Bonjour Paris!

Every trip to Paris should start with a visit to the Champs-Elysees  .. not just for the grandeur of the avenue, and the majesty of the Arc de Triomphe – but for a pilgrimage to another timeless landmark of that famous street, La Maison Guerlain  and, above it (at no68), its elegant spa (tel 01 45 62 11 21; spachampselysees@guerlain.fr).

I’ve been there twice before – I seem to be on a five-year cycle – and the facials I’ve had there are among the very best I’ve had. Anywhere. Indeed, my last visit was – until I returned on Thursday – probably the most relaxing and effective facial I’ve ever had.

The spa takes up a vast space – all white walls, marble tables, gilt mosaic tiles and parquet floors –  and offers a wide range of treatments. Last Thursday, I had the “Complete Facial” (195 Euros), a tailored facial which lasts 90 minutes and is almost like a comprehensive overhaul of the complexion. The experience kicks off, however, in an airy, sun-kissed room of little booths in which the therapists administer a footbath before each treatment. My therapist, Marion, asked me to select a Guerlain scent with which she would perfume the bath. I chose the eau de cologne Imperiale, a classic, citrusy cologne – it seemed more apt for a spa experience than my favourite Guerlain scent, the sexy and exotic Vol de Nuit.

Then it was back to the “cabine” for the full facial extravaganza. It was only when the steam machine kicked in – after Marion had removed my make-up, and cleansed and scrubbed my skin – that I had a flashback to my last visit to the spa: I suddenly remembered that blackhead extraction had been the only non-relaxing part of the process. And so it was again – though, thankfully, Marion didn’t exhibit the same gleeful enthusiasm as my last Guerlain facialist had.

Thereafter, it was sheer relaxation all the way. My hands were pampered with a paraffin mask (they had already had a gentle scrub, while the steam had been working on my pores), and my face was treated to the signature, 19-minute, Guerlain facial massage, before Marion applied a hydrating mask. While it was working its magic, I was given a head massage. I really felt that I had been pampered from head to foot by the time I tripped out on to the Champs, feeling and looking as if I had been completely revived, and with any puffiness drained from my eyes and jawline.

It all set me up nicely for the rest of my trip – though I did push myself a little too hard to get everything done/seen that I wanted to do/see. This included going to hear the fab Curtis Stigers and his band at the Duc des Lombards club (the sharp-suited Stigers is certainly – like Monsieur Astaire, pictured above – a man who belongs in a style blog); spending the Le Bon Marche gift card which my three girlfriends Siobhan, Lizzy and Colette (AKA “Les Filles”) had given me back at my 40th (I bought a Pucci scarf – with which I fell in I love on the spot as I cruised the accessories department), and going to the opening of an exhibition about the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Along the way, I marvelled at the dazzling range of hair accessories in Le Bon Marche – there may be a recession on, but it hasn’t hit this department of the store, where I watched Parisiennes blithely spending 80 Euros on an unusual barrette or Alice band – and miraculously discovered that my favourite (and, I thought, defunct) stationery range, Tout Note, has been reborn and is now exclusively available from a shop (also called Tout Note), at 35 rue Jussieu, a short walk from where I was staying.

I bought myself a large blue notebook (I’ve had red, pink and green from previous collections) which fits in perfectly with what seems to be my current blue period.

As does the bag I couldn’t resist in a shop in which I’ve had success before. La Vitrine, on the rue Dauphine, is a gem of a boutique, stuffed with covetable leather bags at unbelievably reasonable (and non-Parisian) prices – and its owner is always ready to make you an offer you can’t refuse.. I ended up with the same bag in two colours – and only for a little more than the cost of a Bon Marche barrette!

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