PaperCity Magazine

September 2016 - Houston

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Page 69 of 197

NEW, BUT NOT: How the Ritz Paris Fared After A Four-Year Rethink I ts water? It courses stronger. Its conditioned air? Much more effectively warmed and cooled. Its aura? Yes, much lighter and brighter. But there is one thing that seemingly wasn't touched in a renovation that reportedly set Egyptian tycoon and owner Mohamed Al Fayed back a whopping $450 million: its spirit. The wrapper is off the inimitable Ritz Paris, after a closure of nearly four years for nips, tucks, repairs, and reinventions. Among the dizzying upgrades: new plumbing, new heating, new cooling, new Wi-Fi everywhere, new in-room telephones that control temperature and lighting, new retractable roofs over the two existing restaurants and the new Salon Proust, perfect for afternoon tea, paneled in French oak and named after one of the Ritz's most famously devoted fans. There are new themed suites — Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald — a new park that nods to Versailles and newly acquired antiques, those mixed in with restored originals. There is a new and stealthy underground tunnel connecting the hotel to its parking garage, a new Chanel spa near the sub- terranean pool and a new ballroom, also underground, for 400 to dance the nights away. Even a mezzanine apartment over the reception area was knocked away, lifting the ceiling from a snug 10 feet to a lofty 18. But, here we still have the Ritz Paris — its stories, scandals and soul intact. All the swells who checked in, and still FRANÇAISE ACCOMMODATIONS will. All the tales that have been told, and still will. Even the legendary Bar Hemingway is right where it's always been, a bronze bust of its namesake still watching over the watering hole. Said the Ritz Paris' renovation architect and designer, Thierry Despont, to The New York Times about all the changes, vast and small: "We don't want to say 'Look at what we did.'" Rooms from about $1,200 nightly, 15 Place Vendôme, Paris,, What the directeur general has noticed: Our ex- clusive Q&A with the Ritz Paris' dashing GM, Christian Boyens. His job is formidable: Keep the Ritz humming along masterfully, as discerning guests check in and out, wine and dine, shop and swim, and meet and greet. (All the while, he must deal with ce- lebrities, society types, and the occasional faux pas.) Christian Boyens came on board in 2011 from the Peninsula Beverly Hills, another hotel known for its elevated everything. At the Ritz, he is first fiddle, the last word, the directeur géneral. Here, he tells us what it's been like now that the Ritz Paris is abuzz again. Your strongest impressions? What we are most happy about: Our loyal clientele appreciates the au- thentic Ritz Paris DNA with high ceilings, original artworks, and beautiful restored furniture. First-time guests compliment the latest technology carefully integrated with the décor, yet easy to operate. I'm very happy to see our loyal guests coming back to the hotel and feeling at home in their private residence on the Place Vendôme. We have re-created the hotel in a way that honors the past and also ensures that HOW HIGH SOCIETY IS DOING PARIS, NOW 66 future guests will continue to look to the Ritz Paris as the epitome of French art de vivre. What has been a nice surprise since the re- opening? If I were to sum up our team, I would use one term: passionate. From Manfred Mautsch, our guest relations manager, who has been with us for 34 years, to Colin Field, the extraordinary head bartender of Bar Hemingway, everyone is dedicated to the success of the hotel — and to provide unique experiences to guests. Not forgetting the amazingly talented food and beverage team with chef Nicolas Sale, pastry chef François Perret and Estelle Touzet, the first female chief sommelier in the hotel's history. Describe the hotel to someone who has never heard of it. There is no other hotel like the Ritz Paris. We offer the ultimate Parisian experience with a unique location on Place Vendôme, historic suites, beautiful gardens, and the first-ever Chanel spa. The Ritz Paris is one of the few hotels in the world where history is very present — and that feels more like a private residence than a corporate hotel. The elegant lobby grand hall Suite Impériale xxxxxxxxx The subterranean Ritz Club Paris I f Marie Antoinette had flown Air France La Première, it might have looked something like this. Air France's sleek Boeing 777s that jet from New York to Paris and back again have been reimagined with curtained-off private suites. Each cocoon is 32 square feet of chic, from the suede, tweed, and leather finishes to the fully reclining seat with retractable armrests — turning it into a nearly seven-foot-long twin bed in the sky. (The crew will whisk you a mattress, pillow and duvet, come sleepy time.) A wide table and an ottoman that can be a guest seat make for a rather residential setting, complete with a stylish little table lamp and a 24-inch flat-screen monitor on the wall ahead of you. (It can beam 1,000 possible hours of movies, music, documentaries, even a relaxation video.) You'll dine in elevated style, too — Bernardaud porcelain, Jean-Marie Massaud tableware, Christofle cutlery — on fare such as catfish and shrimp with mushrooms bouillabaisse-style or braised veal shank. To quaff? Fine French wines and Champagnes. But when you book a La Première cabin, all the fun isn't aloft: At JFK, you'll be welcomed then walked to a VIP area of Air France's posh lounge, with exclusive services galore. At Charles de Gaulle, you'll be welcomed and whisked again, this time to a La Première lounge complete with a Biologique Recherche spa-treatment center. Round trip about $7,500, 800.237.2747, RATHER LIKE THE RITZ — AT 38,000 FEET BY ROB BRINKLEY PHOTOGRAPHS VINCENT LEROUX Air France La Première

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