Hôtel Ritz Paris
|Hôtel Ritz Paris|
Location within 1st arrondissement of Paris
|Address||15 Place Vendôme|
|Town or city||1st arrondissement , Paris|
|Renovated||1898, 1987, 2012–15|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Jules Hardouin Mansart (1705)
Charles Mewès (1897–98)
Bernard Gaucherel (1980–87)
|Main contractor||Antoine Bitaut de Vaillé|
The Hôtel Ritz is a grand palatial hotel in the heart of Paris, in the 1st arrondissement. It overlooks the octagonal border of the Place Vendôme at number 15. The hotel is ranked highly among the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in the world and is a member of "The Leading Hotels of the World". As of 2014 the Ritz is closed for a major multimillion-dollar renovation.
The hotel, which today has 159 rooms, was founded by the Swiss hotelier, César Ritz, in collaboration with the chef Auguste Escoffier in 1898. The new hotel was constructed behind the façade of an 18th-century town house, overlooking one of Paris's central squares. It was reportedly the first hotel in Europe to provide a bathroom en suite, a telephone and electricity for each room. It quickly established a reputation for luxury, with clients including royalty, politicians, writers, film stars and singers. Several of its suites are named in honour of famous guests of the hotel, including Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway who lived at the hotel for years. One of the bars of the hotel, Bar Hemingway, is devoted to Hemingway and the L'Espadon is a world-renowned restaurant, attracting aspiring chefs from all over the world who come to learn at the adjacent Ritz-Escoffier School. The grandest suite of the hotel, called the Imperial, has been listed by the French government as a national monument in its own right.
During the Second World War, the hotel was taken over by the occupying Germans as the local headquarters of the Luftwaffe. After the death of Ritz's son Charles, in 1976, the last members of the Ritz family to own the hotel sold it in 1979 to the Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. In August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales and Al-Fayed's son, Dodi, dined in the hotel's Imperial Suite before their fatal car crash.
The hotel is being entirely renovated to get the Palace distinction. It has been closed since 1 August 2012, with plans to re-open its doors in July 2014, but the opening has been delayed to late 2015.
Because of its status as a symbol of high society and luxury, the hotel has featured in many notable works of fiction including novels (F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises), a play (Noël Coward's play Semi-Monde), and films (Billy Wilder's 1957 comedy Love in the Afternoon and William Wyler's 1966 comedy How to Steal a Million).
Background and history
The site was purchased in 1705 by Antoine-François Bitaut de Vaillé, and a private residence was constructed, which was occupied by several noble families and later became the Hôtel de Gramont. The façade was designed by the royal architect Jules Hardouin Mansart. In 1854 it was acquired by the Péreire brothers, who made it the head office of their Crédit Mobilier financial institution. In 1888, the Swiss hotelier César Ritz and the French chef Auguste Escoffier opened a restaurant in Baden-Baden, and the two were then invited to London by Richard D'Oyly Carte to become the first manager and chef of the Savoy Hotel, positions they held from 1889 until 1897. The Savoy under Ritz was an immediate success, attracting a distinguished and moneyed clientele, headed by the Prince of Wales. In 1897, Ritz and Escoffier were both dismissed from the Savoy, when Ritz was implicated in the disappearance of over £3400 worth of wine and spirits. Before their dismissal, customers at the Savoy had reportedly urged them to open a hotel in Paris. Aided by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, Ritz purchased the palace and transformed the former Hôtel de Lazun building into a 210-room hotel. He stated that his purpose for the hotel was to provide his rich clientele with "all the refinement that a prince could desire in his own home." He engaged the architect Charles Mewès to update the original 1705 structure. Ritz's innovative standards of hygiene demanded a bathroom for every suite, the maximum possible amount of sunlight, and the minimum of curtains and other hangings. At the same time he furnished the hotel with all the old-fashioned appeal of an English or French gentleman's house, in order to make clients feel at home.
