Advisors and consultants Luxury Hotels

Versailles – Sue Harmsworth

This episode of Girlahead picks up from a regular weekly article in LATTE, Signature Media’s luxury briefing for travel advisors in Australasia*.  Here, read about Waldorf Astoria Versailles – Trianon Palace:

‘This is this ideal rural base for travelling with a sense of purpose – and yet you are only 20 minutes’ by train or car from the Louvre and the heart of Paris’, says GM Grégoire Salamin.  Built in 1910 by celebrity architect René Sergent, whose many other hotels include the Plaza Athénée in central Paris, today there are a total of 199 rooms and suites in two parallel blocks, joined by a subterranean passage. Both buildings allow full use of all facilities, which include three hectares of pastoral farmland, invariably dotted with sheep. From here you cross directly to the gardens of Versailles itself.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the main Chateau, in 1919, by Georges Clemenceau, but it had been drafted in the hotel’s Salon Clemenceau, ideal for selfies. In what is more a museum than a standard hotel, there are memorabilia for the Treaty, as well as reminders of such past guests as politicians, Gen de Gaulle, and military mights of the calibre of Eisenhower, Montgomery and Patton – and eternal entertainment heroes, Sarah Bernhardt, Marlene Dietrrich, and the scion of such a culture dynasty, J. Paul Getty.

I stayed in the hotel’s more ornate Louis XIV-style six-floor block, in rooftop turret suite 602. There was an ultra-private terrace, large enough to host a proper dining space for four, plus service.  Oh, I thought, what a marvellous place for cocktails, or at least one glass of chilled Pommery, looking at a 360-degree view that swung round past fields of sheep to the Chateau gardens.  I looked down at Parisien day-visitors merely enjoying walking in superbly fresh air.

I went back inside, to #602’s white mansard walls, striped curtains, a carpet that was leaf-patterned in soft and dark heather hues. Dinner was in the main restaurant, run by Scottish celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, a good friend of the hotel’s owners, the Ohayon family, for whom he also does gastronomic restaurant Le Pressoir d’Argent at another of their fine properties, Grand Hotel Bordeaux InterContinental. He keeps his Versailles culinary offering as set-menu only, the five-course Discovery Menu and a seven-course Prestige alternative.  Tonight I somehow managed to eat, with delight, my way through chef Frédéric Larquemin’s Mackerel fillet with beetroot; Pan-fried duck liver with spices, fig and caramelised butternut squash; Beluga lentils from Perche with quail egg, crispy lard, sorrel pesto; John Dory accompanied by ricotta-stuffed zucchini flower and shellfish sauce; veal fillet and cheek, girolles and stuffed artichoke. At this point responsibility for the meal passed to pâtissier Eddie Benghanem, who produced a herbs, and then a lychée sorbet, and, finally, black fig with flower-fruit infusion and olive oil icecream. From the sommelier’s choice, I thoroughly enjoyed my pairings with two wines from the same house, Dme Jean-Michel Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet 2017, followed by Pommard Premier Cru Jarollières 2017.

Not surprisingly, I slept like a log, and, first thing in the morning, I took 187 steps down to the basement gym for a much-needed work-out. At breakfast I relished the stylish buffet, with L’Ancienne preserves, and then I headed to the Guerlain Spa. From the hotel-bespoke treatments, I chose a 90-minute ‘Swing Parfait’.  Rather like strings of a musical instrument being stretched and smoothed in both directions, my joints were released and loosened, apparently ideal for adding the suppleness needed for playing golf. My body would be rebalanced, I was told.  I did feel re-energised.

Fortunately there was still time to hike around the sheep pastures before taking the train back to Paris. My urban retreated ended, and I could quite understand Gregoire Salamin’s comment that Parisiens love this place for the nature.  And yes, I felt so much BETTER for my visit – talking of wellness, hear the world’s most perceptive analyst below – and *see another LATTE article, by Mary Gostelow, here next Monday.