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Crescent, Missouri

 

This photo is part of my West Tyson set. As many of you know, West Tyson is one of my most prolific locations. As I described in a previous posting, West Tyson and a large number of other parks and public green spaces around the St. Louis area are under threat of being closed and sold away to private interests, an incalculable loss to the people who live, work, and visit in this region.

 

I had posted a link to a petition to help send a strong message to the St. Louis County executive office, and in response, many of you signed the petition here. I greatly appreciate this.

 

One of the petition organizers wrote to me: "Thanks so much for the support. The signatures outside St. Louis County do count. The overwhelming response has caught the attention of our County Council for which a committee will now review Executive Dooley's spending."

 

There have been a number of hearings and protests which have also increased attention to this issue, and the Governor of Missouri has now stepped into the debate and is engaged in talks with the St. Louis County Executive regarding a possible state-county management deal. Other options are also being considered.

 

So, again, this is just to give thanks to you folks and to provide you with an update.

 

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...or how Honky Tonk and Sister Bill got their nicknames. If it happened in the Hill Country, it probably happened at Mamacitas.

 

This is an essay about the Texas Hill Country, but it's going to take me a long way around to get to the Hill Country. I'll add a paragraph here and there as the spirit moves me. Nicknames are easy to come by in the Texas Hill Country. Any naming incident that sparks a full two minutes of laughter is apt to create a life long nick name.

 

I got mine early on when Sherry began her career as a Methodist minister. Churches she was assigned to by the Bishop had never or seldom had female pastors and for the most part the pastor was called Brother Smith, Brother John, Brother Ralph or Brother Bubba, maybe even Brother Slim or Brother whatever. At Sherry's first church one of the men was speaking to Sherry in front of a crowd and referred to her as Brother Sherry. The crowd erupted in laughter and that sparked me to ad lib, "Well I guess that makes me Sister Bill." It stuck, and from then on everywhere we've gone I've become Sister Bill. Strangly enough, the Brother Sherry didn't stick and she's always been Pastor Sherry. It's funny how that works. This system makes a good litmus test as to who you can trust too. Those who use it in derision are easy to pick up on and you can depend on it, they will become your enemies. It's always good to know who your enmies are. Next time I'm in the mood to post, I'll tell you who Honky Tonk is and how she got her nickname.

 

Joy got her name from British author,Ruth Hamilton. Joy is the pianist at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Texas where Sherry and I spent nine exciting years before we moved to Kerrville five years ago. Joy is my age (80+-) and grew up in a series of Methodist churches. Her father was a Methodist preacher. When she was junior high age she was so good on piano, she started playing the church organ where her father preached. Joy became famous with her junior high school peers by playing the country-western/pop hit "Pistol Packing Mama" to a slow hymn cadence in church during certain parts of the service. Her father never was able to hear the plaintive admonition, "Laaaaaaay thaaaaaat pistooooool dooooown, baaaaabe, laaaaaay thaaaaaat pistoooooool doooooown; Pistooooooool Paaaaaaacking Maaaaaaama puuuuuut thaaaaaaat guuuuuuun awaaaaaaaaay." Of one thing you can be sure, every junior high kid in the Methodist church heard the message and nobody ever figured out why the kids would often become so giggly and out of control, especially when they heard the tune telling them, "Oh, she kicked out my windshield, she hit me over the head. She cussed and cried and said I'd lied and wished that I was dead. Lay that pistol down, babe, lay that pistol down, Pistol Packing Mama, put that gun away!"

 

Naturally Joy grew into a natural musician and could improvise without even having to consciously think about it. During the nine years we were rewarded with her weekly concerts, I noticed that she would often spontaneously begin the add character to the hymns. Some came out with the feel of honky tonk country western and some even took on a boogie beat. She did this naturally, but seemed not to be able to do it on demand. Perhaps demand made her self conscious. For that reason when Ruth Hamilton begged me to tape "Honky Tonk" (that's the name Ruth began to call her because she could never remember the name Joy Feuge) and send her the tape, I made a noble effort. I was never able to get a tape, but Ruth's name "Honky Tonk" stuck and that's what we call Joy to this day. Next, I'll tell you something about a Texas Hill Country institution, Mamacita's Mexican Restaurant, serving Mexican food, but owned and operated by an American Muslim Iranian. That gets him in trouble with the area's fundamentalist cowboy Christians from time to time, to which he pays no attention and simply continues to oeprate a superb small chain of Mexican restaurants. He operates one in San Antonio, one in San Marcos, one in Fredericksburg and one in Kerrville. It just goes to show, you can't hold a good man down.

 

I've been eating at Mamacita's restaurants for years now and when I began writing this piece couldn't even remember the owner and founder's name. Sherry found this link on the internet and it is so interesting and complete I'm going to post it word for word:

 

*********************

 

Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant: Oh Mama!

Profile

By Kathryn Jones

Thursday, 24 January 2008

 

There are four Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurants in Texas, the largest of which seats 400 people.

Premier Business Partners:

DeCoty Coffee Co.

   

Known to most as simply “Hagi,” Hossein Hagigholam left Iran for the United States in 1976 with a dream to make it big in the land of opportunity.

 

His initial plan was to study civil engineering. But, as fate should have it, he now owns and operates four Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurants in Kerrville, Texas, with four other locations in Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, San Marcos and San Antonio, Texas. The smallest location seats 250 people and the largest seats 400 people.

 

In an interview with Food and Drink, Hagi reveals how he transitioned from a lonely dishwasher who could barely speak English to a successful entrepreneur with plans to turn his Tex-Mex restaurant into a nationally recognized franchise.

 

The ride has not been an easy one, he adds, but with a little faith and hard work, dreams really can come true.

 

Food and Drink: What brought you to the United States?

Hossein Hagigholam: From the time I was a boy, I wanted to come to America. Before the revolution in Iran, lots of Iranians came to the United States to become engineers and doctors, and then they went back home.

 

Without any knowledge of English, my first place to go was Houston. There was a school for English as a second language called ESL Houston.

 

If there were 40 students, 35 of them were Iranians, so the teachers learned how to speak our language instead of us learning English.

 

I knew in order to make it in the United States I had to learn the language, so I researched which college in Texas had less Iranians. Shreiner College had only one Iranian student, so that’s how I ended up in Kerrville. While I studied, I found a job in the restaurants.

 

If you are a foreigner and don’t know any English, the only job you have is washing dishes. I later became a bus boy and then a waiter.

 

As a waiter, that’s when you really make it big. I was so happy about how much money I was making as a waiter that I took three jobs: the breakfast shift in one restaurant, the lunch shift in another and the dinner shift in the third.

 

I remember one time a customer asked me if we took Visa, and I thought they were asking me if I had a visa. I thought I was in trouble somehow, so I ran home as fast as I could.

 

My manager called me the next day and asked, “What happened?” I said, “Someone wanted me to show him my visa.” He said, “No, you idiot! They were asking you if we accept Visa – the credit card.”

 

FAD: I can see how you would feel anxious about that. In 1979, American hostages were taken at the embassy in Tehran and President Jimmy Carter called for all Iranian students in the U.S. whose visas had expired to leave the country by the spring of 1980. You must have been devastated.

HH: The world just shattered on me, because now I had to go back. I had learned English, started earning money and I was dating Ruth.

 

The only way I could stay in the country was if she married me, and she wouldn’t marry me. She said, “Look, I’m 20 and you’re 21. We’re young and you come from another country and my parents won’t let me.”

 

I finally talked Ruth into marrying me. You talk about begging! Her parents gave their permission because of the difficult situation, but it was on the condition that we live apart for six months.

