As the car turns onto avenue Montaigne, I immediately notice the perfectly tree-lined street with festive Christmas lights and ornaments. I pass by glamorous stores such as Gucci, Prada and Dior and fabulous restaurants where people sit in the cold winter sun with their fur coats and hats sipping on French champagne at 1 pm in the afternoon. This street symbolises the spirit of Paris. As I pull up in my chauffeured vehicle, I see in the distance an outline of the legendary Eiffel Tower not too far from where I am.
As the car door is opened by a distinguished young gentleman dressed in a beautifully tailored suit, his words are “Bonjour Madame, welcome to The Plaza Athénée”.
As I step out into the crisp icy air, I receive my first visual of the immaculacy that is the Plaza. This historic luxury hotel is the epitome of palace distinction that is perfectly positioned near the Eiffel tower and River Seine and the Champs-Elysees only a block away. This hotel is referred to as ‘The Haute Couture address in Paris” and the building itself looks like a fashionable historic piece of artwork painted in green ivy and red roses.
The door to this spectacular palace is opened by another smartly dressed host with a top hat and I am greeted with a charming smile – I feel a sense of “celebrity” and importance as I walk through. The foyer ceiling is draped in glistening chandeliers with massive mirror doors centering the exit to the foyer. Everything is immaculate and elegant – from the beautiful white marble floors to the tiniest intricate detail of the design of the light fixtures on the walls.
Immediately a young French hostess checks me into the hotel and I’m given a tour. She walks me through the colossal mirror doors and I notice a sort of glitzy lounge where stylish people sit having their tea and cake. This is the “Les patisseries de Christophe Michalak” that it is said to be the finest patisserie in all of Paris. I take a glance outside the window – there is a gorgeous miniature ice-skate rink in the courtyard and it gives me the impression that this hotel is straight out of a fairytale.
The corridors are lined with framed mirrors, white walls and exquisite carpets cover the floor. The hostess shows me to suite number 204, named “The Eiffel Tower suite”. As she unlocks the double doors, I enter what could only be a room fit for a Royal – I am in awe. There is a spectacular crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling in the lounge of the suite, gorgeously crafted sofas with a large glass coffee table that centers the room. Windows, that stretch from ceiling to floor, surrounding the entire room, with beautiful soft flowing crème curtains – the décor in this room is reminiscent of what one would find in a vintage Victorian palace – a picture-perfect suite. The lounge leads out into the bedroom, with a king-size bed draped in luxurious bed covers which include a walk-in cupboard and a stylish lounger covered in delicate white and beige material. Although this interior seems to have been taken straight out of a king’s castle in an era before my time – every bit of technology is state of the art in this room. From the enormous slim flat screen, SMART TV with HD picture, a tablet that controls most operations in the room and a light dimming system that can change the ambiance of the room at the touch of a button. The bathroom is spacious and inevitably luxurious – chic marble walls and mirrors, fine accents and textures create an atmosphere of tranquil sophistication.
My doorbell rings and fresh flowers are brought into my room, instantly brightening the room in a swirl of colour. The Plaza Athénée certainly goes above and beyond to make sure your stay at their palace is not only aesthetically pleasing but inter alia a sense of complete cleanliness and relaxation.
I have a dinner scheduled for 8:30 pm, by personal invitation of Food and Beverage manager, Louis-Gabriel Fichet, at the Famous Alain Ducasse at The Plaza Athénée. Alain Ducasse is a renowned culinary genius that I’ve only ever read about and dreamt about experiencing. He follows a “naturalist” approach in his restaurant using a trilogy of fish, vegetables and cereal. Frequented by celebrities and other A-Listers and Parisian high society, this restaurant has a dress code. I decide on a beautiful white off the shoulder bodysuit paired with a flowing gray skirt, stockings, and black Louis Vuitton heels. I feel confident as the manager arrives at my door and shows me the way to the culinary experience of my dreams. Before I head to the restaurant I take a drink at the contemporary “Le Bar”, designed by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku. The ceiling is draped in a deep sea blue material creating a wave-like surface and the lighting which is strategically positioned to reflect off different areas in the material giving the room a romantic depth and ambiance. There is a striking sculpted resin bar in the corner of the room, which immediately draws in my attention. I take a seat at one of the high chairs and order one of their deliciously imaginative cocktails.
As I anticipate a delectable feast I see only fit that I get in a workout at the Dior Spa Institute located on the lowest level of the hotel. The chic spa is synonymous with the relationship between Christian Dior himself and the Plaza Athénée. I take the opulent carpeted steps down into this exclusive spa and it’s as if I were walking into a stunningly crafted Dior handbag, clean white walls, crystal accents and a magnificent round blue roman bath centres the room and on the bottom of the bath – a detailed mosaic of the Christian Dior emblem catch my eye. I proceed to the fitness area where I complete a quick 5-kilometer run to entice my appetite to indulge.
The manager ushers me into the restaurant. I am stunned by what I see – I stand beneath 10 000 crystals. The beauty of this immaculacy almost cannot be put into words. Soft greyish white carpets with round reflective sofas exemplify the opulence of this room. I am greeted by the head executive chef who kindly offers me a tour of the kitchen, I of course accept. The Kitchen is spotless, this is my first behind the scenes experience of the environment in which all these extraordinary dishes are created. He shows me a room just off the kitchen, which is referred to as the chefs table. You need to be exclusively invited to dine here, and surely this would be a dream come true for anyone who truly appreciates the culinary arts.
I am placed at the center table and I feel all eyes are on me as I take my seat. Within seconds, I am introduced to my ‘head waiter”, a handsome young gentleman. He then insists that I try a vintage wine from a magnificent crystal bottle and he expresses to me that only special guests get to taste this lavish wine. I am taken through a 3-course meal, included with an amuse-bouche in-between. Delicious langoustines and caviar for starters, for the main an impeccably prepared cereal crusted cod and ended off with delightful hand-made dark chocolate with cereal bits. All the dishes were wonderfully inventive, surprising and delectable. A culinary adventure that utterly awakens the taste buds to new heights.
To stay at the Plaza Athénée really grants a person the privilege of feeling what true luxury is. This immaculate property is the pinnacle of achievement in excellence and elegance and is deserving of its immaculate reputation in the hotel industry. The Plaza Athénée is an experience, it goes beyond the aesthetic, luxury facilities and exceptional services it has to offer – the meticulous workmanship, the sumptuous atmosphere, and the discerning good taste raises people’s expectations and bring dreams to life – it’s a full experience that’s more than the sum of its parts – pure indulgence.
Guest Derryn Lester
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