Destination: France: Paris
Hôtel de Crillon (CLOSED FOR RENOVATION 01/2013)
Of all the grand hotels in Paris, the Crillon is the most ineffably French, occupying a landmarked 18th-century palace on the Place de la Concorde. Doormen in livery usher you into an impressive reception area with a black-and-white marble harlequin-tiled floor, and service is cordial if reserved. What happens after you’ve checked in depends very much on which kind of room you’ve booked: the standard doubles are lacking for space and underwhelming in decor and amenities, so it’s worth upgrading to a junior suite if you want the full-bore Crillon experience. Though it lacks a pool and has only a small spa, the hotel does have a premier restaurant—the one-star Les Ambassadeurs. Rooms from $947.
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The 1925 Raphael feels more like a private Edwardian gentlemen’s club than a hotel. The comfortable guest rooms are furnished with large armoires and other Louis XV and XVI pieces, plus great old-fashioned bathrooms. Service is deferential and discreet, the English Bar is a splendid spot for a cocktail and public areas are furnished with antiques and old master paintings. During the summertime, book a dinner table on the rooftop terrace. A good choice for anyone who wants romance with a small R .
Hôtel Ritz (CLOSED FOR RENOVATION 01/2013)
The last time I was at the Ritz, I was amazed at how poorly maintained my room was—a plasterwork repair to a window molding remained unpainted and there were nicks in the paintwork on every wall—yet when I settled in and ordered from room service—onion soup and a chef salad; it costs and arm and a leg, but they make the best chef salad in Paris—lunch arrived less than fifteen minutes later and was delicious. Service was equally prompt and courteous at check-in and when I had trouble getting my Internet connection to work, I spent the afternoon at the glamorous hotel pool. It was a treat to stop by the Hemingway bar later for an expertly mixed nightcap by the wonderful English bartender Colin Field, and by the time I checked out the following day, I did so with real regret. Although friends who stayed recently complained about cool service (and a failed request for a babysitter), this legendary hotel still casts quite a spell, and the location on the Place Vendôme couldn’t be better, as the Louvre and many of the city’s top shops are within walking distance. Avoid the Cambon wing when you book and keep in mind that this is one place in Paris where you’re expected to dress for the occasion—service can be condescending to anyone wearing jeans or running shoes. L’Espadon, the main restaurant, has a dazzling dark horse chef in Michel Roth, and the on-site cooking school offers terrific day courses. Rooms from $968.
Belonging to the Dorchester group, this grande dame got a top-to-bottom makeover a few years back, so behind its opulent trappings—think major gilt trip with loads of marble and crystal chandeliers—it’s technically as up-to-date as the George V. The new Philippe Starck-designed lobby, lounge and common spaces are whimsical, though a bit out of place, with many elements inspired by the wacky works of Salvador Dali. While rooms and suites still feel grand, new fabrics and color schemes are muted and underwhelming – picture floral patterns on shiny silk in combinations like orange, purple, magenta and gray.
The three Michelin starred restaurant, Le Meurice, manned by big-league talent Yannick Alléno, is spectacular, however, as is the Valmont anti-aging spa, and the hotel’s Belle Étoile suite, which occupies the entire seventh floor, and has 240 degree views of Paris. The location, between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, is ideal for tourists looking to hit all of the major sights, and the hotel is particularly child-friendly (they also cater to people traveling with pets).
Prince de Galles
Vibe: Art Deco meets 21st century, centrally-located, grand
At a Glance: Just steps from Vuitton and Le Fouquet’s on the Champs Elysées, Prince de Galles is located on the quieter, and very stately, Avenue George V. After two years of renovation and restoration, the hotel, which was built in 1928, reopened in May 2013.
Originally built to host the Prince of Wales (Edward III) during his annual trips to Paris, the Prince de Galles (the name is a reference to Edward’s French title) is a triumph of Art Deco architecture and interior design. Many of the hotel’s beautiful original decorations have been painstakingly restored to their former glory and Pierre-Yves Rochon’s new interiors complement the 1920s style beautifully. De l’Époque design details like the geometric green, blue, and gold mosaics in the hotel’s oasis-like interior courtyard are echoed in tile motifs in the guestrooms’ spacious bathrooms and the spa’s sauna.