 

I tell people I really got married for the green card, but we’re still married after 25 years and we adopted two wonderful children. I think that says a lot.

 

FAD: Is it true you named the restaurant after Ruth?

HH: She is Spanish and I used to call her “Mamacita” when I was a waiter. I decided to name the restaurant Mamacita’s because it means grandmother, good-looking lady – all the goodies.

 

FAD: In 1985, you and a business partner opened the first Mamacita’s in Kerrville. Was it challenging to get it off the ground?

HH: Not really. We opened the second restaurant in Fredericksburg in 1988, followed by one in San Marcos in 1996, and then the biggest location, which is in San Antonio, in 2003.

 

And then, in 2005, we tore our original restaurant down and built a new restaurant. If there were a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for most expensive restaurant ever built per capita, it would be this restaurant, because we spent $10 million in a city with a population of only 25,000 people.

 

It is very tough to make money when you open a $10 million restaurant, but because of our confidence and if you treat people the way you want to be treated, anything can work. In fact, Kerrville is a German town. People say, “How could an Iranian come to the United States and build a Mexican restaurant in a German community and make it?” My answer to that is, “Only in America, of course.”

 

FAD: Can you share some tips in how to run a successful restaurant?

HH: If a restaurant has five elements, the owner will hit the jackpot in this business. If he has four out of five, he will make a living out of it. And if he has less than that, it is better not to mess with the restaurant business.

 

These elements are quality, service, location, atmosphere and reasonable prices.

 

Of course quality and service are always important, but I wanted to give an atmosphere that not every causal restaurant can do. In our Kerrville location, we have a third of the actual size of the Alamo inside of our restaurant.

 

A mechanical Davy Crockett sits on top of the roof that plays the music like the movie “Alamo.” Also, in our San Antonio location, we created a village that makes you feel like you are outside even though you are inside. It has fiber-optic stars and village shops and bakeries in it.

 

FAD: Having worked in restaurants when you were in college, would you say that makes you a more empathetic boss?

HH: Many casual restaurants have just one general manager that takes care of the quality of the food and the service.

 

When I used to work in the bottom line myself, I found that it was difficult to put all of this work on the shoulder of one person and expect him to control costs and increase sales.

 

So, this is why each of our locations has two general managers – one for back of house and one for front of house. We also took away any administrative work for them. Each of our locations has at least six managers.

 

This is what makes us different. I believe in spending money to make money when it comes to [hiring good employees.] We have a good 4 percent budgeted to training at all times.

 

We talk to them about the golden rule [of the restaurant business.] If you treat someone the way you want to be treated, it will increase the sales.

 

FAD: What is Mamacita’s perspective on providing customers with exceptional service?

HH: All of our customers can testify that no customer can walk out unless a manager has visited their table. We believe if a customer is unhappy, they will tell us when they leave.

 

Usually, if they are unhappy, they don’t say anything and just don’t come back.

 

But by having a manager shake hands and talk to them, they will feel comfortable enough to tell us what we did wrong.

 

We appreciate the compliments, but what we really want to hear is if there are any complaints.

 

I tell my management that when people go out to eat, they are in a good mood.

 

You never see a husband tell his wife, “Let’s go out to eat,” and the wife gets upset about it. Everybody is happy when they go out to eat, and if they choose your restaurant, you should feel honored. So, do whatever it takes to please them. They like attention.

 

You know, lots of Middle Eastern people that have businesses complain because they say we lost business because of the 9/11 terrorist action.

 

I disagree on that because my business has been doing well and I think it is because of how we treat people.

 

I make a lot of speeches about America, the land of opportunity. What I always emphasize at the end is this: Whoever doesn’t make it in this country, it is their own fault. I am one of those guys that really appreciate the country for what it has done for me.

 

FAD: What’s next for Mamacita’s?

HH: We would like to open locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas in the near future. We’ll do it one at a time. I don’t open a restaurant until I have its general managers ready. I have no plan after that yet.

 

You never know. Maybe a successful, nationally recognized chain will discover us and we could make a deal to take this nationwide.

 

********************

 

When Hagi shut down the Kerrville Mamacita's Restaurant to build that ten million dollar culinary mansion, some of the Shiite Christians in Kerrville became very upset because the architect had put a small, simple dome on the structure and it reminded them of a Muslim Mosque for some reason. They demanded the dome be removed, despite the fact the State Capitol in Austin has a dome, some churches have domes and the dome, while a Moorish design, is commonplace in Spain and Mexico AND this is a MEXICAN food restaurant, OK? My friend Frank Clark says Hagi told him, "I don't have the kind of money to buy this quality of advertising." As expected, the dome remained, the new reataurant opened and the furror subsided.

 

Second to the mechanical Davy Crockett who from time to time activates and play the fiddle on the ramparts of the similated Alamo in Mamacita's in Kerrville are the murals painted by Haigi's brother whose name I have never heard and can't find on the internet. Hagi's brother is a truly outstanding artist and at some time in the future I'm going to photograph some of the interior and post it here. Mexican restaurants around the Southwest are famous for their absolutely crude murals, but Mamacita's redeems them all. Hagi's brother is a wonderful muralist.

 

For almost fifteen years now, Mamacita's has been a part of Hill Country living for Sherry and me and the good people of the First Methodist Church in Johnson City Texas. We meet there to celebrate birthdays and for a long time after Sherry and I moved to Kerrville we met regularily at Mamacita's in Fredericksburg. Same driving distance from Kerrville and from Johnson City.

 

I recommend Mamacita's to anyone as being the best eating experience you'll ever have. Their New York strip is flawless and substitute the baked potatoe for guacamole salad and you'll have a low carb meal to die for. The Mamacita's salad is perfect weight control meal IF you'll skip the taco shell. If you're not on a diet the Mexican food is delicious, the tortillas are always hot and honey with butter is always available on request.

 

As Kathryn Jones described in her profile, I can't remember ever eating at Mamacita's without someone from management stopping by the table and asking if everything is alright, which reminds me of the only negative experience I've ever had at a Mamacita's restaurant.

 

Several years ago Sherry and I met seven or eight of the Johnson City folks at the Fredericksburg Mamacita's for one of our monthly reunions. As always I was low-carb dieting and ordered a Mamacita's Salad to get some healthy carbs as opposed to sugar laden carbs. Unlike any other Mamacita's salad I'd ever eaten this one was very short on vegetables. I mentioned it to the person next to me and when the waiter came around asking if everything was ok, that person told him my complaint. It has always been my policy NOT to complain at a restaurant, but I've worked too many police cases concerned with what a cook can do to a customer in way of retaliation. Spit in the food is the least of the possibilities. Whatever the revenge, there's always someone in the kitchen who wants to get even with the cook and so the retaliation gets reported. So, there I sit, not wanting to complain but really disappointed in the amount of vegetables I was served. My friend from Johnson City has spilled the beans and I'm forced to admit I thought the salad was skimpy. The waiter went to the kitchen and returned witha such a large plate of vegetables AND chicken which I hadn't complained about that it was obvious the cook was angered and this amount of food was his way of retaliating and an attempt to make me look foolish for daring to complain. I did eat some more vegetables and the shared the rest of the extra food with everyone at the table. Johnson City folks are not short on appetite, so nothing went to waste. I can see the cook's point of view. He or she probably sees tons of salad thrown out by customers who eat the grilled chicken, pick around on the vegetables and then send the remainder back to the kitchen to be disposed of. I was still disappointed in the arrogance of the cook and the attempt to make me look ridiculous. Maybe the cook was having trouble their spouse, who knows? In fifteen years that's the only negative experience I've had at a Mamacita's.

