Paris Hotels: Ultimate Luxury at the Ritz
The Ritz Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in Paris, and probably in the world. Walking in the traditionally ornate lobby, it is easy to imagine the flirtatious giggle of Coco Chanel haunting the halls of what was once her home. The Duke and Duchess of York considered this their home away from home, while Ernest Hemingway spent so much time in the bar that it is now named for him.
And the bar is where I first visited the hotel, acting as a tour guide for a visiting cousin who loves luxury but is terrified by French cuisine. She was thrilled to meet Colin Field, a Forbes Best Barman of the Year, and be served a custom orchid-clad champagne cocktail. I was thrilled with the relaxing, comfortable atmosphere.
For guests looking for more than drinks, there is the Espadon, a Michelin two-star restaurant run by chef Michel Roth. There is also an elaborate Sunday brunch overlooking a peaceful garden, and afternoon tea, in the British tradition, is served every afternoon in the Vendôme bar.
Recently I enjoyed a brief visit to the Imperial Suite, the largest room in the hotel, with a stupendous view over the Place Vendôme and a canopy bed that was designed for a king. Make that two royal beds, because the Imperial Suite has two bedrooms, two full baths, a sitting room and a wine bar that comes stocked with a 7,500€ bottle of Petrus. I am guessing that this is where the owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, stays when he is visiting Paris.
This is among the favorite hotels in Paris of stars from the young, hip Johnny Depp to the intellectually curious Woody Allen. It is particularly popular with the fashion crowd, who invade the palace hotel twice a year for fashion week, booking most of the rooms and even monopolizing the conference rooms for private showings of their collections.
And after a grueling day of Paris sightseeing, it must be a delight to slip down to the Ritz’s classy health club, which has the largest private pool in the city, elegantly decorated with formal murals and romanesque mosaics.
What always strikes me the most at the Ritz, though, is that despite the incredibly formal, baroque environment, the staff always makes me feel relaxed and comfortable—not at all stiff and awkward, like I often feel in such sophisticated surroundings. It’s a true homage to the founder, César Ritz, who dedicated his life to creating the ultimate luxury hotel.