where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served almost seamlessly. A delicious French breakfast of juice, croissants, toast, yoghurt and coffee is about £10 and main courses for lunch or dinner about £15. There is a lively vibe in the evenings when Parisians mix with visitors for drinks and music.
This is a perfect place for a valentine’s treat or a city break. The hotel is situated conveniently for the Eurostar and many of Paris ‘attractions are within a walk or metro ride. The neighbouring streets around Rue du Faubourg are filled with lovely brasseries and bars. But you may just choose to stay all loved up in Grand Amour.
Bright lights Puerto Rico
The most psychedelic experience on Vieques island Puerto Rico proves to be a night in one of Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bays followed by a stay at its most romantic hotel.There are only about 12 of the bays in the world and Puerto Rico has 3 of them. The bays are home to large colonies of dinoflagellates that light up like fireflies and produce incredible glowing waters. At Mosquito Bay in Vieques our party disappears one by one into the inky bay. When we move in the water, the water glows like fire. I lift my arm from the water and find it covered in Christmas card-like glitter. Sadly it runs off again immediately
To recover we head for the fabulous W Retreat & Spa, Vieques.The W has white beaches and lush landscapes and it boasts the biggest rooms in Puerto Rico. Designed to be ‘airy and whimsical’, its rustic elegance combines pure and recycled materials and avant-garde furniture imported from Italy.’ The Caribbean unplugged’ is how the manager Jonathan Heath described it to me, explaining its slightly different take on tropical luxury.
We dine under the moonlight by a huge fire pit and th enxt day snuggle on a deserted white sand beach. The luxury here contarsts with the simplicity elsewhere on the island.
Vieques is the quintessential Caribbean island . At Esperanza, a stretch of tiny shabby chic guest houses and bars in front of the beach we learn that Lord of the Flies was filmed here in the 1960s. Duffy’s is a simple, old ‘Caribbean as it used to be’ establishment with laidback lifestyle and cozy bars and restaurants. The island was a US military base until 2003, the beaches still have that untouched feel and some, such as ‘Secret Beach’ have not facilities whatsoever.
Helped by Mr. la Vida Loca himself, Ricky Martin, who officially came out in recent years, Puerto Rico is one of a handful of Caribbean islands a that is gay friendly, and W Retreat & Spa even hosts a gay and lesbian short film festival each May.