A hotel fit for a princess: a peek inside Paris' Hôtel Plaza Athénée
Paris....the 'City of Love', the birthplace of some of the most classical recipes and culinary techniques and home to some of the most iconic buildings. Much admired and revered, Paris is a city you either love or hate. There is no grey area, no in-between. I for one adore this beautiful city and movie montages, like that featured in 'Midnight in Paris', have always made me swoon.
It was with much excitement and wide-eyed amazement that I stepped off the train on a cold December afternoon, finally back in Paris after a decade long absence. Even the train station was a beacon to Haussmann-era architecture. My short taxi ride through the streets to my hotel almost gave me whiplash as I struggled to take in all the beauty. I emitted an audible gasp as the taxi pulled up on Avenue Montaigne in front of those iconic pillar-box red awnings. Hello! And welcome to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée.
The Hôtel Plaza Athénée has been welcoming guests since 1913 and is located along the tree-lined Avenue Montaigne, surrounded by some of the biggest haute couture fashion houses. Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Ralph Lauren all call this avenue home. Offering some of the best views of Paris' iron lady, the Eiffel Tower, the Plaza Athénée reopened its doors in August 2014 after a 10-month closure, where she was given a 'nip and tuck' to usher her into the next century. An additional six guest rooms and eight suites were incorporated into the historic building, above the hotel's French brasserie, Le Relais Plaza.
The room redecoration was undertaken by Marie-José Pommereau, who has a long-standing relationship with the hotel and she set about creating the feeling of an elegant Parisian apartment, with the addition of antique tables, mirrors and drawings and using exquisite damask, embroideries and plain silks from couture houses to dress the windows, armchairs and beds. The new look is one of elegance and refinement. Perhaps not something for traditionalists, but nonetheless beautiful.
I was lucky to have a peek inside the new signature suites and they are truly breathtaking. Some of the suites are decorated in a more modern and art deco style, in shades of grey, lilac and silver with mahogany accents and slightly harder edged lines. The Eiffel Suite 878 boasts 180 degree views of the Paris skyline, including the opportunity to see the Eiffel Tower from the lounge, bedroom and bathroom.
Suite 361 has the feel of a stylish Parisian apartment, with a soft grey velvet sofa accented by rich pink velvet cushions and silk lampshades. Coffee table books and fresh pink rosebuds sit on the coffee table. An antique bone inlay dresser and a classic portrait of a 19th Century woman are just some of the little details that make the bedroom feel homely. The bathrooms are exquisitely designed with large soaking tubs and marble basins. The piece de resistance in this suite is the heavy and ornate silver frame built around the window to mimic a picture frame. It takes me a few moments to register the view and then a sharp intake of breath as I realise that it perfectly frames the Eiffel Tower in all its glory.
I am lucky enough to spend two glorious nights cocooned in one of Plaza Athénée's junior suites. The suite is possibly three times the size of my apartment at home, and exquisitely furnished. The bathroom is beautiful and the deep soaking tub is big enough to swim in. After a long day, I enjoy some quality time luxuriating in soapy bubbles, while enjoying a glass of bubbles of the sparkling kind! Bliss!
Breakfast is a sumptuous affair, taken in the new Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant. The new restaurant is extraordinary with polished stainless steel half domes cocooning the wooden tables and butter leather chairs. The domes reflect the crystal droplets that hang from the ceiling. Pretending to look as if I am used to surroundings such as this on the outside I remain calm. Inside, however, I am squealing like a little girl and doing cartwheels. Pinch me now- this must be a dream! I take a look at the array of cutlery before me and feel thankful to Julia Roberts for her life lessons in Pretty Woman about starting from the 'outside and working in'. A towering tier of freshly baked pastries and muffins is placed in front of me, along with a selection of more jams and spreads than I could possibly imagine. I enjoy a freshly squeezed strawberry juice and two cups of excellent coffee. My poached eggs, tomato and mushrooms is exquisitely presented, as you would expect from a Michelin star chef. I spend a long time that morning taking it all in, as I am quite sure this will be one of the most elegant places I eat breakfast in my life. The quiet chatter of other guests mingles with the soft voices of the waiters floating throughout the room. The smell of freshly baked pastries is intoxicating and the windows along the edge of the restaurant frame the ice rink in the courtyard outside, which is bathed in a mystical blue light.
In the evening the tablecloths are removed from the wooden tables and the menu focuses on celebrating the freshest seafood, pulses and vegetables, however there is an alternative menu for the carnivores among us. You can either choose from the a la carte menu or undertake the tasting menu at 380 EUR per person, including three half dishes, plus cheese and dessert.
A more casual option is available in Plaza Athénée's elegant French brasserie, Le Relais Plaza, at the far end of the hotel. This restaurant is loved by guests and locals alike and has a warm ambience. Other dining options include La Galerie, which is the perfect place for high tea and a tête à tête with a friend or loved one; La Terrace Montaigne which is open seasonally between March and October and the perfect place to stop for a casual lunch and rest those Louboutins underneath the signature red awnings. From May to October the inner courtyard changes from an ice rink to La Cour Jardin, a special place to enjoy lunch with your loved one amongst the signature red geraniums and Virginia creeper that climbs the hotel façade.
Le Bar is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of shopping and sightseeing. The oversized bar that is fashioned out of transparent resin takes pride of place in the centre of the room, with lots of nooks fashioned out of dark wood and leather couches perfect for snuggling up to that special someone. Wreaths of electric blue fabric dance across the ceiling, casting a luminous glow across the room. Ordering is now more interactive with the ability to call up the cocktail menu on your smart phone via a QR reader, or for those who prefer via a traditional menu. Music via a DJ adds to the ambience but is never intrusive so as to drown out the conversation.
The service throughout my stay is everything you would expect from a luxury hotel. The staff are clearly passionate about ensuring their guests have a memorable stay at the Plaza Athénée. You get the feeling that no request would be too difficult.
My stay at the Plaza Athénée was everything I hoped it would be and much more. Walking out of the hotel and seeing the Eiffel Tower in all its glory at any time of the day was truly breathtaking and something I will remember for a long time to come. A hotel that caters well to families with a number of interconnecting room and suite options, as well as couples in love a stay at the Plaza Athénée is as iconic as the city itself.
*I was fortunate to be hosted at the Hotel Plaza Athénée for two nights. If you would like to experience this hotel for yourself get in touch to enjoy upgrades, breakfast for two and a food and beverage credit of USD100 during your stay.
Hôtel Plaza Athénée
25 avenue Montaigne 75008 PARIS France