The Ritz Paris, is not just a hotel but a landmark, a palace, a historical monument to the grandeur of Paris of the late 19th century. Situated on the Place Vendôme (an impressive palatial ring building which was designed in the 17th century at the request of King Louis XIV), the hotel could easily be mistaken for a palace with its stone facade and how well integrated it is into the Place Vendôme.
When Cesar Ritz opened the Ritz in 1898 it was a pioneer in the luxury hotel industry. Luxury hotels lacked the basics that most hotels have today; they didn’t have an en-suite bathroom, electricity, telephony, large beds or extensive carpeting. When the Ritz opened, it ushered in a new era of luxury for Parisians.
The hotel attracted royalty from the moment its doors opened; King Edward VII got stuck in the bathtub with his mistress and had to be pried out by an army of attendants. Cesar Ritz ordered that all bathtubs at the hotel were replaced with “king-sized” tubs. King Alfonso of Spain had his trademark drink made upon his arrival (Dom Pérignon champagne laced with Cognac and a punnet of strawberries). The Duke and Duchess of Windsor sought refuge at the hotel following the media frenzy surrounding abdication crisis and have a suite named in their honour.
The hotel has no shortage of famous guests. Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz for 34 years. Petroleum magnate, Calouste Gulbenkian, who famously negotiated the red line agreement was a regular to celebrate his business victories. Love in the Afternoon which starred Audrey Hepburn was set at the hotel. Marquise Luisa Casati of Milan, took extravagance to a new level and kept two cheetahs in her suite and wore a drugged python round her neck when she dined at the Ritz’s restaurants. Cole Porter composed many of his songs there and imposed on the valets to bring him grand pianos in the middle of the night. On his deathbed, Marcel Proust’s sent his chauffeur to the Ritz to fetch his favourite beer.
A who’s who of the literary world made the Ritz a second home; Noël Coward, Proust and of course George Bernard Shaw. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald we regulars too and my favourite story of them, was when Scott sent her orchids, she rejected the orchids and sent them back to him. Fitzgerald then slowly ate each orchid (petal by petal) in front of her. She eventually accepted his romantic overtures, and the pick-up act was known as “the orchid ploy” – though I confess I have never tried it.
Of all the literary figures, none made such an impact on the Ritz Paris as Ernest Hemingway. When the US liberated Paris, Hemingway decided he would liberate the hotel from Nazi occupation, he arrived at the hotel via jeep with an entourage, stormed the hotel and proceeded directly to his favourite watering hole, the Petit Bar and ordered a round drinks for all running up a tab for 51 martinis.
In 1979, The Ritz changed from ownership of the Ritz family and was sold Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed and subsequently invested over $650 million to renovate the hotel in 1979 and again in 2012. Tragically, his son Dodi al-Fayed and Princess Diana both spent their final evening in the Ritz before they died in the 1997 car accident.
The Lobby and Surrounds
We arrive for the final leg of our honeymoon with a few nights in Paris before we head to London to catch our flight home. When we arrive, our bags are immediately taken from us and the introduction to the reception is seamless and we are taken to our room after a short tour.
It was difficult to take a shot of the lobby that did it justice due to the level of foot traffic, so here is photo from the Hotel’s stock photography which the understated elegance of the main lobby area.
To the right of the entrance and past the reception is a beautiful sitting area which is beautiful.
In the lobby there is the Salon Proust; the perfect salon for experiencing Parisian afternoon tea. It is closed for its annual break; however, guests can enjoy the library, the soft plush sofas and the space for relaxation.
Entrance to the main rooms is through an elevator (right) or circular stairwell.
Antiques and Louis XV era antiques adorn the lobby area and each of the floors near the stairwell.
The Ritz is formed by two joined buildings; The first is the one that opens to the Place Vendôme and the other is a building which opens to Rue Cambon (a back entrance) and near the Hemingway Bar. The two buildings are linked by a corridor of boutique luxury brand stores and the Ritz’s own gift shop.
There are plenty of seating areas across the corridor areas of the hotel.
The Executive Room
As we are escorted to our room, we notice even the side guest elevators which lead to the Ritz Club have their own seat and artwork.
The hallways have a beautiful light cream wallpaper and regal blue carpets.
The room featured a narrow entryway, with the bathroom to the right, and doors which contain the closets and the minibar area. The room has what I call an elegant grandeur to it. We have an Executive Room for our stay. The hotel exudes its historic nature and charm without feeling its age. The carpets are Maison Pierre Frey and majestic wallpapers with subtle yellow tones provides a warm ambiance. The room has a mild palette of creams woven with rich brocades and floral patterns, Louis XV furnishings, chandeliers and oil paintings of the French countryside and Parisian landmarks.