The hotel opened its doors on 1 June 1898 to a "glittering reception". Together with the culinary talents of his junior partner Escoffier, Ritz made the hotel synonymous with opulence, service, and fine dining, as embodied in the term "ritzy." It immediately became fashionable with Parisian socialites, hosting many prestigious personalities over the years, such as Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, King Edward VII, and the couturier Coco Chanel, who made the Ritz her home for more than thirty years. Many of the suites in the hotel are named after their famous patrons. Hemingway once said, "When in Paris the only reason not to stay at the Ritz is if you can't afford it". Hemingway, who stayed at the hotel many times after World War II, was there when he learned his wife wanted a divorce. He reacted to the news by throwing her photo into a Ritz toilet and then shooting the photo and the toilet with his pistol.
In 1904 and 1908, the Ritz garden café was painted by the Swiss artist, Pierre-Georges Jeanniot. Proust wrote parts of Remembrance of Things Past here from around 1909. The building was extended in 1910, and César Ritz died in 1918, succeeded by his son, Charles Ritz. Queen Marie of Romania stayed at the Ritz Hotel with her two eldest daughters, Elisabeth (of Greece) and Maria (of Yugoslavia) in 1919 while campaigning for Greater Romania at the Paris Peace Conference. Many other prominent royal figures and heads of state slept and dined at the hotel over the years. Edward VII reportedly once got stuck in a too-narrow bathtub with his lover at the hotel. August Escoffier died in 1935. In summer 1940, the Luftwaffe, the air forces of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, set up their headquarters at the Ritz, with their chief Hermann Göring.
After the death of Charles Ritz in 1976, the hotel went into a period of slow decline. As it lost its luster, its clientele diminished, and for the first time in its existence it began to lose money. It was rescued, however, in 1979 by an Egyptian businessman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who purchased the hotel for $20 million and installed a new managing director, Frank Klein. Klein in turn put Guy Legay, the former chef of the three-star Ledoyen, in charge of the kitchen. Al-Fayed renovated it completely over several years without stopping its operation; this was achieved by annexing two town houses, joined by an arcade with many of Paris's leading boutiques. The renovation of the hotel was headed by the architect Bernard Gaucherel from 1980 to 1987. The entire ten-year renovation cost a total of $250 million. The restaurants were given a new look, and a swimming pool, health club, and spas were created in the basement. The Little Bar was renamed the Hemingway Bar. In 1988 the Ritz-Escoffier School of French Gastronomy was established in honour of Auguste Escoffier.
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales and Al-Fayed's son Dodi Al-Fayed, and their chauffeur Henri Paul, dined in the Imperial Suite of the hotel before leaving the hotel with bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, only to have a fatal car accident in the Pont de l'Alma underpass.
In the 21st century, the Ritz remains possibly the most prestigious and luxurious hotel in the world and the finest and most expensive in Paris. It is referred to by some as the best hotel in Europe and one of the world's most famous hotels. It is one of "The Leading Hotels of the World".
The palace and the square are masterpieces of classical architecture from the end of the reign of Louis XIV. The façade was designed by the royal architect Mansart in the late 17th century before the plot was bought and construction began in 1705. The Hôtel Ritz comprises the Vendôme and the Cambon buildings with rooms overlooking the Place Vendôme, and, on the opposite side, the hotel's famous garden.
The Ritz was reportedly the first hotel in Europe to provide a bathroom en suite, a telephone and electricity for each room. The Hôtel Ritz Paris is 4 floors high, including the mansard roof, and as of 2011 offers 159 rooms, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, two bars and a casual dining restaurant.
Rooms and suites
In the 1970s a travel publication Holiday wrote, "practically every royal head of state has snoozed under down quilts on the finest linen sheets, beneath fifteen-foot-high (4.6 m) ceilings in rooms looking out, through huge double windows, on the elegant Place Vendôme." Frommer's, which calls the Ritz "Europe's greatest hotel", describes the furnishings as follows, "the public salons are furnished with museum-calibre antiques. Each guest room is uniquely decorated, most with Louis XIV or Louis XV reproductions; all have fine rugs, marble fireplaces, tapestries, brass beds, and more. Ever since Edward VII got stuck in a too-narrow bathtub with his lover, the tubs at the Ritz have been deep and big." The bathrooms contain unique golden swan taps, and peach-coloured towels and robes, believed to be more flattering than white to a woman's complexion.
