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EXCLUSIVE! Peninsula Paris Is Having A Major Glamorous Moment

BY WENDY HUNG

Paris Peninsula entrance

As a young adult, there was nothing more glamorous than sipping afternoon tea with live quartet radiating our family’s favorite classical tune. Afterwards, we would head to the Chanel boutique next to a signature extravagant lobby and splurge for a few hours. Riding up the elevator in beige textured Burberry pumps, I had no idea my handbag was left unzipped and I would lose my new pair of silver-framed sunglasses right then and there. Waving a friendly hello to Butler Paul on our floor, I panicked an hour later to discover an entire hotel staff sprawled throughout the establishment looking for my lost that was never to be found. Glamour is always at its best when sprinkled with a hint of drama. But that’s my Peninsula Hong Kong. After all these years, it’s still a personal favorite. (Sorry Burj al Arab, if only we had met earlier in life.)

Classic like the Rolls Royces adorning its Peninsula green. Colonial history infused with modern beauty. Elegance coated by immortal grace. The flagship property of the The Peninsula Hotel Group has stood the test of time in Hong Kong as the reigning number one sine 1928. Forty-eight years later, The Peninsula Group expanded to Manila in the Philippines. During the glittering 80s, The Peninsula New York opened its doors on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street. Six more hotels unveiled in the duration of twenty-six years, the world wondered when the finest hotel group would make its dazzling mark in the continent of Europe.

During August of this year, we stopped wondering. Accompanied by flirtatious Chinese lion dances, Peninsula Paris gleamed in Paris’ glitzy 16th arrondissement. Chinese fire crackers, ceremonial traditions to keep bad spirits away, applauded by beautiful men and women layered in style were symbolic indications that the Peninsula brand has arrived in the City of Light. Performed in a fashion that only Peninsula knows how – enriched in cultures as a form of forward-thinking.

Paris Peninsula afternoon tea

Located on Avenue Kléber just few steps away from Champs Elysées and L’Arc de Triomphe, Paris Peninsula is the rebirth of a 19th-century classic. Back in 1908, the building was one of Paris’ famous “grand hotels,” a home away from home for the rich, the famous, the artists, the intellectuals and the tycoons during the era of Parisian Belle Epoque and Années Folles. Remember George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris?” It was composed right here, back in 1928.

After the peak of art and glamour in Paris, the building served as the headquarters of the German military high command in France during the Nazi occupation of Paris. After WWII, the same building became UNESCO’s headquarter in 1946 then transformed into the conference center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1958. The Paris Peace Accords which concluded Vietnam War was signed by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in this archival establishment in 1973.

Transforming a 19th-century building into a glossy luxury hotel was no easy task and required four years of rigorous restoration performed by teams of French craftsmen who used traditional techniques mastered from hundreds of years. Peninsula Group’s goal was always to preserve the heritage, authenticity and the spirit of the building. Thus, marble, stucco, mosaics, roof and wall tiles, wood carvings, stone work, gold leafing and paintings were meticulously restored by the same French family who also restored the Louvre and Palace of Versailles.

Hotel entrance - The Peninsula Paris

According to The Peninsula Paris:

The façade alone employed the talents of 20 skilled stonemasons from historic monument specialist Degaine to restore the 10,000 sq m area with its elaborate carved stone flowers, bows and ribbons. Repairs were carried out where possible, carving missing portions by hand using stone dust paste, or where the bas-reliefs were severely damaged, the entire section was replaced by a new stone and handcarved from scratch, using only photos for reference. Each flower cascade took a stonemason three weeks of work, with 12 hours for a small bow.

To restore the wood panels required genius work of Atelier Fancelli – a small family company of three-generations with 12 employees – removing every individual piece from the lobby and the bar. Each panel was sanded down for repair and replacement. Gold leafing restoration were done by Ateliers Gohard (another tri-genration family of 20 employees) who also worked on Les Invalides in France and the flame of the Statue of Liberty in America.

Architects were forbidden to change the building’s exterior, hence the Peninsula Hotels’ in-house interior design team and Henry Leung of Hong Kong-based Chhada Siembieda Leung along with architectural restoration spearheaded by Richard Martinet of Affine architecture & interior design collaborated to retain the historical aspect of the building while incorporating new technology and contemporary styles to modernize the use of space. Such newness can be seen in the rooms, suites, restaurants and spa.

Paris Peninsula suite

The Peninsula Paris proudly holds 200 luxurious and comfortable rooms, including 34 gorgeous suites that jetsetter simply can’t complain about. Five of these suites comprise of private rooftop gardens with the incredible view of Paris. Each room is ideal for the modern traveler with the installation of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world. Literally. Need your shoes polished? Just press a button on a touch pad. Need your laundry delivered pronto? Go to the tablet. Let’s not forget to mention, the tablet transforms the entire room into any language you prefer. From merci to 謝謝.

The rooms are beautifully embellished in soft grey and cream hues, accompanied by high ceilings and curated artwork. Meanwhile not many suites in Paris come with 360° views of Paris. Five of the suites in The Peninsula Paris deliver this panoramic sight, from dusk ’til dawn.

Hungry for serious gastronomy? The Peninsula Paris offers six delectable options from the very best of France to the very best of Canton. The Peninsula brand is known for The Lobby (Paris is no exempt) which serves breakfast, lunch, the famous Peninsula Afternoon Tea, dinner and light snacks. LiLi is an Asian culinary paradise serving dim sum and seafood courses. Influenced by Chinese opera, this is Peninsula’s delicious honor to the brand’s Asian roots. L’Oiseau Blanc, is a rooftop restaurant, bar, and terrace highlighting French cuisine with an exceptional wine and cocktail menu accompanied by the Eiffel Tower just a glance away. One of our favorites is the cigar-smokers’ Lounge Kléber, which elegantly offers a selection of exclusive cigars and alluring drinks.

Paris Peninsula  spa

To amp up modernization required the excavation of three basement levels which is now: a world-class spa, a 20m swimming pool, a fitness center and a private parking lot. The spa, in particular, stretches 1,800 square meters and features six private treatment rooms with two couples’ suites using Biologique Recherche and ESPA products. A haven of relaxation and sanctuary for travelers who need a break from catching flights.

On the opening day of Peninsula Paris, I took a moment by myself to sip on a glass of rosé after the lion dances wrapped and fanfares faded. I suddenly thought of my younger self in Hong Kong and memories traced back to Butler Paul. Such memories arrived from so far away, yet I felt deeply right at home in that instant. Captured by the Peninsula, as always, only in Paris.

Photos courtesy: The Peninsula Paris

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SEE IT FOR YOURSELF!

The Peninsula Paris

19 Avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris, France (map, website)

Wendy Hung contributor profile Paris Peninsula

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