By Gilles Malaisé
Ava Gardner, Marylin Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Robert de Niro and Céline Dion once pushed the revolving door of the elegant 112th, rue du Faubourg St Honoré building: stepping inside the most confidential palace hotel in Paris. A place where, a couple of decades ago, some introduction was still necessary to receive admission! The whiter shade of pale marble floor, the Gobelin tapestries covering the immaculate walls made out of Ile de France white stone (that kind which was used to build the Sacred Heart basilica, in Montmartre), the Arabian Nights carpets bought for extravagant prices and substituted by newer one once a year, and even the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries paintings formerly exhibited in the Louvre, don't catch the attention as much as the cyclopean bunches of flowers artistically arranged on period tables all around. The guests tend to be extremely faithful: 80% of them like to stay nowhere else, but at the Bristol when visiting Paris. Tradition sometime rhymes with revolution, and Pierre Ferchaud, general manager of the hotel, shaked the dust -golden dust!- out of it: revamping the bar with a new design and lounge music (sorry; we, old style travellers, miss the piano...), breaking walls and extending the hotel with a new wing, opening a "brasserie" which immediately turned out into a sough after trendy restaurant... We could see by ourselves how many younger faces this gentleman attracted into his hotel... including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni... This was not effortless, but the Bristol is in 2009 a second to none place for the jet society.
Visitors climb up to the apartments in an old wood and glass framed Otis lift. There is no other palace hotel in town with a such a beautiful one, indeed. Year after year, we have been lucky enough to experience different categories of rooms during our repeated stays. One of our favourite remains the suite # 440-441. A bunch of flowers shaped like a globe matched the aristocratic Louis XVth gueridon supporting it. Six people could comfortably seat on the deep and smooth period armchairs and sofa: welcoming outside visitors in the Bristol is a real pleasure. A warm natural light was invading the apartment; which we enjoyed quite a lot, as many other palace hotels in Paris tend to have darker rooms: just like the Ritz, for instance, which is the direct concurrent of the Bristol. Such a brightness made us cheerful at first sight. We actually felt like in a privately owned property. The bathroom, made out of Carrara marble, was palatial. Mostly all the 199 rooms and 52 suites have been recently refurbished, with a similar one. Bathrooms at the Bristol are now the largest in Paris: noblesse oblige, the toiletry is naturally provided by Hermès. The newest rooms can be found in the very recent extension: opened in October 2009, it spreads out over a surface area of nearly 3,250 sq. m, comprising 21 rooms, five luxury suites and the trendy "114 Faubourg" restaurant, designed by Maja Oetker, owner of the hotel since 1978. Those looking for a Eiffel Tower view, high ceilings and generous exposition to the daylight, should straightly reserve their room in this section. Note that, though the Faubourg St Honoré is quite animated -which also means noisy- we could sleep like a baby: the windows are 100% sound proofed with a "zero tolerance" technology... making you feel like miles away from Paris.
We could inspect the largest apartments:
starting with the superlative Penthouse, which looks like a private mansion.
Its living room was
formerly equipped with a direct lift, recently replaced by... a fireplace.
World famous artists DO love it. This is Céline Dion's house, when
in Paris. Don't expect, nevertheless, to find here anything plush and flashy;
the room is simply luxurious and cosy. If decorum is your style, then rather
book the Presidential and Vice-Presidential suites. Huge (300sq m), they
have been designed for state presidents and Hollywood movie stars. Those
very special and distinctive travellers, like Robert de Niro, would never
like to stay somewhere else than here: enjoying the panorama over the Sacred
Heart, the Eiffel Tower, and the roofs of an idealised Vincente Minelli
like Paris they scarcely visit. Preferring organising appointments or resting
in their suite, where they also have lunch or dinner in their gilted nest,
rather than in the splendid ground floor Winter or Summer restaurants.
Which explains why the Bristol has one of the very best room service in
town. Chef Eric Frechon has been awarded his third Michelin star in 2008.
While the casual room service menu balances between the omelette and the
toasted cheese sandwich with ham, the VIPs staying at the Bristol often
prefer some more sophisticated courses: just like a Lobster with Cream
Polenta and Squid Ink, or Cannellonis Filled with Foie Gras and Black Truffle
(gourmet President Sarkozy's favourite dish), and Chocolate "Caraque"...
The hotel gets a particular advantage compared to its direct competitors: a pool. A splendid, unique, and most enjoyable one, indeed! Sharing the 6th floor with a fitness club equipped the Californian way, it had been designed by Dr Pinnau. A famous name among the jet-society, as he used to be the architect for Niarchos and Onassis yachts. On the freshly restaured frescoes offering the swimmer a seaside panorama, you may recognise the Grand-Hotel du Cap d'Antibes (Eden Roc), under similar ownership.
Another particularity: those who like to go shopping on their own can ask to the concierge the key... of a Smart car. A complimentary service, which seems to please very much the Rolls Royce and Ferrari addicted!
Should we add that, as a matter of fact, the service is anticipating any normal or eccentric requirement from part of the most pernickety guest. The rate for a double deluxe room starting from EUR 750, and from EUR 900 for a Junior Suite (EUR 6000 / 8000 for a Presidential Suite), one could decently be treated like a king.
More than 300 people are currently employed to deal with the newly refurbished 199 rooms and 52 suites. Staff is courteous, nice, and extremely attentive: that much that, whenever you handle the "Do not disturb" notice to your door, you may be sure that even without prior notice to the operator all the telephone calls to your room will be filtered.
Affiliated to the LEADING
HOTELS OF THE WORLD, the jewel
of the OETKER HOTEL COLLECTION
is one of the top four palace hotels in Paris. As a paradox, it is much
more famous around the world than in France. Our tip: make sure you book
far in advance, whenever you want to mix up with the rich and famous enjoying
this sanctuary of the French good taste.
LE BRISTOL: 112, rue du Faubourg St Honoré,
PHONE: (33) 01 53 43 43 00 FACSIMILE: 01 53 43 43 01
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