The room has a plush and comfortable king size bed. Beside the bed there are silk tulip lampshades and several dials where with a push of the gold button you can access room service, curtains or privacy. Mixing ancient with modern is a modern phone with easy access to guest services.
Next to the balcony to the large windows is a beautiful light green silk armchair with a small table with a bottle of champagne and fresh fruit to welcome us with a personal note welcoming us and acknowledging our honeymoon. There is a decent sized worktable and a light green chair with a view of a lovely painting.
The Table with a beautiful Provencial art piece hanging overhead.
The Side Table.
The Mini Bar
There are no coffee and tea facilities in the room, you will need to order them via room service. The mini bar however provides an amazing selection of beverages, XO cognac, fine gin and champagne (rose and brut) and a decent Bordeaux wine.
The View and Terrace
This was my favourite moment of our stay, when were ready to head out for dinner, I walked in after donning my jacket and saw Alexandra on the terrace. As the summer afternoon breeze flowed through, she turned and gave me a smile. I could see how happy she was in the room, so we decided against going out and ordered room service as we enjoyed the afternoon sunset.
The room had a window next to the balcony overlooking the “Chancellerie”; the Ministry of Justice. It is so beautiful at sunset.
The Executive Bathroom
The bathroom takes one’s breath away, A pair of large his and hers sinks, a deep soaking tub, a walk-in shower with a large overhanging shower head and a separate lavatory. TV screen and waterproof remote. The creamy pink tones of the marble contrasting with the gold gilding, offsetting the bling and making it more tasteful palatial than outright ostentatious.
The crowning touch of the bathroom is the gilded swan faucets with its so beautiful intricate detail which is simply breathtaking and just watching the water flow from them is captivating.
The bath is the epitome of luxury.
The shower is spacious with a sitting area.
The toiletries were the hotel’s own brand and were excellent.
The peach-coloured towels are embroidered with the Ritz Paris emblem and are super plush.
The Ritz Club
The Ritz Club Paris is located on the basement level and is quite a majestic complex with a wide array of facilities. The spa provides a range of treatments from Biologique Recherche. There is also pool and fitness facilities and classes which range from yoga, cardio training and pilates.
The pool is created in the style of a Roman Bath, the benefits of an indoor pool, perfect for all seasons, with a beautiful fresco on the roof of clouds and blue skies to create the ambiance of an outdoor pool.
The 16-metre pool has over half a million mosaic tiles and is surrounded by beautiful white columns and white lounges with some lovely paintings.
The Fitness Centre
The fitness facilities are quite extensive with a wide variety of equipment and the quality and cleanliness of the facility is quite impressive even when compared to other luxury hotels.
The Grand Jardin
The lush 21,500-square-foot private garden, an oasis, with a fountain, perfect hedges, trees and white stones. We have a leisurely afternoon of joie de vivre as we walk through the gardens enjoying the evening summer breeze as it flows effortlessly through the courtyard before our dinner.
The Restaurants and Bars
This is the main restaurant in the Ritz Paris for now, while the L’Espadon remains closed (other than for a breakfast service) since COVID-19. This restaurant is located close to the entrance of the Ritz on Place Vendome on the right. There courtyard area is open and the winter a glass ceiling transforms it into a beautiful winter garden. The cuisine is a Parisian bistro with a touch of Escoffier-style presentation.
For our entrees we opt to share the Avocado on Country bread with coriander, pomegranate, poached organic egg and crab meat and we each have the linguine with seasonal and Paris button mushrooms, spinach sprouts and truffle in a cream sauce.
We each opt for the Seared Normande Beef Fillet with Mashed Potatoes with a Jus with Phu Quoc Pepper and French Fries.
If there is a way to do steak and chips, then this is as decadent as is it. The succulent tender beef with the creamy buttery mash and the rich decadent velvety jus is a little concert on the palate. We have a beautiful bottle of the Faugères Domaine Leon Barrel from Languedoc-Roussillon. It’s a beautiful wine with flowing red fruit flavours a little spice, earth and leather notes.
We have a selection of desserts and I opt for a pastry and Alexandra goes for the ice cream.