The Ritz is reputedly the most expensive hotel in Paris, employing a staff of over 600, the rooms as of May 2011 started at €850 a night. Suites start at €3,600 and up to €13,900 a night for the most lavish ones (Suite Impériale being the most expensive). These finest suites are known as the "Prestige suites", ten in total, which according to the Ritz are "a world for aesthetes where 18th century panelling echoes allegorical ceilings, old masters and priceless antique furniture. Each suite is unique and each seems to still breathe the spirit of the illustrious guests who once stayed there." The Vendôme Suite is one of the most spacious of the hotel, containing Louis XIV furnishings, with a red and ivory theme and grand windows overlooking the square. The César Ritz Suite overlooks the square and contains Louis XV furniture and a portrait of Ritz himself. The room is decorated in shades of green and light yellow with a canopied bed in one room and silk floral pattern in the second. The doors of the sitting room of the suite are edged in gold leaf. The Elton John Suite, decorated in strawberry pink and cream, contains two bedrooms, a thick pink carpet and attic windows. John reportedly hired the entire floor for his 42nd birthday. The Windsor Suite contains tapestries and gilded mouldings and portraits of the Duke (Edward VIII) and Duchess of Windsor. They are decorated with Louis XVI furniture and colours such as almond green, salmon and pearl grey. The master bedroom is decorated in pearl grey in a shade which the Ritz calls "Wallis blue", a favourite of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor. The 1,670-square-foot (155 m2) Coco Chanel Suite where Coco Chanel lived for some 35 years consists of two bedrooms and a living room and features Coromandel lacquers, Chinese furniture, baroque mirrors and over-sized sofas with quilting created by Grande Mademoiselle. The suite is said to be "equipped with the most sophisticated technology including fax, Jacuzzi, steam-bath shower, and ultra-modern walk-in closets."
The Imperial Suite (Suite Impériale) is the finest suite of the hotel, and is listed as a National Monument of France in its own right. The Imperial Suite is located on the first floor and consists of two bedrooms, a grand salon, and a dining room. The suite features 6-metre-high (20 ft) ceilings, great chandeliers and windows overlooking the Place Vendôme, a massive long gold framed Baroque mirror between the windows, red and gold upholstery and a four-poster bed said to be identical to that in Marie Antoinette's bedroom in the Palace of Versailles. The other bedroom is in the style of Louis XVI, with a baldachin bed and columns. The suite is lavishly decorated in French art, bas-reliefs and 18th-century panelling which is protected under the suite's historic monument status. The bathroom is a former boudoir overlooking the Vendôme garden, with 18th-century panelling and a Jacuzzi bath and steam-bath shower and has its own plasma television and cosmetics fridge, juxtaposing old French tradition with the modernity of the 21st century. As well as facilities such as a DVD player, high-speed internet, and fax, the suite features a Porsche Design kitchenette with CHROMA knives near the salon and has its own small personal wine cellar filled with a variety of French wines. Over the years the suite has hosted some of the world's most prestigious guests from the Shah of Iran to George H. W. Bush. The suite was Hermann Göring's choice of residence during the Second World War and was where Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al-Fayed ate their last meal. The World Travel Awards of 2007 selected the Imperial Suite as "Europe's Leading Suite".
Restaurant and bars
Although there was necessarily a hotel restaurant from the inception of the Ritz, the current hotel restaurant, L'Espadon (The Swordfish) was established in 1956 by Charles Ritz. He was a keen fishing enthusiast so named the restaurant after a fish. The restaurant is inspired by the legendary first chef of the hotel, Auguste Escoffier, serving "traditional French culinary style with contemporary overtones". The cuisine is by the award-winning chef Michel Roth, the ninth head chef of the hotel; the restaurant was awarded a second star by the 2009 edition of the influential Michelin Red Guide. The head chef was formerly Guy Legay, cited as one of Paris's greatest chefs, who had served from at least 1986 to beyond 1999. In 1999, Esquire magazine wrote, "the dining room, L'Espadon, down the long corridor of mirrors and display cases, has a glittering Regency formality that seems to swirl around you, and it's easy enough to imagine Hemingway sitting down with Dietrich to a dish of chef Guy Legay's buttery scrambled eggs..." The restaurant decor is described as "opulent with trompe l’oeil ceilings, swagged drapes, and views into the garden." The courtyard garden is rich in greenery and contains several statues and a fountain. The hotel hires five or so florists to provide fresh flowers.
