It is one of the icons of Paris, as synonymous with the City of Lights as croissants and couture. Established in 1898, the Ritz Paris was created by Cesar Ritz to have all the refinement royalty would expect in their own homes. Now the Place Vendome property has reopened its doors after a four-year refurbishment.
At the heart of it all has been Ritz Paris general manager Christian Boyens, a passionate champion of maintaining the history and traditions of the venerable hotel during its modernisation. It is a passion which is matched by his love for the city and the experience he hopes visitors have there. He sat down with Expat Living to chat about the hotel and share his exclusive insider’s guide to Paris.
Bringing the past into the present
Christian said while the hotel, the first ever Ritz, had run successfully for 114 years, it was time to modernise aspects such as technology, the water pressure and elevator operation. “The no.1 decision we took was that we had to close the hotel and do some substantial renovations,” he says. “We would try to protect the DNA, the feel, the atmosphere, the private residence feel. But behind the walls we were able to create the most modern hotel in Paris.”
Part of the modernisation was recognizing what the traveller of 2016 is looking for, which Christian says is that the guest experience should be easy and personalised This is evident in the guest greeting services which extend to meeting you at the door of the plane when you land, the decision to do away with set check-in and check-out times and the customisation of media in guest rooms.
From an aesthetic point of view, the number of guest rooms was reduced for more space, a garden created to connect Place Vendome with Rue Cambon, the Ecole Ritz Escoffier cooking school was expanded and an exclusive Chanel spa has been opened at the hotel.
But while changes have been made, certain aspects have been maintained to acknowledge the hotel’s history. For instance, the hotel’s signature peach-coloured robes and towels remain (a colour based on Madame Ritz’s belief that peach was the most flattering colour to a woman’s skin tone), as do the crystal taps and gold swan faucets in the bathrooms.
Christian concedes it could be quite possible to stay in the hotel and not leave, with its abundance of gardens, elegant salons, three restaurants and three bars, including the institution which is Bar Hemingway. “You could spend a couple of days without leaving the hotel but that would be a shame as Paris has a lot to offer,” he says.
An insider’s guide to a day in Paris
Christian recommends the best way to see Paris is to take things at a leisurely pace and to eschew the big galleries and museums and famous markets for a more intimate experience.
“First I would start off my day with a very nice breakfast – but breakfast in Paris is not as it is elsewhere. You have a little coffee and then you go out to the markets,” he says. “The markets is a true Parisian experience but don’t go the famous ones. Go to Rue Levis in the 17– you have five different cheese stores, you have five different butchers, you have the perfect guy for fruits, the perfect guy for vegetables and the beauty in Paris you can really get what is in season.
“Then I would go to a beautiful park with maybe a little coffee in my hand, like Parc Marceau where Monet used to paint, or Jardin de Luxembourg in the 6. I would then refresh myself with a jus d’orange presse at a Parisian café like Flot or La Palette After that I would probably have a little visit at one of the smaller museums. Everyone goes to the bigger ones but I think you should go to one of the smaller ones like Jacquemart Andre, its’ a private residence and they have changing exhibitions, or the Picasso Museum in the Marais. You could do the smaller ones. The problem with the big ones in one day you can’t see anything.
“Next I would have a nice aperitif, that is a very French thing to do, in one of the Parisian cafes or on the terrace of the Bar Vendome at the Ritz and then go out for a nice dinner at one of the many high-end bistros – that would be my perfect day – restaurants that do wonderful food in a small setting that is more intimate.”
Best of the rest
“If you want to shop, close to the hotel you have the Rue St Honore that has really tuned in the last five years into a real mecca so you get the best of both worlds (boutique and big brand) there,’ Christian says. ‘You have flagship stores on the Avenue Montaigne and then you have cute little shops and stores in the Marais and then streets like Rue Courcelles.
“After dark, of course the Hemingway bar at The Ritz is very famous. But there is also a real underground bar scene happening in places. You have Pigalle – the historic red light district that is now cleaned up, with a lot of cute little bars there. St Germain is still popular and you have the Marais – you have a lot of fun little neighbourhoods.
“One thing for sure is you can discover Paris by foot – walking or if you are runner go for a nice run around Sacre Coeur with a view of the city – to go for a run in Paris in the morning is beautiful. It has a different vibe.”
The last word
“The thing in Paris is don’t try and put too much on the agenda,’ Christian says. ‘Just let yourself go with the flow but, have a coffee here a glass of rose there and just enjoy the city and start somewhere and see where you end up.”
Ritz Paris | ritzparis.com
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