 

The Texas Hill Country is full of anomaly, so it's no wonder that an Iranian man can become a millionaire with Mexican restaurants in German communities. Fredericksburg is even more German than Kerrville. San Marcos and San Antonio have strong German influences too. Go figure. Now I want to tell you about a mystery writer who writes murder mysteries in and around Blanco County, yep, Blanco county where I was a reserve deputy for several years after I retired from SWT Police Dept. as an investigator.

 

At all those birthday parties at Mamacitas there was the "viewing of the presents and cards" ritual which I've described in the narrative of another ritual. Sherry always shops for certain people on our list and I shop for others, we've never discussed it, it just seemed to fall into place. One of the people I always bought the present for was "Honky Tonk" who is the pianist at the First Methodist Church in Johnson City and a very close friend as well. I always bought her music CDs and usually gospel music. She found out I collected author-signed books and so that's what she always gave me for my birthday.

 

My eyes were really bad for a long time and so I collected a bunch of those books without seriosly reading them. One set of books were by a young mystery writer named Ben Rehder. Joy (Honky-Tonk) went to several book signings and so I built up a collection Ben's novels. All of his novels take place in Blanco County of which Johnson City is not only the County Seat, but is the home town of former president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

 

When I retired in 1998 I was seventy-one years old and had never written anything more than a police report, but upon retiring I began to write essays and short stories and had so much fun I completely lost my identity as a police sketch artist and watercolorist. I've read a lot of the local Blanco county writing generated by the Blanco County Historical Society and others and I'm here to testify this stuff will put you to sleep quicker than prescription drugs. So you have the picture; there I was with faulty glasses, a collection of novels obviously done by a local guy...nothing here I can't wait a while for...right?

 

So, several years later and a new pair of glasses, this time prescribed by an optometrist and NOT a opthomologist...HURRAY, I can read again. So, I picked up a Ben Rehder novel and VIOLA' this guy is really good. This is really just like Blanco County. He's talking about the Sherrif's Office and I rode for several years as a reserve deputy with one of the full time deputies and we had experiences very similar to the ones Ben tells about in his novels.

 

I did feel like Ben's tales were a little tame though. Like in "Murder, She Wrote" it seemed like Blanco County might begin to compete with Cabot Cove for the title, Murder Capital of the World. I was tempted to write Ben and tell him to let go a little bit and make the cases really as bizarre as the ones we actually worked. There was the guy who carried female garments in his car and when he came up on a dead deer along the road, he'd dress the remains in the female attire and have his carnal way with them. A combination the density of cell phones and Baptists got the guy arrested pretty quickly and his case was investigated and taken to the district attorney.

 

Another case I wanted to tell Ben about was the one involving some young men who had small explosives used on coyote bait. They began a campaign to blow up all the rural mail boxes in the north part of the county. In this case the volume of the explosion plus the denisty of ranchers, pickup trucks and deer rifles brought about arrests before too many mail boxes had to be replaced or before someone was killed or injured getting their mail or before the county has to investigate the strange deaths of two young men blown up in a pickuptruck sitting in front of a rural mailbox. It would have probably been written up as a double suicide.

 

I had three of Ben's autographed books and read all three nonstop and was amazed at the quality of his writing and the universal appeal these books would have. When he spoke of eating at Ronny's Barbeque, it was like being home. I have eaten at Ronny's many times and it's just like Ben tells it.

 

When I finished each novel I passed them on to my best bud, Frank Clark, who wanted to read them because although he doesn't come from a law-enforcement background, he comes from a Central Texas deer hunting background. His wife called me and complained; she said she wasn't getting her sleep. He wakes her up all through the night laughing his ass off, so I decided I gotta get online and order everything this guy has written.

 

Online at Ben's website I was amazed to find out that Ben is writing these in a vein of HUMOR. It even cites the genre as being humorous mystery novels. What humor? These are serious law enforcement novels of Blanco County, just the way she is! Damn! Did I ever feel like a hick. I ordered everything he's written and Holy Moly which isn't even off the press yet.

 

As of today Holy Moly is the only one I haven't read. "Gun Shy" is my favorite, but there's not one in the set that isn't a fantastic read. In my case, I can't put them down and it's a good thing I'm retired, otherwise I'd have used up all my sick leave for the next two decades. Frank is still reading and Michele is beginning to look a little "red in the eye" but otherwise we'll just have to wait for "Holy Moly" to come out and hope Ben is presently working on a new novel. The main man is a game warden who helps with the Sherrif's Department's criminal cases. That's the truth or at least very close to reality, we had a game warden in Hays County who was skilled and certified in Forensic Hypnosis and worked with police sketch artists on all kinds of cases.

 

This ends my little essay on the 'Life in the Texas Hill Country" and I apologize for it being a lot longer than I intended it to be. In closing, I'll simply say, "If you're not already living in the Hill Country, start now making your plans to move here; the life you save may be your own."

 

I'm a terrible proof reader and it may be weeks before I get around to the first tip toe back through....be patient, I'm old...ok?

 

www.benrehder.com/

 

This is Ben Rehder's website and you'll be relieved to know Ben doesn't have to rely on the likes of me for his publicity. Kinky Friendman of Texas Monthly fame recommends Ben highly.

 

Business women work with calculator and laptop,pen and notebook on the wooden table

HSC Benchijigua Express

is a fast ferry, operated by shipping company Fred Olsen S.A.

between the Canary Islands, Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma in the Atlantic.

It was delivered to Olsen in April 2005.

 

At 127 metres ( 417 ft ) long, the Benchijigua Express is the second-longest trimaran in the world, less than a metre shy of the Independence class littoral combat ship, which was based on Benchijigua Express's design. Her body is made of aluminum and with a special offshore coating; and is the second-largest vessel with an aluminum hull. The ship's name was previously used twice since 1999.

 

Design and construction

The Benchijigua Express was built in Henderson, Western Australia by Austal. The vessel is 126.65 metres ( 415.5 ft ) long, 30.4 metres ( 100 ft ) wide, and with a draught of 4 metres ( 13 ft ).

She can reach speeds of 42 knots ( 78 km/h; 48 mph ),

although her normal service speed is 36 knots ( 67 km/h; 41 mph ).

 

The vessel is powered by four diesel engines of MTU Series 8000 ( 20 valves ),

each with 8,200 kW at 1,150 rpm driven, housed in two engine rooms.

 

Each of the two diesels in the rear engine-room

drive one Kamewa 125 SII steerable waterjet propulsion from Rolls-Royce.

 

The overall performance of both machines at the front engine room

is transferred to a Kamewa 180 BII booster waterjet.

 

The electrical energy is generated by four MTU 12V 2000 M40 generator units.

 

Up to 1,291 passengers are distributed on two decks. Due to the short crossing time, there are no passenger cabins. For vehicle transport there are 123 car spaces and 450 metres ( 1,480 ft ) of truck lane; the latter can be converted into an additional 218 car spaces.

 

The vehicle deck can be loaded and unloaded in 30 minutes over tree lines ! ! !.

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSC_Benchijigua_Express

 

www.ship-technology.com/projects/benchijigua/specs.html

 

________________________________________________

 

Independence class littoral combat ship

The Independence class is a class of littoral combat ships built for the United States Navy.

 

Based on the high-speed trimaran Benchijigua Express, the Independence class was proposed by General Dynamics and Austal as a contender for USN plans to build a fleet of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone. Two ships were approved, to compete with Lockheed Martin's Freedom class design for a construction contract of up to 55 vessels.