The hotel has several bars, namely the Ritz Bar, Bar Vendôme, Bar Hemingway and the Pool Bar. The Ritz Bar, just inside the Rue Cambon entrance on the left, gained a reputation over the years for its glamorous cocktail parties and the extravagant concoctions of Frank Meier, head barman from 1921 until his death in 1947. One of his best-known cocktails was the potent "Rainbow", consisting of anisette, mint, yellow chartreuse, cherry brandy, kümmel, green chartreuse and cognac. The Ritz Bar is designed in the Victorian style with red-velvet armchairs and bar furnishings, a marble fireplace and historic portraits. The Ritz Bar may have been the world's first hotel bar.
Bar Hemingway was the favourite bar of Ernest Hemingway and is said by some to be the birthplace of the Bloody Mary cocktail which was invented for him. However, the fact that it is the actual birthplace is contested, given that Fernand Petiot claimed to have invented the drink in 1921 while working at Harry's New York Bar, a frequent Paris hangout for Hemingway and other American expatriates, rather than in the bar in the Ritz itself. The bar has been restored to its original appearance, with rich wood panelling and leather upholstery and has 25 original photographs on the walls taken by the author of places and people that inspired him. Today the bar is run by Colin Field, recently[when?] voted the world's best barman.
Bar Vendôme is very popular with high class Parisians for afternoon tea and contains rich wood furnishings and a grand piano. During the summer months the doors are opened out onto the garden and terrace.
The Ritz-Escoffier School of French Gastronomy, established in 1988 in honour of Georges-Auguste Escoffier, has acquired an international reputation and attracts aspiring chefs from across the world to train at the Ritz adjacent to the kitchen of the hotel. The ethos of the school is based on Escoffier's words, "Good cuisine is the foundation of true happiness." This school is accessed through an entrance in the back of the hotel and offers a four-hour themes workshop which includes petit fours, carving fruit and vegetables, truffles and pairing food and wine. As of 2009 it costs €135 for a four-hour course or €920 for a two-day introductory course.
Ritz Health Club
The Ritz Health Club contains a grand swimming pool, the largest in all of the Parisian hotel palaces at 1,700 square metres (18,000 sq ft) and billed by the Ritz as "the finest indoor pool in Paris". The pool is inspired by the baths of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome and features reliefs on the ceilings and jet streams and underwater sounds in the pool. The health club offers a range of health treatments, from reflexology to Swedish massage and shiatsu.
Because of its status as a symbol of high society and luxury, the hotel has featured in many notable works of fiction.
Novels and plays
Many novels of the Lost Generation feature scenes in the Ritz, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Noël Coward's play Semi-Monde is perhaps the most notable work covering the hotel in detail, following the escapades of an extravagant, promiscuous fictional Paris elite between 1924 and 1926. In the Bret Easton Ellis novel Glamorama, a group of supermodels turned terrorists plant a home-made bomb in the Ritz, resulting in its destruction. In The Da Vinci Code, the protagonist, Robert Langdon, stays at the hotel while in Paris, as do Andrea Sachs and Miranda Priestly in Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada. The final chapter of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel From Russia, with Love is set at the hotel. The villain, Rosa Klebb, stays in room 602 and engages in a battle with Bond which results in her death. In Julian Fellowes' novel Snobs (2004), those attending Earl Broughton's pre-marriage bachelor party are accommodated at the Ritz.
The hotel has featured in several films, three of which starred Audrey Hepburn. In Stanley Donen's 1957 film Funny Face, Kay Thompson dances in the Ritz's entry driveway and in front of the hotel, accompanied by a group of dancers dressed as Ritz bellhops during the Bonjour, Paris! number. In Billy Wilder's 1957 comedy Love in the Afternoon, Hepburn initiates her romance with Gary Cooper in his suite in the hotel and much of the film is set there. The hotel is again seen in the 1966 movie How to Steal a Million, with a romantic scene between Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in the hotel's bar in which Hepburn wears an iconic Givenchy black lace eyemask and matching cocktail dress. In the Indian film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Abhishek Bachchan meets his fictional love (played by Lara Dutta) at Hotel Ritz.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hôtel Ritz Paris.|
- Hotel website
- Interview with Colin Field, leading mixologist and head barman of the Ritz's Hemingway Bar
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