The history of Le Meurice hotel is a long and illustrious one. It began in 1771 in Calais, where upper-class British travellers on their way to Paris would arrive after crossing the Straits of Dover. There, an enterprising regional postmaster, Charles-Augustin Meurice (1739-1820), welcomed them to French shores, putting them up in his Calais coaching inn and arranging rides to Paris aboard his coach service. It was a 36-hour trip, and Charles-Augustin Meurice built a second coaching inn in Paris in 1817 to welcome the weary travellers upon arrival. In 1835, the Hotel Le Meurice moved to its present site, one of the most fashionable locales in the city, overlooking the historic Tuileries Garden. The extensive two-year renovation and enlargement in 1905 gave the property its modern day appearance and amenities such as individual private baths. The renovation cost 8 million francs – a princely sum for the time. The investment clinched the hotel’s appeal to a privileged clientele.
During the renovation, the workers took in a stray dog, a greyhound. It was adopted by the hotel’s staff and thus became its mascot. A second greyhound was added to accompany the first, forming the emblem of the Hotel Le Meurice that can still be seen throughout the hotel today. The King of Spain, Alphonse XIII, was one of the first people to book rooms at the Hotel Le Meurice after the completed 1905-1907 renovations. The King of Montenegro, the Prince de Galles, King George VI, French President Doumergue, the Sultan of Zanzibar, the Maharaja of Jaïpur, and the Grand Duchess of Russia also were regular guests of the hotel, which came to be called the Hôtel des Rois (Hotel of the Kings). Then, on one cold wintery December day in 2012, Bespoke editors, Lady Charlotte and Rachel were added to this distinguished list.
Pulling up to the grand façade of this hotel Rachel and I were pleased to be welcomed by the perfectly polished doorman who, taking our bags from the car, whisked us into the golden lobby area of this grand hotel. The reception staff were prepped having been discreetly notified of our name: “Why Lady Lynham we have been expecting you. I hope you are ready for we have some surprises in store for you and Ms Blackmore”. Surprises you say? I like surprises! The concierge arranged for our bags to be taken to our room while we were formally welcomed to the hotel by Marie-Aude, the hotel’s press manager and, after reminiscing over our last trip to Paris and lunch at Le Dali, Rachel and I were shown to our room.
At Le Meurice, opulence and comfort are not confined to the hotel’s public areas alone. Every room and suite is a spacious, peaceful oasis of calm, providing guests with the ultimate in luxury. Each of the seven floors has a distinct style, with 160 beautifully appointed rooms decorated in a style redolent of Louis XVI. Upon entering the antique elevator to the first floor we were presented with surprise number one: our suite, and what a suite! A executive suite decorated in Louis XVI style in shades of the most exquisite jade green with glass chandeliers and antique fireplaces. Leading from the hallway were a number of doors so, running around like children in a C.S. Lewis novel, Rachel and I continued to explore what lay beyond them. Firstly there was a grand reception room-cum-lounge/study with full aspect sash windows that flooded light in to the space, windows that presented the most spectacular view over Tuileries Garden and beyond.
Through a connecting door, or off another door in the hallway, was the bedroom, lavish, plush and again looking out over Paris through the grand windows. At the end of the hallway, past the dressing area and mini bar, was the bathroom, a bathroom fit for Louis XVI himself! White marble with smart gold fittings, soft towels and robes embellished with the greyhound emblems of the hotel and the crowning glory of a multi-jet wet room. After unpacking we set about searching for the television, aiming to play some music while dressing for dinner, but we could not, despite being two rather savvy ladies, find the televisions!
Surprise number two – after waving the remote around hoping to identify the secret location of said television it presented itself – it had been there all along, in the mirror! The ornate mirrors in both the bedroom and living area were in fact not just mirrors but televisions as well, how ingenious! After returning from our evening jaunt for dinner we were greeted by surprise number three – waiting in our living room was a perfectly chilled bottle of Louis Roederer and a martini glass of macarons. As we changed in to our fluffy robes and slippers, kicked back on the sofa and quaffed the champagne and macarons, it was apparent why this hotel is the hotel of kings – we had indeed received service fit for royalty.
The next day came surprise number four. We were to be lunching in Restaurant Le Meurice (this we knew in advance) and were extremely excited at the delicious thought of savouring 3 Michelin star food, but the surprise came in the form of Head Chef, Yannick Alleno, who was there to greet us and join us at our table. What an honour! After a rather filling lunch came surprise number five – Papa Noel had come to town. Le Meurice offer a Afternoon Tea throughout December for families to bring their children to tell Father Christmas what gifts they would like for Christmas, while their parents enjoy the truly breathtaking pastries of Le Dali. Now Rachel and I do not quite qualify as a family with children but none the less I could not resist sitting with Santa and having my photo taken. What can I say? I am a child at heart!
After a day of Christmas shopping and a rather delicious Mont Blanc pastry from Angelina on Rue de Rivoli, we returned to our palace sanctuary for our last night in Paris. Tucked up in our comfy beds we found it difficult to sleep as we relived the wonderful surprises Le Meurice had given us over our stay. Like children after opening their presents on Christmas Day, we were too excited and slightly filled with melancholy to sleep, since in the morning we would have to leave this amazing hotel and head back to London.
Checking out the next day was a bittersweet experience. We had the most wonderful and enchanting time at Le Meurice where they had made us feel very special. From the small touches to the grand gestures this is one hotel where nothing is too small or too great for them to do to make your dreams come true. I was glad for the opportunity to haven spoken to Father Christmas the day before we left, because I told him his job was done that year – what could be a more perfect present than a regal retreat to Hotel Le Meurice?
P.S. Hotel Le Meurice we have a surprise for you . . . we will be back!
Hotel Le Meurice
228 Rue de Rivoli