 

As of 2010, the lead ship is active, while a second ship is under construction. Despite initial plans to only accept one our of the Independence and Freedom classes, the USN has requested that Congress order ten ships of each class.

 

Planning and construction

Planning for a class of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone began in the early 2000s. In July 2003, a proposal by General Dynamics ( partnering with Austal USA, the American subsidiary of Australian shipbuilder Austal ) was approved by the USN, with a contract for two vessels. These would then be compared to two ships built by Lockheed Martin to determine which design would be taken up by the Navy for a production run of up to 55 ships.

 

The first ship, USS Independence was laid down at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, on 19 January 2006. The planned second ship was cancelled in November 2007, but reordered in May 2009, and laid down in December of that year as USS Coronado, shortly before Independence was launched.

 

The development and construction of Independence as of June 2009 was running at 220% over-budget. The total projected cost for the ship is $704 million. The Navy had originally projected the cost at $220 million. Independence began builder's trials in July 2009, three days behind schedule because of maintenance issues. A leak in the port gas turbine saw the order of trials altered, but builder's and acceptance trials were completed by November. and although her first INSURV inspection revealed 2,080 deficiencies, these were rectified in time for the ship to be handed over to the USN in mid-December, and commissioned in mid-January 2010.

 

After much inconsistency on how testing and orders were to proceed, in November 2010, the USN asked that Congress approve ten of both the Independence and Freedom classes

 

Design

The Independence class design is based on Austal's commercial high-speed trimaran Benchijigua Express. The ships are 127.4 m ( 418 ft ) long, with a beam of 31.6 m ( 104 ft ), and a draft of 13 ft ( 3.96 m ). Their displacement is rated at 2,176 tons light, 2,784 tons full, and 608 tons deadweight.

 

The standard ship's company is 40-strong, although this can increase depending on the ship's role with mission-specifc personnel. The habitability area is located under the bridge where bunks for ships personnel are situated. The helm is controlled by joysticks instead of traditional steering wheels.

 

Although the trimaran hull increases the total surface area, it is still able to reach sustainable speeds of about 50 knots ( 93 km/h; 58 mph ), with a range of 10,000 nautical miles ( 19,000 km; 12,000 mi ).

Austal claims that the design will use a third less fuel than the competing Freedom-class, but the Congressional Budget Office found that fuel would account for 18 percent or less of the total lifetime cost of Freedom.

 

Modular mission capability

The Independence class carries a default armament for self-defense, and command and control. However unlike traditional fighting ships with fixed armament such as guns and missiles, tailored mission modules can be configured for one mission package at a time. Modules may consist of manned aircraft, unmanned vehicles, off-board sensors, or mission-manning detachments.

 

The interior volume and payload is greater than some destroyers and is sufficient to serve as a high-speed transport and maneuver platform. The mission bay is 15,200 square feet ( 1,410 m2 ), and takes up most of the deck below the hangar and flight deck. With 11,000 cubic metres ( 390,000 cu ft ) of payload volume, it was designed with enough payload and volume to carry out one mission with a separate mission module in reserve, allowing the ship to do multiple missions without having to be refitted.

 

In addition to cargo or container-sized mission modules, the bay can carry four lanes of multiple Strykers, armored Humvees, and their associated troops. An elevator allows air transport of packages the size of a 20-foot-long ( 6.1 m ) shipping container that can be moved into the mission bay while at sea. A side access ramp allows for vehicle roll-on/roll-off loading to a dock and allows the ship to transport the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

 

Armament and sensors

The Raytheon Evolved SeaRAM missile defense system is installed on the hangar roof. The SeaRAM combines the sensors of the Phalanx 1B close-in weapon system with an 11-missile launcher for the Rolling Airframe Missile ( RAM ), creating an autonomous system.

 

The Independence class ships also has an integrated LOS Mast, Sea Giraffe 3D Radar and SeaStar Safire FLIR. Northrop Grumman has demonstrated sensor fusion of on and off-board systems in the Integrated Combat Management System ( ICMS ) used on the LCS. Side and forward surfaces are angled for reduced radar profile. In addition, H-60 series helicopters provide airlift, rescue, anti-submarine, radar picket and anti-ship capabilities with torpedoes and missiles.

 

The flight deck, 1,030 m2 ( 11,100 sq ft ), can support the operation of two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, or one CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter.

The trimaran hull will allow flight operations up to sea state 5.

 

The vessels have an Interior Communications Center that can be curtained off from the rest of bridge instead of the heavily protected Combat Information Center found on Navy warships.

 

Derivative designs

Austal has proposed a much smaller and slower trimaran, called the 'Multi-Role Vessel' or 'Multi-Role Corvette'. Though it is only half the size of their LCS design, it would still be useful for border protection and counter piracy operations. Navy leaders said that the fixed price competition offered the Austal design an equal shot, in spite of its excess size and cost and limited service.

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_class_littoral_combat_...

.

The 83rd Doctor was no so much absent-minded as suffering from a complete lack of any common sense whatsoever.

 

Arriving on the airless seventh moon of Hakrovartan VI, our fearless but hopeless hero and his companion Millicent nearly died within moments of stepping out of the TARDIS, due to the Doctor's complete and utter failure to check that their air tanks were sufficiently full of, well...air.

 

Behind the scenes, this was in fact a cunning attempt by the Doctor Who production team to make an episode on the cheap with a series of flashbacks and recaps as the TARDIS crew struggled to breathe on the surface of the Hakrovartan moon.

 

This step was unfortunately necessary as a result of an astonishing clerical error on the part of Producer Cambridge-Smythe.

 

By failing to tick the correct box during the planning stages of the 341st season, 90% of the entire budget for that series was blown on a single episode which featured ten million Daleks singing happy birthday to the Doctor. The scene was intended to be rendered in CGI, but Cambridge-Smythe had inadvertently ordered the construction of ten million ACTUAL full-size Dalek props. These props were delivered on time and with great efficiency by a delighted supplier who couldn't believe his luck, much to the annoyance of the BBC's upper management who had to vacate their offices in order to store the Daleks prior to filming.

 

Subsequent attempts to sell the surplus Dalek props to the Doctor Who fan community were doomed to failure on the basis that there weren't all that many fans left by this time, and that the numbers of Daleks now available for sale led to a complete crash in the Dalek prop market. This, in turn, was a major contributing factor to the Stock Market crash of 2337 and the fifteenth Great Depression which followed.

 

Indeed, for several months after stock market values crashed through the floor, jobless bankers and traders could often be found camping out in abandoned Dalek props on street corners, because they were cheaper than cardboard boxes.

 

Dr. S.

Please view Large on Black. I haven't done any Grunge HDR lately, so I played around a bit with this image. Photography is about being creative and having fun also. Portion of J. Paul Getty Museum, Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. Dec. 26, 2012. Captured with Canon EOS5DIII, Canon EF24-105mm f4L IS USM at 50mm, f 11 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 50. Handheld. Post Processing with CS5. NikSofware ColorEfexPro 4.0 (Image Borders, Glamour Glow) and PhotoMatix Pro 4.2.5

www.flickr.com/photos/jacrawf/8316955278.

www.flickr.com/photos/jacrawf/8370136107

www.flickr.com/photos/jacrawf/8383575395

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THANK YOU for looking at my image and making comments. I appreciate your support and feedback.

 

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© Copyright notice:

© James A. Crawford, All Rights Reserved

All photographs within my flickr account are protected under copyright laws. No photograph shall be copied, reproduced, republished, downloaded, displayed, modified, transmitted, licensed, transferred, sold or distributed or used in any way by any means, without prior written permission from me. This pertains to all my images.

