Written by Domenico Di Maio

Week 37

A stone’s throw away from the Champs-Elysees, the Ritz Hotel is a distinguished destination for wealthy travellers and the curious, not only because of its historic, architectural and aesthetic prestige, but moreover, its impressive narrative, which has rendered the edifice an institution of luxury and celebrity.
The Suite Imperiale, the finest suite in the hotel, and French National Monument in its own right, was the final destination of Dodi Al-Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, before the tragic accident inside Point de L’Alma tunnel on August 31st. In 1971 Coco Chanel passed away inside her room, uttering her final words to her waitress: “You see, this is how you die.” Earlier in 1946, Dorothy Gibson, pioneering American silent film actress, lived out her last days inside her suite before she was struck by a fatal heart attack.

Illustration © Ritz Paris

Omitting the few but relevant macabre moments, The Ritz easily springs to mind for other reasons, which have provided it with its legendary reputation.
Since 1898 this hotel has been the zenith of luxury and elegance as well as the preferred domiciliary choice of esteemed guests including: Marcel Proust, Ingrid Bergman, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Maria Callas. The most well known names, haling from all artistic fields, have had the pleasure of residing in its lavish suites, making the Ritz, throughout the years, a point of reference and refuge for lovers of good taste and the high life.
It’s a monument of our time, and one that has endured difficult circumstances. During World War Two, Hemingway – who before becoming a famous writer could only afford one drink a week at the beloved Ritz Bar – gathered his band of “irregulars” and personally liberated the hotel (and more importantly, the bar) from Nazi siege. It is no coincidence that this drinking den is known as ‘Hemingway Bar’, the attribution of this name, an overt indication of gratitude that today still lingers in the stately air.
Built during the reign of Louis XIV, and externally designed by the royal architect Mansart, the structure is a masterpiece of classical architecture and the essence of Parisian luxury. In order to contend with its competitors and for the eminent story to continue, The Ritz is being renewed. Since closing its gilded doors in August 2012, the hotel has embarked on a huge renovation project, and is set to reopen at the end of this year.

The objective of the renovation is not to change the original style, but rather to bring the hotel into the modern age, with the addition of new technologies and considered aesthetic remodelling.
The magnificent salons will be preserved and all precious furnishings will be removed, restored and later reassembled, with the help of expert conservator-restores under the supervision of interior architect Thierry W. Despont.
One cannot miss the gallery: a stage for the luxurious world of jewellery, cradle for high fashion, and space that witnessed the pinnacle of prestige when Donatella Versace mounted her first couture show for the Versace Atelier; In short, the tradition must continue, stronger than before.
And of course, the elegant spaces of socialization shall not be neglected, such as the New Ritz Bar overlooking the Rue Cambon with its classic Parisian décor and charm. Or waltz into Hemingway Bar with its timeless polish and intimate atmosphere, in which one can savour the creations of worlds best bartender: Colin Peter Field, designer of the most discerning alcoholic beverages to have emerged in the last decade.

Illustration © Ritz Paris

“And the food?” you ask. Paris-born chef Nicolas Sale will command the two-star L’Espadon restaurant fashioning contemporary cuisine that shall push the boundaries of French gastronomy to new heights.
There is everything you need, including a modern fitness centre (which boasts the largest indoor hotel pool in Paris, a mere 1,700 square meters), and 15 historic prestige suites that are visually dedicated to illustrious guests that have graced the hotel, such as the Duke of Windsor, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many others.
At the grand reopening, the legendary hotel will open its doors with 71 rooms and 71 suites. Its customary regal dress shall be swapped for a new guise that won’t comprise its heritage or aesthetic value. A touch of modernity without tainting the famous pastel palette that has made the hotel’s interior famous.
The legend continues, venturing into a new era.