For the curious, Paris proves an unending playground. Hidden courtyards, secret gardens, covered passageways.
Even structures in plain sight hold countless stories. I’m not exactly dispensing an amazing revelation to say the City of Light is architecturally stunning. Simply walking through certain parts of town I think that each building might be famous.
One of my favorite pastimes is dipping into experiences that are normally far from my daily life.
And so it was that I stumbled out onto Avenue Kleber a few weeks ago and stood before a soon-to-open luxury hotel.
Why I’d received an invitation to a pre-launch press conference, I hadn’t a clue. But did I want to see the fancy hotel? Indeed.
I felt like something of an imposter as my name was checked off the list. I was sought out immediately by the director of communications and handed a glass of champagne and a selection of sweets to enjoy on the outdoor terrace.
I soon settled in and pretended I belonged. After some mingling we were ushered into the Grand Lobby for a presentation, then given a private tour of the hotel.
There are Peninsula Hotels in a few cities in the world. The Peninsula Paris, which opens this Friday, August 1, is the tenth Peninsula Hotel and the very first in Europe.
A classic 19th century French building with Haussman and Neo-classic details was chosen for the honor. The building first opened as the Hotel Majestic in 1908.
George Gershwin wrote “An American in Paris” in the hotel. And in 1922, 5 great artists ate a late supper together: James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Pablo Piasso, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky. Wow! To be a fly on the wall during that conversation!
The property served as a luxe hotel until it was sold to the French government in 1936. It then became the UNESCO Head Office and then the International Conference Center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Among other treaties, the agreement to end the Vietnam War was signed by Henry Kissinger here).
In short, it’s a pretty historic place. An extensive restoration effort ensued when it was tapped to become the new Peninsula Hotel. Expert artisans who had previously worked on projects at Versailles and the Louvre were brought in.
In addition to sumptuous rooms and suites (a few with private gardens!), the hotel also houses 6 dining and bar options, including a rooftop restaurant with incredible views and a Chinese restaurant with opera-inspired decor serving refined Cantonese cuisine.
During the tour we were treated to rose-infused goat cheese thanks to 3 master cheesemakers and a delicious basil/strawberry dessert by master pastry chef Julien Alvarez.
I’ll have to think of a *really* big occasion to come for a full meal as it’s not exactly the kind of place within my budget. But if anyone wants to invite me, avec plaisir ; )
There are a ton of other details I could share (the spa! the vintage Rolls Royce! the staff has their own relaxation room and personal chef causing me to wonder if I can get a job there!), but I think you get the idea.
The hotel is a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe so it’s close to several sites. You could slip in for afternoon tea and do as I did. Just for a moment dream its your life.
The Peninsula Hotel opens on August 1, 2014.