****************************************************************************************************

    

The Getty Center, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, is a campus for the J. Paul Getty Trust founded by oilman J. Paul Getty. The $1.3 billion center, which opened on December 16, 1997, is also well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. The center sits atop a hill connected to a visitors' parking garage at the bottom of the hill by a three-car, cable-pulled tram. The center draws 1.3 million visitors annually.

It is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. This branch of the museum specializes in "pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs". Among the works on display is the painting Irises by Vincent van Gogh. Besides the museum, the center's buildings house the Getty Research Institute(GRI), the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the administrative offices of the J. Paul Getty Trust, which owns and operates the center. The center also has outdoor sculptures displayed on terraces and in gardens. Designed by architect Richard Meier, the campus includes a central garden designed by artist Robert Irwin. GRI's separate building contains a research library with over 900,000 volumes and two million photographs of art and architecture. The center's design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and fires.

 

Location and history

Originally, the Getty Museum started in J. Paul Getty's house located in Pacific Palisades in 1954. He expanded the house with a museum wing. In the 1970s, Getty built a replica of an Italian villa on his home's property to better house his collection, which opened in 1974. After Getty's death in 1976, the entire property was turned over to the Getty Trust for museum purposes. However, the collection outgrew the site, which has since been renamed the Getty Villa, and management sought a location more accessible to Los Angeles. The purchase of the land upon which the center is located, a campus of 24 acres (9.7 ha) on a 110-acre (45 ha) site in the Santa Monica Mountains above Interstate 405, surrounded by 600 acres (240 ha) kept in a natural state, was announced in 1983. The site cost $25 million. The top of the hill is 900 feet (270 m) above I-405, high enough that on a clear day it is possible to see not only the Los Angeles skyline but also the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains to the east as well as the Pacific Ocean to the west.

In 1984, Richard Meier was chosen to be the architect of the center. After an extensive conditional-use permit process, construction by the Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company began in August 1989. The construction was significantly delayed, with the planned completion date moved from 1988 to 1995 (as of 1990). By 1995, however, the campus was described as only "more than halfway complete".

The center finally opened to the public on December 16, 1997. Although the total project cost was estimated to be $350 million as of 1990, it was later estimated to be $1.3 billion. After the center opened, the villa closed for extensive renovations and reopened on January 28, 2006, to focus on the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. Currently, the museum displays collections at both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

In 2005, after a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times about the spending practices of the Getty Trust and its then-president Dr. Barry Munitz, the California Attorney General conducted an investigation of the Getty Trust and found that no laws had been broken. The trust agreed to appoint an outside monitor to review future expenditures. The Getty Trust experienced financial difficulties in 2008 and 2009 and cut 205 of 1,487 budgeted staff positions to reduce expenses. Although the Getty Trust endowment reached $6.4 billion in 2007, it dropped to $4.5 billion in 2009.

 

Architecture

Meier has exploited the two naturally-occurring ridges (which diverge at a 22.5 degree angle) by overlaying two grids along these axes. These grids serve to define the space of the campus while dividing the import of the buildings on it. Along one axis lie the galleries and along the other axis lie the administrative buildings. Meier emphasized the two competing grids by constructing strong view lines through the campus. The main north-south axis starts with the helipad, then includes a narrow walkway between the auditorium and north buildings, continues past the elevator kiosk to the tram station, through the rotunda, past the walls and support columns of the exhibitions pavilion, and finally the ramp besides the west pavilion and the central garden. Its corresponding east-west visual axis starts with the edge of the scholar's wing of the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the walkway between the central garden and the GRI, the overlook to the azalea pool in the central garden, the walkway between the central garden and the west pavilion, and finally the north wall of the west pavilion and the courtyard between the south and east pavilions.

The main axes of the museum grid that is offset by 22.5 degrees begins with the arrival plaza, carries through the edge of the stairs up to the main entrance, aligns with the columns supporting the rotunda as well as the center point of the rotunda, aligns with travertine benches in the courtyard between the pavilions, includes a narrow walkway between the west and south pavilions, a staircase down to the cactus garden and ends in the garden. The corresponding cross axis starts with the center point of the circle forming the GRI library garden, then passing to the center of the entrance rotunda, and aligning with the south wall of the rotunda building. Although all of the museum is aligned on these alternative axes, portions of the exhibitions pavilion and the east pavilion are aligned on the true north-south axis as a reminder that both grids are present in the campus.

The primary grid structure is a 30-inch (760 mm) square; most wall and floor elements are 30-inch (760 mm) squares or some derivative thereof. The buildings at the Getty Center are made from concrete and steel with either travertine or aluminium cladding. Around 1,200,000 square feet (110,000 m2) of travertine was used to build the center.

Throughout the campus, numerous fountains provide white noise as a background. The initial design has remained intact; however benches and fences have been installed around the plaza fountains to discourage visitors from wading into the pools. Some additional revisions have been made in deference to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The north promontory is anchored by a circular grass area, which serves as a heliport in case of emergencies, and the south promontory is anchored by a succulent plant and cactus garden. The complex is also encircled by access roads that lead to loading docks and staff parking garages on both the west and east sides of the buildings. The hillside around the complex has been planted with California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) trees.

The museum has a seven-story deep underground parking garage with over 1,200 parking spaces. Its roof has an outdoor sculpture garden. An automated three-car, cable-pulled tram takes passengers between the parking garage at the bottom of the hill and the museum at the top of the hill.

   

Excerpts sourced from Wikipedia.

  

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Please view Large on Black. I haven't done any Grunge HDR lately, so I played around a bit with this image. Photography is about being creative and having fun also. Portion of J. Paul Getty Museum, Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. Dec. 26, 2012. Captured with Canon EOS5DIII, Canon EF24-105mm f4L IS USM at 35mm, f 11 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 50. Handheld. Post Processing with CS5. NikSofware ColorEfexPro 4.0 (Image Borders), Viveza 2.0 and PhotoMatix Pro 4.2.5

www.flickr.com/photos/jacrawf/8316955278.

www.flickr.com/photos/jacrawf/8370136107

****************************************************************************************************

THANK YOU for looking at my image and making comments. I appreciate your support and feedback.

 

*************************************************************************************************

© Copyright notice:

© James A. Crawford, All Rights Reserved

All photographs within my flickr account are protected under copyright laws. No photograph shall be copied, reproduced, republished, downloaded, displayed, modified, transmitted, licensed, transferred, sold or distributed or used in any way by any means, without prior written permission from me. This pertains to all my images.

****************************************************************************************************

    

The Getty Center, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, is a campus for the J. Paul Getty Trust founded by oilman J. Paul Getty. The $1.3 billion center, which opened on December 16, 1997, is also well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. The center sits atop a hill connected to a visitors' parking garage at the bottom of the hill by a three-car, cable-pulled tram. The center draws 1.3 million visitors annually.

It is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. This branch of the museum specializes in "pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs". Among the works on display is the painting Irises by Vincent van Gogh. Besides the museum, the center's buildings house the Getty Research Institute(GRI), the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the administrative offices of the J. Paul Getty Trust, which owns and operates the center. The center also has outdoor sculptures displayed on terraces and in gardens. Designed by architect Richard Meier, the campus includes a central garden designed by artist Robert Irwin. GRI's separate building contains a research library with over 900,000 volumes and two million photographs of art and architecture. The center's design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and fires.

