Try asking friends this. How many roads lead directly to Arc de Triomphe in Paris? Just as it is said that all roads lead to Rome, here in the French capital no fewer than FOURTEEN roads radiate from the arch. The gal knows as, one morning that required an early start, before dawn, she ran around the circumference, counting. When she finally reached avenue Foch she thought she had circumnavigated but she still had quite a way to go before returning to the luxury hotel where she was staying on avenue Hoche. She was lucky to have a bed; one consultant says the average hotel is filled 200 nights of every year. Now Paris needs even more luxury hotels, especially during fashion weeks. But are temporary cabins, as shown, the answer?
In fact the suppliers of such portakabins, or whatever you call them, are doing really big business right now. The Prince de Galles, which was managed by InterContinental and then by Marriott, is still closed for substantial rebuilding. It was supposed to re-open May 2012 but, as the picture shows, it is more than a year behind schedule. It will reopen managed by Starwood at some point, but meanwhile the disruption may not be exactly easy for its close neighbour, Four Seasons George V. What a royal pair they make, with a Prince of Wales next to a King George V…. Both hotels are owned by Middle Easterners, by the way.
Even though they may have palaces of their own, our friends from Abu Dhabi through to Qatar like buying substantial palaces in Europe. What will be Peninsula Paris is owned by the latter. This building, on avenue Kléber, was put up in 1908 and it was last used as the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a conference centre. Apparently what will be a 200-room hotel was set for a December 2012 opening but right now one entire façade is covered, to its eighth floor rooftop, by stacks of portakabins, the others in protective gauze. It is typically Peninsula, however, to see that the security entrance, for the workmen, has a big sign saying ‘welcome’. The Peninsula is next to, but separated by rue Jean Giraudoux from, Hotel Raphael.
Hotel le Crillon, separated by one road from the Elysée Palace, has the French automobile club connected to its other side. This hotel closes next month, for a major re-do, which will require yet more scaffolding and yet more portakabins. This hotel is also Middle Eastern owned, in this case by a Saudi. One wonders what M Louis François Trouard, who built this palace in 1758 – it later passed to the Crillon family, and the League of Nations was set up here in 1919 – what would M Trouard, who would never have heard of Saudi Arabia, think?
By contrast, The Ritz, which is already – as is clear from the photo – well and truly closed, is owned by the Egyptian Mohamed Fayed, who also used to own Harrods. The Ritz is where Coco Chanel lived, it is where Princess Diana and Mohamed Fayed’s son left for that last, fateful drive. Now it is being redone with interiors by top New York designer Thierry Despont. It looks set to be out of action for a long time.
There are, fortunately, new kids on the block. Buddha-Bar Hotel Paris opens officially in June 2013, on rue d’Anjou – and watch the Girlahead space.
Some luxury hotels in Paris are fortunately simply changing bits. Le Grand InterCon, which has the famous Café de Paris right next to Opera Garnier, had a massive Olde Englande store on the acute corner of bvd des Capucines and rue Scribe. But times change, the store closed, and I was wondering what would replace it. I can reveal – a Bucherer store will open shortly, and in this case that probably means sooner rather than later.