As we sit at our tables enjoying our dessert, the piano man plays Chariots of Fire by Vangelis, the song from the movie of the same name (the film is about Eric Lidell, a Scottish Chrisitan, who switched from 100m sprint to the 400m sprint in the 1924 Paris Olympics) which was funded by Dodi Al Fayed the late son of the owner of the Ritz Paris. We love that song and we listened to the tune as we enjoyed our dessert on a late summer morning. We requested it be played again and the piano man obliged us.
The Ritz Bar has a wonderful selection of cocktails and opens up the Grand Jardin for those after an outdoor aperitif on beautiful Parisian summer day.
Bar Hemingway, named after Ernest Hemingway, who frequented the bar when it was named the petit bar is full of history and displays collectable items (letters, personal effects and other items) owned by Hemingway. The bar features only 25 seats and has an amazing list of cocktails mixed by head barman Colin Field.
Heads of deer, shark jaws and other hunting trophies line the walls. There are photos of the man himself Hemingway, framed letters, typewriters and other memorabilia scattered throughout the bar.
It has one of the most expensive cocktails in the world on its menu. The Ritz Sidecar will set you back €1,500 made from the original 19th century pre-phylloxera cognac of which only a handful of bottles remain. I opt for my favourite, the Clean Dirty Martini and we enjoy our stay sipping away in this historic bar.
Breakfast at L’Espadon
Breakfast is set in L’Espadon which is only open for breakfast until the new chef rebuilds the restaurant post its COVID-19 closure. The dining room is the definition of splendour. The fresco ceiling, glamourous chandelier, artwork, plaster and gilded moulding, grand mirrors, beautiful soft tones and Louis XV era furnishings.
We both opt for the American Breakfast. We were brought out a basket of freshly baked pastries and bread with fresh espresso coffee. As a starter, a fresh fruit salad is also provided.
We both opt for two poached eggs with some sides of veggies.
On one day, we decide to have breakfast out in the courtyard. It’s the best of summer vibe, although it’s hard to pass up the grandeur of the L’Espadon Dining Room.
Alexandra continues with the American Breakfast for our whole stay, while I experiment and today decide to opt for the Japanese Breakfast which has some Japanese tasting snacks with a main course of Teriyaki glazed sea bream.
The courtyard is a dream in the morning, sipping coffee and tea with fresh pastries is the epitome of Parisian living.
As much as the restaurants of the Ritz deliver in terms of culinary excellence, there is nothing better than enjoying the room service. It was the end of our honeymoon and we were tired, so a few nights we spent time in the room and ordered in.
One night Alexandra opted for the Ritz Burger (Burger, tomatoes, lettuce, onion compotée, cheddar cheese) while I opt for the seared fillet of Normande beef. We both had a side of their and homemade French fries.
There is something quite special about room service in this palatial room.
On our final day, we have a late check out and decide to enjoy a late lunch before we leave. I opt for the roasted chicken supreme from Bresse, summer tomatoes, poultry sauce and Alexandra opts for the Linguine we had a few days earlier at Bar Vendome and we enjoy it with a bottle of champagne.
It was the perfect late summer afternoon lunch.
As we leave the Ritz and as our airport transfer arrives, I reflect upon our beautiful stay. The hotel has a grandeur of a bygone era; the palatial room, the gilded swan faucets in each bathroom, the fine paintings, Louis XV furnishings, the Roman bath style indoor pool with its beautiful rooftop frescos, sipping those countless dirty dry martinis at the Hemingway Bar, tasting the summer truffles on our linguini or beef fillet washed down by a beautiful Bordeaux wine for room service, or our idyllic walk through the Grand Jardin on a Parisian summer afternoon… countless moments etched into our memories. Having stayed at a number of luxury hotels, I can say there is no experience like the Ritz Paris. It’s nothing short of a fairytale.
The aesthetics are perfect from the artwork, furnishings, the craftsmanship of the gilding, the wooden features and marble. I can see the fascination with the hotel, it’s a place where no detail is too small, all care and attention are taken to make the guest experience that much more special. It is an unparalleled experience that one can’t describe… and as I sit here, I can’t describe it, so I will leave it to man with greatest literary flair, Ernest Hemingway himself who said of the Ritz Paris: “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz. It’s a fine summer night. I knock back a couple of martinis in the bar—Rue Cambon side. Then there’s a wonderful dinner under a flowering chestnut tree in what’s called Le Petit Jardin. That’s the little garden that faces the Grill. After a few brandies, I wander up to my room and slip into one of those huge Ritz beds. They are all made of brass. There’s a bolster for my head the size of the Graf Zeppelin and four-square pillows filled with real goose feathers—two for me and two for my quite heavenly companion.”