 

Location and history

Originally, the Getty Museum started in J. Paul Getty's house located in Pacific Palisades in 1954. He expanded the house with a museum wing. In the 1970s, Getty built a replica of an Italian villa on his home's property to better house his collection, which opened in 1974. After Getty's death in 1976, the entire property was turned over to the Getty Trust for museum purposes. However, the collection outgrew the site, which has since been renamed the Getty Villa, and management sought a location more accessible to Los Angeles. The purchase of the land upon which the center is located, a campus of 24 acres (9.7 ha) on a 110-acre (45 ha) site in the Santa Monica Mountains above Interstate 405, surrounded by 600 acres (240 ha) kept in a natural state, was announced in 1983. The site cost $25 million. The top of the hill is 900 feet (270 m) above I-405, high enough that on a clear day it is possible to see not only the Los Angeles skyline but also the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains to the east as well as the Pacific Ocean to the west.

In 1984, Richard Meier was chosen to be the architect of the center. After an extensive conditional-use permit process, construction by the Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company began in August 1989. The construction was significantly delayed, with the planned completion date moved from 1988 to 1995 (as of 1990). By 1995, however, the campus was described as only "more than halfway complete".

The center finally opened to the public on December 16, 1997. Although the total project cost was estimated to be $350 million as of 1990, it was later estimated to be $1.3 billion. After the center opened, the villa closed for extensive renovations and reopened on January 28, 2006, to focus on the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. Currently, the museum displays collections at both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

In 2005, after a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times about the spending practices of the Getty Trust and its then-president Dr. Barry Munitz, the California Attorney General conducted an investigation of the Getty Trust and found that no laws had been broken. The trust agreed to appoint an outside monitor to review future expenditures. The Getty Trust experienced financial difficulties in 2008 and 2009 and cut 205 of 1,487 budgeted staff positions to reduce expenses. Although the Getty Trust endowment reached $6.4 billion in 2007, it dropped to $4.5 billion in 2009.

 

Architecture

Meier has exploited the two naturally-occurring ridges (which diverge at a 22.5 degree angle) by overlaying two grids along these axes. These grids serve to define the space of the campus while dividing the import of the buildings on it. Along one axis lie the galleries and along the other axis lie the administrative buildings. Meier emphasized the two competing grids by constructing strong view lines through the campus. The main north-south axis starts with the helipad, then includes a narrow walkway between the auditorium and north buildings, continues past the elevator kiosk to the tram station, through the rotunda, past the walls and support columns of the exhibitions pavilion, and finally the ramp besides the west pavilion and the central garden. Its corresponding east-west visual axis starts with the edge of the scholar's wing of the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the walkway between the central garden and the GRI, the overlook to the azalea pool in the central garden, the walkway between the central garden and the west pavilion, and finally the north wall of the west pavilion and the courtyard between the south and east pavilions.

The main axes of the museum grid that is offset by 22.5 degrees begins with the arrival plaza, carries through the edge of the stairs up to the main entrance, aligns with the columns supporting the rotunda as well as the center point of the rotunda, aligns with travertine benches in the courtyard between the pavilions, includes a narrow walkway between the west and south pavilions, a staircase down to the cactus garden and ends in the garden. The corresponding cross axis starts with the center point of the circle forming the GRI library garden, then passing to the center of the entrance rotunda, and aligning with the south wall of the rotunda building. Although all of the museum is aligned on these alternative axes, portions of the exhibitions pavilion and the east pavilion are aligned on the true north-south axis as a reminder that both grids are present in the campus.

The primary grid structure is a 30-inch (760 mm) square; most wall and floor elements are 30-inch (760 mm) squares or some derivative thereof. The buildings at the Getty Center are made from concrete and steel with either travertine or aluminium cladding. Around 1,200,000 square feet (110,000 m2) of travertine was used to build the center.

Throughout the campus, numerous fountains provide white noise as a background. The initial design has remained intact; however benches and fences have been installed around the plaza fountains to discourage visitors from wading into the pools. Some additional revisions have been made in deference to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The north promontory is anchored by a circular grass area, which serves as a heliport in case of emergencies, and the south promontory is anchored by a succulent plant and cactus garden. The complex is also encircled by access roads that lead to loading docks and staff parking garages on both the west and east sides of the buildings. The hillside around the complex has been planted with California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) trees.

The museum has a seven-story deep underground parking garage with over 1,200 parking spaces. Its roof has an outdoor sculpture garden. An automated three-car, cable-pulled tram takes passengers between the parking garage at the bottom of the hill and the museum at the top of the hill.

   

Excerpts sourced from Wikipedia.

  

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I created this shot in my studio for use on my site on senior living but I want to share it since it is applicable to much more than just senior retirement planning. Feel free to use this image but please give check out our website at www.assistedseniorliving.net and give us a Plus one or even a Facebook like or link. It is very difficult to get seniors to +1 so your help can really help us establish the site as a great resource for caregivers and seniors.

Feel free to use this image, just link to www.SeniorLiving.Org This microstock required lots of post processing to get the blue tint. I also needed a bounce card to get more detail in the glasses.

www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200073/parks_playgrounds_and_o...

  

This beautiful park is set in 109 hectares of open parkland in South Manchester, with historic and ornamental woodlands, herbaceous borders, formal bedding, open grassland and beautiful wildflower meadows. It's grounds have certainly proved to be beautiful over the past few years. They were awarded a Green Flag Award in 2011 and 2012 - the national standard for parks and green spaces.

 

The park is steeped in history and there are three Grade II Listed Buildings located within the park: North Lodge, the Statue of Oliver Cromwell and Wythenshawe Hall.

 

Its range of year-round leisure and educational opportunities for all ages includes a varied activities and events programme, with highlights such as the annual firework and bonfire extravaganza, the Wythenshawe Star Gazers meetings and other seasonal celebrations.

 

The park is easy to access by car or public transport and there's plenty of parking on site. There are also a full range of facilities to assist disabled visitors.

 

Wythenshawe Hall was re-opened recently for the Wythenshawe Games and was so popular that we hope to open it on a more regular basis in the future - keep an eye out for further details on our events page.

 

Wythenshawe Park opens daily from dawn to dusk.

  

Where is the park?

  

Our address is Wythenshawe Road, Manchester M23 0AB

 

Directions

 

•By road: Leave M60 at Junction 5, or M56 Junction 3 (onto Princess Parkway)

•By bus: Bus 101 from Princess Parkway (heading from City Centre). Bus 179 along Altrincham Road (from Stockport direction). Bus 370 from Didsbury along Wythenshawe Road, or from Altrincham Interchange along Wythenshawe Road. Bus stops are located nearby on Princess Parkway, Wythenshawe Road and Altrincham Road

 

The main entrance to the park is on Wythenshawe Road. There is car parking on site, with a £1 charge at certain times of the year.

 

Additional telephone numbers:

 

•Community Farm: 0161 946 0726

•Courtyard Cafe: 0161 998 0821

•Horse-riding: 07876 555 528

  

Facilities in the park

  

•Athletics track

  

•Bowls

  

•Children's play area: mixed age

  

•Courtyard Cafe - open weekends only October to March and 7 days a week from April to the end of September

  

•10 senior football pitches

  

•Horse riding

  

•Horticultural Centre

  

•Multi-use games area

  

•Orienteering course

  

•Parking

  

•Pitch n putt

  

•Tennis courts

  

•Toilets at Stable block and Horticultural Centre

  

•Veterans Pavilion

  

•Woodland and walks

  

•Wythenshawe Community Farm

  

•Wythenshawe Hall

  

For disabled visitors

  

•Toilets - there is a disabled toilet in the Stable Courtyard.

