A Glamorous Afternoon at the Hotel Ritz Paris
Dear readers, it’s with joy in my heart and my absolute pleasure to share my wonderful and highly memorable experience at the Ritz Hotel in Paris situated in the historic and beautiful Place Vendome in Paris’ 1st arrondissment. I had always wanted to experience the Ritz Hotel in Paris in one way or another and my adoration and fascination with this establishment began at a young age after discovering its ritzy and glitzy history having read countless novels and articles about it. The hotel housed and entertained iconic figures like Coco Chanel who lived for over 30 years in her own personalized suite and who died there peacefully in her sleep in 1971. The hotel was adored and frequented by Proust, Hemingway, the Fitzgerald’s, Cocteau, Picasso and other famous artists and even the despised Nazis took residence here, occupying several floors, during World War II and made it their headquarters. The opulence and grandeur of the Ritz made it a perfect location for a few old Hollywood movies such as: Love In The Afternoon and Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn. Finally, my dream of visiting the Ritz Hotel became a reality on my birthday visit to Paris last year where I booked the hotel’s Proust Salon to enjoy a pleasurable high tea just for me and mon mari. From the moment we entered the hotel to the time that we forced ourselves to leave four hours later we were completely blown away and overwhelmed by the old world charm, elegance and breath taking interiors that would certainly get a royal nod of approval.
From the moment we entered the stunning lobby with the famous red carpeted staircase after passing through the hotel’s signature white awnings it felt as though we entered into another world and time. The sheer magnificence of the Ritz and its old world feel is emphasised by the classical and Empire furniture, stunning crystal chandeliers, elaborately framed period art, museum quality antiques, damask curtains and such comforts only experienced by royalty and the incredibly wealthy. In fact Cesar Ritz, founder of his eponymous hotel, had exactly such a notion in mind when establishing and renovating the Hotel Ritz as he wanted not only to create a hotel where royalty and the elites of society could feel at home but also to be the first hotel in Paris and beyond that would be classic in style yet avant guard and modern. Cesar Ritz introduced modern touches never seen before such as electric lighting, telephones in every suite, rooms with an ensuite with running tap and bath water and amenities and dining spaces to be the envy of other hotels. Even after the Ritz’s first massive four year restoration initiated in 2012 by business mogal Mohamed Al Fayed, the current proprietor of the Ritz, the hotel’s interior designer and architect, Thierry Despont, managed to restore and update the historic hotel without sacrificing any of its original charm and grandeur. New additions to the hotel where also made like the luxurious and first of its kind seven treatment room Chanel Spa including an indoor swimming pool, a revived Bar Hemingway, an underground ballroom, an Escoffier cooking school in honour of Chef Escoffier who was in partnership with Cesar Ritz and of course the Salon Proust making the hotel even more glamorous and ritzier.
The Salon Proust hidden discretely in an enclave to the side of the lobby’s grand hallway, was inspired and dedicated to the legendary writer, Marcel Proust. Proust was known to be a great admirer of the Ritz and wrote a great portion of his epic novel, In Search Of Lost Time, during his many sojourns to the hotel he thought to be incredibly inspiring. This elaborate and beautiful space is a reflection of the literary salons of Proust’s time where great minds, including Proust himself, would gather to discuss intellectual and pressing issues of the day. Proust would often host such salon gatherings in order to gather material for his latest work by listening with fascination to the literary elite as they discussed their topics, secrets and gossip of the day. The salon is a harmonious balance of masculine and feminine décor and furnishings creating an atmosphere and ambience where one can easily be transported and lost in time.
The library-like salon is divided into a collection of various vignettes comprised of flanked by red, gold toned and damask upholstered sofas and stunning occasional chairs that rest upon a regal carpet of blue, red and gold floral motif tying the room together with that unsurpassed French elegance. The room is framed by empire style shelving in soft toned wood and French oak walls where perfectly bound books rest comfortably behind glass vitrines with gilded antique handles. An elongated and elegant serving table with impeccable wood carving is centred in the space with a giant arrangement of gloriously red and pink vintage roses that command your attention as the tea room attendants gracefully prepare the tiered platters of delicious treats to serve to eagerly awaiting guests. A grand old fireplace to the end of the room creates a dramatic focal point in the space and above it a glorious gold framed mirror and dramatic portrait of Marcel Proust, which hangs above, adds to the flare and drama of this feature and reassures the guest that this is indeed a room dedicated to the great writer.
Mon mari and I were escorted to our picture perfect table with richly upholstered chairs and an elegant sofa situated in front of a floor to ceiling bookshelf we felt comfortable and pleasurably content. The drama and theatrics of the hotel could be clearly observed from our glamorous tea nook and from there we watched the activity of the hotel unfold as pristinely uniformed staff walked briskly along the long hallway lined with royal blue upholstered regency chairs, tables and floor lamps with floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the grandiose courtyard with a stunning water wall feature and potted plants and perfectly primed gardens that would be envied by King Louis IV himself. Our table was perfectly set by highly polite and attentive attendants with a lux white Limoges porcelain tea service, especially crafted for the Salon Proust. A pretty and pure white porcelain saucer and tea cup where placed above a larger white plate and a delicious and orange scented madeleine tea cake, Proust’s signature and favourite treat, was delightfully resting inside the tea cup.
Our tiered plate displayed with beautifully presented and incredibly decadent sweets created lovingly by the hotel’s innovative pastry chef, Francois Perret, who elevates tea time treats to a whole new level. We were spoiled for choice with an overly generous serving of sugar tarts, sponge fingers, tuile cigarettes, the most delicious florentines I’ve ever tried, buns with cocoa chocolate buttons, cream filled eclairs and so much more and not to forget an exceptional tea menu to choose from to satisfy all tastes imaginable. The hotel’s staff made my birthday tea even more memorable by preparing and delivering a little birthday treat just for me with a sparkling candle which made me feel very special indeed. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any more spoilt for glamour and sugary treats if I tried, a lovely tea attendant gave me a petite tin of exclusive Ritz tea leaves to take home with me as gift – what a generous, thoughtful and Ritzy touch indeed! The high tea at the Salon Proust is so generous that you will most likely have some left over treats to take away in the pretty white origami paper gift boxes that staff will prepare for you.
While I have not yet had an opportunity to stay in one of the Hotel Ritz’s luxurious rooms, experiencing the Salon Proust and taking a peek around the lobby, deluxe shopping arcade, the stunning courtyard and even the luxe Chanel day spa was enough to leave me with an unforgettable impression of the hotel. The Ritz exceeded my expectations and imagination and being there was not only an absolute pleasure but gave me an opportunity to feel like royalty and part of a world lost in time yet revived here for all to relish and experience. At the Hotel Ritz one gets a taste of incredible grandeur that the aristocracy and celebrities like Coco Chanel once enjoyed and to get a taste of unsurpassed service and attention. You will be greeted and welcomed with friendly warmth and attentiveness the moment you enter the hotel whether you’re a guest, just passing through or simply dining there. As I blew out the candle of my petite birthday gateau I made a little wish to not only return to Paris again the following year but to stay even for one night at this very exclusive, palatial and magnificent hotel. As the great Hemingway once wrote, “When I dream of an afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Ritz Paris”. Dear readers, are you entranced by the hotel Ritz of Paris, France?
Hotel Ritz Paris
15 Place Vendome, Paris