I always appreciate the hotels in Paris, grand or small, Left Bank or Right, charming or haute. Which ones are you loving right now?
An Ardent Francophile
Well, I adore the utter charm of Le Pavillon de la Reine, the red, black, and white swankiness of the Plaza Athénée, and the witty Philippe Starck touches amid the ancien régime grandeur at Le Meurice. I actually even love what Starck did at the Royal Monceau, although the public spaces are better than the private, and being in the Eighth Arrondissement off the Avenue Foch can be dreary and inconvenient. What I don’t like is the marble and gilt and pomposity of the Four Seasons, the newish sheen to the Peninsula in the 16th (though I adore LiLi, the Chinese restaurant downstairs), and I’ve never been a Ritz-taker. For me, it’s an overly ornate mall where masses of tourists crowd Bar Hemingway and retrace how and where Diana spent her last night on earth.
For my own taste, I only recently re-discovered the newly elegant and very contemporary re-do of—don’t gasp—the Park Hyatt on Rue de la Paix, two minutes from the Place Vendôme. Yes, I know that it began life as a defiantly unstylish corporate-card favorite: good location, très expensive, and borrring. Believe me, I know. I stayed there way too often. But no more. Claudio Ceccherelli is now in charge; this extraordinary general manager has enjoyed a glamorous run as one of the great hoteliers of Europe. He worked at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo and Villa d’Este on Lake Como before establishing the Park Hyatt as the best in Milano. No fancy, preening show pony, Claudio is understated to the point of invisibility. Should you stay, ask to meet him and express that you read about him in Air Mail; it will make a difference.
Claudio defines what makes a small hotel grand, and a grand hotel just that much grander. Now I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be recounting these out-of-school stories, but when Madonna was once staying at the Hôtel de Paris, she went ballistic when she discovered that the hotel didn’t have Splenda. Enter Claudio, who located a box in another country and had it flown in that night. Or what about Stallone at the peak of his biceps, insisting that Claudio build a running track that would course its way through the lobby and up and down the staircases at the Excelsior in Rome? But then Claudio understands what writers, readers, Hollywood types, and Mrs. John Doe from Oklahoma City want. It’s that very simple thing called “magic” where at the snap of our finger—or, better yet, his—we are transported from the familiar to the extraordinary, whether it’s a late-night craving for foie gras from L’Ami Louis or a visit en suite with a Charvet shirtmaker.
Begin with a very romantic standard room on the sixth floor; they all have Haussmannian ceilings and views of the Eiffel Tower. Let’s say Room 616, or should you require something even more special, Room 533, an impeccably elegant spread with a large terrace and a view overlooking the Place de la Concorde. The décor by Ed Tuttle is predictably sleek, and moderne, an even more sophisticated riff on Tuttle’s work for the Aman resorts throughout the world. It is at the same time deeply luxe—richly polished veneers, a simplicity of line, sumptuous fabrics, and tasteful marble bathrooms, minus the gold taps. There’s no real lobby, check-in is fuss-free, and the gym is among the very best I’ve found in any hotel. Breakfast is the most elaborate in Paris, and the exquisite and utter simplicity of the afternoon tea is unrivaled. While dinner is good at La Terrasse or the Michelin-starred Pur’, I much prefer to engage one of the coolly efficient concierges to surprise me with the spectacular sushi bar or a hard-to-get table at the new Thai bistro.
Recently, I’ve felt that the historic palace hotels which I have so loved for so long were beginning to make me feel like I was living in a diorama of the 18th century. What I love about the “new” Park Hyatt, after a three-year renovation under Claudio, is that it is contemporary while bypassing trendy, settling comfortably into a 21st-century elegance.
Richard David Story is a veteran writer and editor based in New York