  

•Paths - the main pathways in the park are wheelchair friendly. Other paths in the park and woodlands have varied access depending on wheelchair type, disability and weather.

  

•Parking - there are designated disabled parking spaces in the main car park. There are also two spaces at the side of the Hall, by the delivery courtyard.

  

•Buildings - most buildings have disabled access.

  

Activities and events

  

Talks - are usually held on Wednesdays once or twice a month, for further information see the events calendar.

 

Education Programmes - Wythenshawe Park has produced a booklet of environmental-based activities. These can either be just for fun or can form part of a programme of learning for the National Curriculum. For availability, please call 0161 998 2117.

 

Health Walk - every Tuesday - 1pm and 2pm starts. Meet at the main car park. The walk at 1pm is for quicker walkers.

 

Second Chance Cycling Club - every Tuesday and Thursday 10am - 12noon. All abilities. If you don't have a bike you can hire one for the session. Meet at the Athletics track. Please contact reception for costs.

 

Tennis - there are 8 tennis courts in the park, all available to use free of charge. There's no need to book - just turn up and play. There is no facility at present to hire racquets and balls.

 

If you want to learn new skills or take advantage of tennis coaching at a great price, sessions are available for all ages.

 

Learn more about tennis coaching in Manchester.

  

Athletics Track - the athletics track is used regularly by a variety of local sports and athletics clubs. Due to the high demand this places on the facility, we can only offer bookings to groups and not individuals.

 

For information on how to book the track contact southareaccs@manchester.gov.uk

  

Other activities:

 

•Monday 5 - 8pm Boxing Club

 

•Monday 7 - 9pm Sale Harriers

  

•Tuesday 9.30am - 3pm Adapted Cycling with Wythenshawe Wheelers

  

•Tuesday 2 - 4pm PARS Running Group

  

•Tuesday 5 - 7pm Winston Runners

  

•Tuesday 5 - 9pm Manchester Harriers

  

•Wednesday 9.30am - 12noon Adapted Cycling with Wythenshawe Wheelers

  

•Wednesday 5 - 8pm Boxing Club

  

•Wednesday 5 - 9pm Sale Harriers main club training night

  

•Thursday 10 - 12noon Second Chance Cycle Club

  

•Thursday 5 - 9pm Manchester Harriers

  

•Friday 9.30am - 3pm Adapted Cycling with Wythenshawe Wheelers (term time only)

  

•Saturday 9.30am - 12noon Manchester Harriers

  

•Saturday 1-3pm Adapted Cycling with Wythenshawe Wheelers

 

•Sunday 10am - 1pm Sale Harriers

  

Contact details for the clubs listed above:

 

•Boxing Club contact Gina at royaloakcommunity@ymail.com

•Wythenshawe Wheelers contact Sue Blaylock on 07753 428 937 or visit their website

•Sale Harriers contact Dave Rogers on 07804 892 080 or visit the Sale Harriers website

•Manchester Triathlon Club contact them on 07583 742 652 or email mtc@man-tri-club.org.uk

•Winston Runners contact Margaret Carleton on 0161 998 3141 or visit their website

•Manchester Harriers email information@manchesterharriers.co.uk or visit their website

•PARS Running Group contact Joanne on 0161 230 1857

  

Historically, most of Wythenshawe Park lay within the Cheshire township of Northenden (or Northen.) The park we know today was developed from the Wythenshawe demesne, land directly associated with Wythenshawe Hall.

 

From the late 1300s Wythenshawe descended through the Tatton family, who established their residence at Wythenshawe Hall. The most dramatic incident in the Tattons' long history at the hall was over the winter of 1643-44 when the site was besieged by Cromwell's parliamentarian soldiers during the Civil War.

 

Robert Tatton, a royalist, kept the Hall in a state of defence but surrendered on 27 February 1644 after two cannons were brought from Manchester.

 

The site developed over the years, with various additions and changes to the hall and its outbuildings, including a walled garden, glass houses, and an ice house.

 

By 1830 a number of fields around the Hall were opened out to create an area of parkland. By this time the Northenden part of the park also included a number of plantations managed by the Tatton's estate.

 

The hall and parkland was bought in 1926 by Lord and Lady Simon at a time when Manchester City Council was developing Wythenshawe as 'The Garden City', providing new housing for families being moved out of the then deprived areas of the city. It was given to the city, 'to be kept forever as an open space for the people of Manchester,' and was intended for the recreational use of people living on the newly built Wythenshawe housing estate.

 

Since that time the park has been a place of recreation, learning and enjoyment for the people of Manchester.

  

Horticultural Centre

  

Open from 10.00am to 4.00pm*. Admission is free.

 

The Horticultural centre was originally built to provide plants for use by Manchester City Council throughout the city. When production stopped at the facility the numerous greenhouses were converted into display houses, and several themed gardens and habitats were created to provide environmental education and fun for the people of Manchester.

 

The numerous permanent displays include the Safari Walk which features tropical plants such as banana, pineapple, tea, coffee and rice, interspersed with ornamental subjects, water features, an aviary, alpine garden and display of cacti.

 

The outdoor area is home to numerous gardens featuring heather, shrubs, herbs, trees, herbaceous borders, alpines and fruit set in a pleasant and relaxing habitat.

 

In 2006 a traditional Cob House was built which features a living roof. There is also a large pond and picnic area.

 

Gardening societies, social groups etc are welcome to enjoy self-guided trips. We also have an education pack for primary schools (contact the office for more details).

 

If you'd like to volunteer at the Horticultural Centre we'd be pleased to hear from you and we welcome individuals or groups. Call us on 0161 998 2117 for further information.

 

The Horticultural Friends Society is a friends group dedicated to the Centre - they welcome new members so if you're interested, get in touch!

 

*The gardens are open daily and the Glasshouses vary seasonally and during maintenance periods.

  

Wythenshawe Hall was the home of the Tatton family for over 600 years, and is now owned by Manchester City Council. The Hall, and the surrounding 250 acres of park land, were given to the city by Lord and Lady Simon in 1926, to be enjoyed by the people of Manchester and beyond. The Hall served as an art gallery and museum until its temporary closure in 2010.

 

In 2012 Wythenshawe Park hosted a 9-day community replica of the London 2012 Olympics. During this time the Hall was open every day with a variety of cultural, educational, historical and fun activities for people of all ages. The event was a huge success, with over 5000 visitors to the Hall, many of whom expressed an interest in setting up a friends group.

 

The Friends of Wythenshawe Hall have been working in partnership with the council to open the Hall on a regular basis since. There have been Christmas and Easter open days and also a very popular Garden Party which joined up with the Big Lunch to host a community picnic with over a 1000 visitors on the day.

 

Please check our online events calendar for information on when the Hall will be open next. If you'd like to get involved, find out more by visiting the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall website. (external site)

  

Whilst the Hall was still an art gallery and museum a number of information sheets were made for the public to print off and keep. They contain information on how the rooms were used in the Hall as well as some pictures and much of this information is available to download from our website.

 

There are a selection of pages from the Scrapbooks of Eva and Alice Tatton, Room Guides, House Detective - a special guide for children and A Park for the People - Memories. There is also the Memory Box Trail, showing images from a special outdoor sculpture trail inspired by people's memories of the park.

  

Community Farm

  

Wythenshawe Community Farm is a registered charity (charity number 515619) established in 1984, which has become one of the most popular facilities at Wythenshawe Park.

 

Opening hours

 

•Open 7 days a week

 

•11.30am - 4pm (April to October)*

•11.30am - 3.30pm (November to March)

 

*Please note occasionally the farm may close for training or maintenance.

