Oh la la! I was invited to do a hard hat tour of the fabulous Ritz Paris. The hotel has been under an extensive refurbishment and has been closed for over three years now. The first since 1979. They are working hard and are looking forward to their re-opening this March.
The hotel will still enjoy the fabled history it has enjoyed since its heyday when Coco Channel had an apartment there for over 30 years- in the new redone hotel their spa will bear her name, the only hotel with a Channel Spa! As well as Ernest Hemmingway. King Edward VIII, Marcel Proust, F Scott Fitzgerald, and on and on and on. The rich, the famous and the royal were main players in the hotel's history. Queen Elizabeth skated in its elegant rink as a child, in the lower level of the hotel. And during the German occupation, the Nazi’s took over the hotel during World War II.
It was Ernest Hemmingway who liberated the bar from the Nazis as they were retreating. The bar will bear his name, and I took a peek, and it is going to be fantastic! The story goes that it was expected that General Leclerc, in command of the Allied troops, would be first on the scene, marching up the Avenue de la Grande Armée with a full regalia of tanks, artillery, flags, and bands. But well before he could get there, a jeep came flying up the avenue, zipped under the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Élysées, and across the Place de la Concorde, then skidded to a stop in the Place Vendome at the entrance of the Ritz. Hemingway was in command of that jeep.
A war correspondent, but with a gun in the crook of his arm, he had taken charge of the group in the vehicle, most of them who had become separated from their units. He led them into the Ritz, proclaimed its liberation, took command of the bar, and ordered champagne for everyone. The Bar Hemmingway was said to have been the very first hotel bar, and one of the world’s best ever!
The Ritz Paris had many firsts in the hotel biz; they were the first to have a bathroom en suite. Also the first to have a telephone and electricity in each room. A good start for a very lavish and celebrated hotel. The grandest suite of the hotel, named the “Imperial,” has been listed by the French government as a national monument in its own right. The four poster bed is said to be identical to that in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom in the Palace of Versailles. This suite was where Princess Diana & Dodi Al-Fayed had their last meal.
Currently, they are working feverishly on the painting and the décor of the hotel; most of the major renovation is finished. After seeing a lot of the newly renovated areas of the hotel and a few suites (OMG!!!) I can say with all confidence that the Ritz Paris, after 200 Million Euros in renovations, will be as fabulous as it was when Cesar Ritz was at the helm! The Ritz will always be the Ritz!