Parisian GlamourA stay at the Peninsula Paris
The City of Light expands before me, and the Tour de Eiffel shimmers, dreamlike, in the gathering dark.
A golden afternoon sun washes over Paris, as my taxi rolls past the luminous Arc de Triomphe, and onto avenue Kléber, lined by wavering plane trees. As I arrive, The Peninsula Hotel is doused in a rich, drowsy glow, shards of light slipping over the origami-like canopy of glass and steel.
Behind its Haussmannian exterior, this grand 200 room hotel in the 16th arrondissement hides a tumultuous history. In just over a century, it has been the Hotel Basilewski, the Palace de Castille and The Majestic Hotel, as well as UNESCO headquarters in 1946, and a conference centre for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1958. Only after a four year restoration to its former glory did it open as The Peninsula Paris, in 2014. AFFINE Design oversaw the extensive project, which salvaged many of the building’s original features. The new interiors seamlessly weave Asian simplicity with classic Parisian luxury, and touches of Art Deco.
On entering the marble lobby, I am mesmerised by 800 hand-blown crystal leaves. The glass sculpture, ‘Dancing Leaves,’ designed by Luděk Hroch for Lasvit, is suspended, weightless and graceful, in the centre of the space. As I am led via a private staircase to my rooftop suite, I imagine myself and my fellow travelers as leaves too, blown by a breeze of wanderlust.
Before dinner, I take the chance to indulge at the Peninsula’s tranquil spa, where the scents of cedar and eucalyptus tingle and soothe. An Asian Tea Lounge serves rare teas and organic juices, while the treatments blend Asian, European, and Ayurvedic philosophies, and French luxury skincare for a truly restorative experience.
Rejuvenated, I wander the corridors with childlike curiosity, soaking up the atmosphere. The hotel’s history is strewn with illustrious guests, and I wonder in which room Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso, and Igor Stravinsky dined, or where George Gershwin composed ‘An American in Paris’. I take in the 360° views from the rooftop restaurant, L’Oisueax Blanc, before venturing downstairs to the oak panelled Bar Kléber. This space boasts gilded moldings and painted ceilings, restored by the same skilled artists who have worked on projects at the Louvre and Versailles.
But it is LiLi, the in-house Cantonese restaurant, that I am waiting for. A portrait,‘LiLi’, a personification of 1920s Parisian glamour, is illuminated by ethereal optical fibre at the entrance. Inside, black lacquered wood and deep red tones evoke the Chinese opera, but the real show is at The Chef’s Table. Bright slices of spring onion, garlic, and ginger fly into hot woks, tossed until their colours and aromas sing. It seems hectic, but the chefs are at ease, sending out wok-fried blue lobster and wagyu beef, Peking duck and steaming dim sum.
Swept up by the romance of food, ambience, and the history of the Peninsula, I return to my room and step out onto the suite’s rooftop terrace. The City of Light expands before me, and the Tour de Eiffel shimmers, dreamlike, in the gathering dark.
- words: Libby Borton
- photos: Rich Stapleton