Sunday, July 27, 2014

Et Voila: Le Peninsula!


It took four years and 429 million to complete …and finally the fabulous Peninsula Hotel will open in Paris next week.

It’s the Hong Kong-based company’s tenth hotel, joining properties in New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila.

The first guests are set to arrive on August 1st.

Just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées, at 19 Avenue Kléber in the elegant 16th arrondissement, The Peninsula Paris sits close to some of the world’s most-famous monuments, museums and luxury shopping. It has 200 rooms including 34 suites, five of which have private rooftop gardens with spectacular views over the city. 

The building itself is a late-19th-century classic French-style beauty.  It first opened in 1908 as one of Paris’ most famous “grands hotels” and, for 30 years, it hosted the rich and famous--along with leading lights in the arts, literature and music--during the Belle Epoque and “Années Folles.”

In 1922, five of the greatest artists of the 20th century-- James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky—had dinner together here. Other historical highlights include George Gershwin composing “An American in Paris” here in 1928  and the Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho--which brought the Vietnam War to a close--being signed here in 1973.

Following the wartime occupation of Paris, the hotel was converted into UNESCO’s headquarters (in 1946), and 12 years later it became the conference center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The building has been meticulously restored by teams of French master craftsmen, using techniques in use for hundreds of years. Original elements long gone or badly damaged were recreated following extensive research.  Marble, stucco, mosaics, roof and wall tiles, wood carvings, stone work, gold leafing, paintings and a myriad of other elements have been lovingly preserved and painstakingly restored by some of France’s most-revered family firms, known for their work on heritage projects such as the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

The façade alone employed the talents of 20 skilled stonemasons who restored the elaborate carved stone flowers, bows and ribbons. Repairs were carried out where possible, carving missing portions by hand using stone-dust paste. Where the bas-reliefs were severely damaged, the entire section was replaced by new, hand-carved stone, using photos for reference. Each flower cascade took a stonemason three weeks of work…12 hours of work alone for each small bow.

Meanwhile wood-restoration experts individually numbered and removed each original wood panel in the Lobby and Le Bar Kléber: 370 and 130 sections respectively. These were then sanded down, repaired, restored and replaced.

A firm specializing in gilding and restoring handled repairs, gold leafing and hand painting. Their previous commissions in Paris have included the dome of Les Invalides and the Palace of Versailles, while in the US their projects have included the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and the flame of the Statue of Liberty. 

Three basement levels were excavated to create a 1800-square-foot spa, a 20-meter swimming pool, fitness centre and parking for 57 cars.

The Avenue Kléber hotel entrance leads to the traditionally grand Peninsula Lobby, with soaring curved ceilings, magnificent drapery, marble floors and contemporary furnishings. In a second lobby—which greets guests arriving by car--a hand-blown Lasvit chandelier creates a cascade of 800 crystal “leaves,” a subtle homage to the plane trees lining Avenue Kléber. 

With the smallest of them 35 square meters (312 square feet), the guestrooms are among the largest in the city; the company says they’re also the most technologically advanced in the world. Every room has a marble bathroom, a self-contained dressing room, a walk-in closet, a seated dressing table, a valet box for discreet pick-up and delivery of laundry, dry-cleaning and polished shoes, a large electronic safe, internet radio, a weather display panel and –wait for it!—a nail dryer. (Personally, I love the Nespresso machines and the free local and international  phone calls!)

Fully customized interactive digital bedside and desk tablets are preset for guests in one of 11 languages, offering full control of all in-room functions and access to restaurant menus, hotel services and TV channels. In-room LED touch-screen wall panels feature valet call, weather details, thermostat, language and privacy options.

In addition to 24-hour room service, the Peninsula Paris has six dining venues:  The Lobby, LiLi (the Cantonese restaurant), La Terrasse Kléber, L’Oiseau Blanc (a rooftop restaurant, bar and terrace), Le Lounge Kléber (an eight-seat cigar lounge) and Le Bar.

There are also function and banquet rooms,  of course, including a traditional Parisian-style ballroom-salon with a pre-function area for up to 120 people,  and three rooms for smaller meetings and events.

Throughout the hotel, executive chef Jean-Edern Hurstel says he’ll be using only the very best of French ingredients and a “farm to table” approach to seasonal cuisine. Jean-Edern was born and raised in Alsace and comes to the hotel from the Middle East, where he was working at the Shangri-La Abu-Dhabi and, more recently, Boca Restaurant in Dubai.

Vichy-born chief sommelier Xavier Thuizat presides over The Peninsula Paris’ extensive wine cellar while indulging his passion for sourcing unique boutique wines from small producers throughout France.

Pastry chef Julien Alvarez hails originally from Bergerac and has won a multitude of awards, including a gold medal in the World Pâtisserie Championship in 2011.

And what about the famous Peninsula cars? Yep, they’re here and at the ready: Continuing the company’s  long partnership (since 1970) with Rolls-Royce, a Rolls-Royce EWB Phantom and a meticulously restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II are liveried, together with two customized Peninsula Edition MINI Cooper Clubman vehicles,  in the signature Peninsula green in front of the hotel. There’s also a fleet of 10 BMW 7 Series limousines for airport transfers, sightseeing and trips around Paris.

The hotel’s general manager is Nicolas Béliard , who has extensive experience throughout Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and the US. He joined the company in 2009, at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and became GM of the Peninsula Bangkok the following year.

Hotel manager Vincent Pimont also has years of luxury hotel experience,  in Paris, the US and the Far East. He comes most recently from the Peninsula Beijing.

Opening month specials begin at €750 per night, for a Superior room with full breakfast for two (usually €1,205).

To reserve, click here, go to Peninsula.com or call: 08 00 91 59 80 (in France) or 866 382 8388 (in the US). 

Photos: (1) You've arrived! One of the two lobbies, with its hand-blown crystal "Dancing Leaves" chandelier. (2) The Peninsula all lit up and ready to party. (3) Rooftop restaurant views at L’Oiseau Blanc. (4, 5) Guestrooms and marble bathrooms are loaded with luxe amenities and tech. (6) Executive chef Jean-Edern Hurstel on the hunt for the best seasonal ingredients and products. (7) The hotel at 19 avenue Kléber opened in 1908 and was known for voluminous spaces, elegant events, beauty and glamour. (8, 9) Countless craftsmen using traditional methods did the meticulously restoration, guided by historic photos. (10) Inviting sweets are among the in-room amenities offered.

6 comments:

  1. Julie I can tell that it will be a dream to stay at The Peninsula as they have prepared the hotel perfectly from the very start of renovations! Thank you so much for sharing this info.

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  2. God...I hope that I can win the Loto....then maybe I can afford to spend a night there.

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  3. It looks fabulous! We may have to win the loto before Jim :-)

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  4. What a fabulous post, Julie! So glad to know it's open. I am still wallowing in memories of staying at The Peninsula in Shanghai, which is pretty new and had all the hi-tech stuff in the rooms, all of which I ADORED!

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  5. wow looks wonderful but pricey in the Euro department

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  6. How amazing. Like an romantic experience in luxury travel. Would love to stay there and visit. I'm sure they also have delicious Parisian and exotic cuisine as well. Would love to try that.

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