My 35th birthday is looming large ahead of me when my parents happen to call one February night. (Okay, it’s February 14th AKA Valentine’s Day, and they are clearly calling to ensure that I, a single lady, haven’t offed myself). “I think I’m going to take myself to Paris for my birthday,” I tell them, improvising. “You can’t do that,” my suburban dad responds, horrified. “It’s so depressing. Go with your mother instead.”
To me, solo travel is anything but depressing, and after we end the call I still believe I’ll be flying alone to Paris within two months time to explore the city like a sophisticated lady of a certain age; however, my parents have other plans. My mom, who doesn’t get excited about anything, is worked up over the idea of going to France with me. She’s never so much as been to Europe, so I know that I have to agree to take her with me or risk being exposed for the selfish human I have become since she lived with me last.
I left home at 18 and have been back only once or twice per year since then, so my mom and I are not that close. For this reason, I stress about the trip, wondering what we will do with our time (mom doesn’t like to drink alcohol, isn’t a foodie… you get the idea) and, even more anxiety-provoking: what in the world we will talk to each other about for five days straight. I express these worries to a friend—who recently endured a very long trip with her own mother, a woman to whom she is also not close—and she tells me it will be challenging but worth it. I decide I’m in and, after a quick request for references from a friend, I book us into a room at the Hotel Providence Paris. My mom is ecstatic—as a country woman settled onto a ranch in Texas, this hotel looks like the kind of sophisticated luxury to which she rarely allows herself access.
Paris is stacked with beautiful hotels, many of which will make you feel as though you’ve stepped out of your decidedly unromantic life in the real world and into a film starring you as a woman who’s about to embark on the love affair of a lifetime. The Hotel Providence stands apart from the rest, however, for what I consider to be three main reasons. The first is the most obvious—its decor. Each room is furnished with such care and personality by Pierre Moussie, the man behind the ever-hip Brasserie Barbes, using a mix of 70s-style statement pieces, loud wallpaper and other vintage objects sourced by Pierre’s wife at local flea markets. What results can be dangerous, as leaving the hotel becomes a difficult prospect. Where, after all, in all of Paris will you find anything more perfectly Parisian than this place? One might be tempted to cozy up to the serious (and seriously cute) cocktail bar that’s been custom-made for your room or, if you’re feeling only slightly more adventurous, head downstairs to the restaurant and bar, neither of which stray from theme and are as a result nearly impossible to cease photographing. I hate to say this, but If you’re an Instagram fanatic, this hotel definitely does not disappoint in terms of gorgeous ops that will immediately place you in Paris no matter the caption attached.
The second reason this hotel, in my mind, is in a class separate from some of the more traditional Parisian choices is that it is located in the trendy 10e, more or less at the intersection of three desirable neighborhoods for those of a certain demographic—the Haut-Marais (heralded by the press a few years ago as Paris’s “next great neighborhood”), the Canal St. Martin (trendy restaurants and shops) and Beaubourg (galleries galore). It was within a stone’s throw of this hotel that I was able to secure my first vintage purchase—I’m a junkie for secondhand clothing, particularly when sourced abroad—and to my mind, the hotel was located in the exact area I would aim to live were I to move to Paris. Think Manhattan’s Lower East Side for some reference, though its neighboring boroughs are so varied it’s difficult to give an exact approximation.
The final reason this hotel is my forever recommendation in Paris after slumbering among its chambres is its prices, which can somehow miraculously hover below $200 a night, depending on the dates and the size of the room desired. This feels like a bargain to me, as the bathrooms are as luxurious as any 5-star hotel, the room decor is guaranteed to make your social media pop and the location can’t be beat for those looking to be locals rather than tourists.
To that end, my mother and I did differ quite a bit. When I travel, I prefer to spend my time perusing without agenda, posting up with a glass of wine to people-watch and ultimately going with the flow of a day unplanned. She, on the other hand, had a long list of things to see and so, like the obedient daughter I never was, I steel myself for the long lines of attractions including The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and Notre Dame. To thank me for my patience, she allows herself to slow down and drink wine with me at cozy cafe tables, indulges my thrift-store searching and walks so much that even she, a woman with more energy than all of the rest of her family members combines, wears out on the last night.
That evening, we take our dinner with wine in the hotel’s chic restaurant, exhausted and content. After, we enjoy an evening stroll around the area, which is sleepy nearly to the point of desertion. We then debate having another drink at the hotel bar before turning it, but our cozy room is calling our name and so we instead decide to return to it and snuggle up with a movie. On any other trip, in any other hotel, this would feel like wasted time—why fly to Paris, after all, to watch a movie in your room which you could see anywhere, at anytime? However, in this special room, its walls lined with banana-frond bedecked vintage wallpaper, on this chilly night, the ordinary movie experience feels extraordinary.
It is this moment, after all—my mom and I, cuddled into a hotel bed together watching I Am Bolt at the end of our first trip together abroad—which becomes the most memorable to me of the entire trip. It is within it that I realize I have evolved my relationship with this, the most important person in my life, thanks to Paris. She now feels to me less like a mother than she ever did before and more like a friend, a peer. This transition feels magical.
That is, of course, until we have to say goodbye outside of the hotel the next morning. Suddenly, I revert back to the child we will always truly be around our parents and weep like a baby, my whole being screaming out “I want my mommy!” As she peels herself away from me to climb into her taxi to the airport, she says a few simple words that she knows will soothe my soul.
“Where should we go next?”
Book via Mr. & Mrs. Smith for a welcome cocktail upon arrival.