Eighteen of the hotel’s 152 rooms are Makassar Suites whose spacious separate bedrooms and sitting rooms feel very much like a private apartment. So-named for the dark Makassar wood, from which the custom-designed dressers and desks are made, these suites are outfitted with other luscious furnishings (in either a blue or beige color scheme) including buttery leather armchairs, velveteen sofas, lacquer tables and, in some cases, a regal marble fireplace.
Though not as roomy, the Mosaic Suites and Art Deco Deluxe rooms are comfortable and feature views onto the grand Avenue George V or the splendid palm trees in the hotel’s courtyard. The slightly more feminine décor features flowered carpets, celadon lamps, and replicas of de Lempicka paintings. Across the board, the most original decorative aspect of the suites and guestrooms is found in the bathrooms. Playing off the hotel’s original mosaic wall and floor motifs, the showers are tiled with small green, blue, and gold patterns. In addition, the bathrooms feature marble floors, separate shower and bathtub, and Bulgari products.
There are two dining options at Prince de Galles, both located on street level and both bathed in natural light from large glass windows looking out onto the hotel’s mosaic-tiled courtyard. Les Heures, the hotel bar, is open from 7am to 2am for drinks and has an all-day menu of light fare. Comfortable couches, soaring ceilings and natural light make this a delightful spot to enjoy breakfast or a cocktail. The enormous custom-made Murano-glass chandelier hanging over the bar adds an element of dramatic glamour to the room. Guillaume Bisiaux, who formerly worked behind the bar at the Four Seasons and the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme, has created a delightful menu of expertly mixed and beautifully presented cocktails.
The hotel’s formal dining room, La Scène, is so-called because it boasts an open kitchen. From this central stage, executive chef Stephanie Le Quellec (who became a household name in France when she won the French version of “Top Chef” in 2011) turns out inventive dishes based on seasonal produce and Provençale flavors. During warm weather, both Les Heures and La Scène serve en plein air in the hotel courtyard.
Who it’s right for: The style conscious who like to be in the thick of things will adore being on Avenue George V.
Who it’s wrong for: Toile-lovers. The flowery wallpaper is gone, replaced with Deco-inspired dark wood and mirrored paneling. Traditionalists might be happier at Le Bristol.
The oasis-like interior courtyard featuring mosaics and palm trees, which date from the original hotel.
Beautiful design elements throughout the hotel such as the lobby lamps, whose feather motif mimics the Prince of Wales’s heraldic crest
*The enormous private terrace of the Appartement Parisien suite, which boasts incredible views of the Eiffel Tower and Paris’s iconic Mansard-style rooftops.
Villa & Hôtel Majestic
Situated in a quiet residential neighborhood just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees, the Majestic is located in the 16th arrondissement. Recently renovated, this property—a sister hotel to Paris’ Regina and Raphael—boasts 52 guestrooms with a contemporary yet very French feel. Guests are greeted by a lobby featuring a white marble floor, which creates a gleaming canvas for the décor’s memorable pops of color. Thanks to its intimate space and charming staff, the property feels like a private residence, but with five-star amenities.
Guest rooms—from basic categories to suites—are spacious, with hardwood floors, thick crown molding and colorful upholstered furniture. A full-service spa, swimming pool, hammam and sauna are located in the basement. Located off the lobby sits a lovely bar ideal for enjoying a post-sightseeing drink, as well as a restaurant that serves breakfast.
Service is exceptional: on a recent visit, I asked the concierge to make a dinner reservation at La Régalade. After multiple futile attempts, he personally went to the restaurant to enquire in person. (Turns out it was under renovation.)
Indagare Tip: Request a room on a higher floor for better natural light.
Editor’s Note: A Peninsula Hotel is being built across the street (due to be complete by mid-2013), and while the construction site is an eyesore, guests at the Majestic should not be bothered sounds of building.
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