My Paris Stories

Who needs a palace while in Paris?

When the list of the four Paris "palaces" came out last week, it was like an earthquake in the small world of the Parisian luxury hotels. Four five star hotels had been granted the right to call themselves a “palace”. The proud winners are: the Park Hyatt at Place Vendôme, the Bristol, the Meurice, and the Plaza-Athenée. The latter are both owned by the Sultan of Brunei, whereas the Bristol is property of the Germany's Oetker family.

Just a youth hostel?

But what about the others? Is the Ritz no longer what it used to be, the embodiment of luxury? Is the George V just a better sort of youth hostel in spite the fact that Gallivanter’s Guide classified it number one in Europe last January? So many mysteries. And what about the brand new Shangri La? And the very cool, but very classy Royal Monceau? What about the Crillon situated on the most beautiful square in the world, the Place de la Concorde? You might wonder what the criteria of the jury’s choice were? It’s not complicated: location, architecture, history, the size and comfort of rooms, the standard of the spa, the language skills of staff and the quality of the restaurants.

Strong and timeless

"The idea was to make a very French statement, sensual without being too ornate," said well-known interior designer, Ed Tuttle. "We wanted stripped-down classicism, strong and timeless." Tuttle was member of an unusual jury of 10 people from the hospitality, architecture and design, literature, film and television, science and business worlds. The Crillon didn’t apply for the coveted "palace" title because the hotel will soon undergo huge renovations. But the George V? "As far as quality of service goes, the George V is the bench-mark for the rest of the world," said François Delahaye, head of the Dorchstester group to which  the Meurice and the Plaza-Athenee belong, both rewarded with the new label of palace. “This victory leaves a bitter aftertaste”, Delahaye added. “That the Ritz and most of all the George V are not among the winners deprives the list of all credibility.”

The death warrant of the palace

Gabriel Matar, French director of the hotel consultancy group Jones Lang LaSalle, might be right in saying the jury had “signed the death warrant” of the new “palace” title. The label was created last year to reinforce the image of France as a luxury destination. Bad luck. This didn’t really work out. After rewarding, more or less deliberately, some hotels and leaving out others, you get the impression that France is not a luxury destination but not much better than a banana republic, an old men’s network, a place where bureaucracy and corruption are still common causes.

Just trust us

The jury tries of course to justify their judgement. They announced that they will very soon reconsider their decision and include other hotels. Very soon? Next autumn. So very soon, indeed. But come on, do you really need labels like “palace”? Of course not – as long as you we have the sure-fire and incorruptible judgement of  “Mad about Paris”.Photos:
Le Meurice: not only for Dalí
Location is all: view from the suite of the Shangri La