 

The Farm, located next to the children's play area, offers children a chance to learn about where food comes from, and all the elements of a working countryside farm within an urban setting.

 

As well as cows, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks and horses, we have a prize-winning herd of Hereford cattle. Our extensive breeding programme means that baby animals are often on site. Visitors can 'meet' the animals and (if they're lucky) can see feeding time (this is usually around 3pm but times and availability may vary).

 

Historically fruit and vegetables were grown in the garden to supply the Tatton family at the hall, and the farm recently won funding to open its own shop, where they now sell a range of locally produced food including meat, their own seasonal vegetables, and eggs from the hens on site.

 

As well as just visiting the farm, youngsters can also become a Junior Farmer for the day. For more details please ask at the Farm Office or call them on 0161 946 0726.

  

Horse Riding

  

Wythenshawe Park Riding Stables provide a variety of riding lessons, escorted trekking, and horse and carriage rides.

 

They also offer Association of British Riding School's (ABRS) courses and level 1 and 2 Diplomas in Horse Care and Stable Management through The Manchester College.

 

The Stables are a member of the Riding for the Disabled Association and has recently become Manchester's first Pony Club UK Centre.

 

For further information, visit The Stables website, email wpridingstables@ntlworld.com or phone 07876 555 528.

  

Pitch 'n' Putt

  

The Pitch 'n' Putt golf course is open 7 days a week from the beginning of April to the end of October

 

Pitch 'n' Putt Equipment

 

Currently there is no equipment for hire and so no charge for using the course. The public are entitled to bring there own putting clubs and golf balls.

  

Woodlands

 

Thirteen separate woodlands have been identified in Wythenshawe Park, although one is inaccessible. There are many trees planted as woodland, but also avenues and individuals. The park is speckled with other, lesser copses, the largest of which is the Big Round, situated almost centrally. Bird lovers and botanists will find an array of biodiversity here.

 

A schedule of maintenance is slowly restoring the woods to their original prominence in the list of facilities available. Litter picks and involving volunteers from the general public, are an important aspect of the well-being of these areas, so if you would like to help, please contact the park on 0161 998 2117 for further information.

 

Fir Coppice A mature woodland containing Sycamore, Oak, Willow and Ash. An under-storey mainly consists of Rhododendron, Bramble and young Sycamore and Beech regeneration.

 

Gib Lane Wood On the eastern edge of the park alongside Princess Road, this is a large, well-established woodland with a broad species range and is crossed with paths. Gib Lane boasts a rich diversity of flora, from the prolific Lesser Celandine to the relatively rare Town Hall Clock. Main species here are Oak, Ash, Alder, Beech, Larch, Sycamore and Corsican Pine.

 

Mere Wood A mature woodland of Scots Pine with some Oak.

 

Nan Nook Wood: This mature and native woodland mainly consists of Sycamore with Beech, Alder and Willow also present, and there's also a network of small ponds. The wood skirts Wythenshawe Road along the golf course and running track.

 

The Oval, the Middle Round and the Big Round: All of these are small, compact areas surrounded by grassland. Their amenity value and habitat value is high: all three are almost identical in character, species composition and age, with the dominant trees being mature Oak, Sycamore and Scots Pine. They also have a dense under-storey made up of Rhododendron with small pockets of mainly Sycamore regeneration with some Beech, which limits access.

 

Wythenshawe Farm Wood A woodland that is divided into two compartments, running around the east, south and west of the Community Farm. This woodland consists mainly of Holly with some Yew, Sycamore, Oak, Willow and Alder, White Poplar, Hazel, Cherry Laurel, Scots Pine and Rhododendron.

 

Wythenshawe Hall Wood This is a well established woodland consisting mainly of mature Scots Pine and Oak. The under-storey is made up of dense Holly and Rhododendron with some young Beech, Oak and Sycamore regeneration.

 

Wythenshawe Park North This woodland runs along the northern boundary of the Park in an east-west direction and consists mainly of mature Scots Pine, mature Oak, Lime, Sycamore coppice re-growth and young Sycamore, Norway Maple and Beech regeneration, as well as Holly, Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel.

 

Wythenshawe Park East This woodland is situated in the north-eastern corner of the park and contains mature Scots Pine, young Oak, Sycamore, Cherry, Norway Maple, Pin Oak, Lime, Horse Chestnut, Ash and Beech.

 

Wythenshawe Park South: A mature woodland with limited access and dominated by Crack Willow, Sycamore, Beech, Horse Chestnut, Holly and Oak. Ponds and a stream are present in this woodland, along with an area of amenity grassland south of the stream containing young Norway Maple and Horse Chestnut.

  

Friends groups

 

Wythenshawe Park has three dedicated voluntary user groups:

 

•Horticultural Friends Society

•Wythenshawe Parkwatch Group

•Friends of Wythenshawe Hall

 

These groups are comprised of local people who take an active interest in the park and hall by making suggestions, volunteering, raising money for projects over and above the remit of existing budgets, and generally providing an important link with the local community.

  

Horticultural Friends Society

  

The Horticultural Friends Society is a club for people with an interest in gardening. They arrange visits and trips, talks, a plant exchange scheme, and their active committee supports the Horticultural Centre in the park.

 

Membership fees:

 

•£15 April to March

•£7.50 October to March

•£7 for a second family member.

 

Member benefits include free admissions to talks (usually £2) and a seasonal newsletter.

 

Further information is available from Gloria Davies, Membership Secretary on 0161 962 8577. See the activities and events page for forthcoming talks.

  

Friends of Wythenshawe Hall

  

Wythenshawe Hall was recently re-opened for the Wythenshawe Games, hosting a range of activities such as Tudor Dancing, a Victorian Classroom and textile workshops.

 

There was a lot of interest in starting a Friends of Wythenshawe Hall group, so we have set a date for anyone interested in coming along to find out more.

 

1970 - On April 12, more than 100,000 people line the banks of the River Avon to watch the ss Great Britain being towed home on the last leg of her journey from the Falkland Islands.

 

Black Monday

 

Do you remember “Black Monday?” the start of a week of power cuts due to a ban on overtime and a work to rule by electricity workers in 1970. At the start of December factories, hospitals, offices, ambulance services and homes were all affected. People made do with candles – Woolworth’s ran out of stock – and parafin lamps. Thousands of people struggled to work in the dark and chaos ensued as traffic lights ceased to function.

 

And up at The Chesterfield in Clifton, Bristol’s private hospital, a consultant said that the cuts were affecting patient care. And, under cover of darkness, raiders made away with £8,000 from Stapleton Road post office. The local electricity board, SWEB, appealed to people to cut back on their use of power, but, eager to attract Christmas trade many shops continued to blaze with light.

 

What was it all about?

 

Having rejected a “final” bosses offer of £2 a week (10 per cent) electricity supply workers were now demanding pay rises of almost £6.00 (25-30%) on basic rates. Average earnings for the 125,000 power workers, represented by four unions, were about £24.00 a week. Although the power disruptions dominated the front pages there was other news.

 

Royal Portbury Dock

 

The future of Bristol’s West Dock (Royal Portbury) was still in the balance in 1970 as pressure mounted from a strong South Wales lobby which saw their trade being threatened. Nevertheless the Port of Bristol Authority, whose responsibility it was, were still hoping for a 20% grant from the government, the maximum payable under port modernisation grants.

 

But this was looking increasingly unlikely.

 

Bristol Airport

 

The prosperity of Bristol’s airport was also under threat as the government looked into the possibility of building an international airport – in effect a third London terminal – on reclaimed alongside the Severn estuary.

 

Slim of Burma

 

Some sad news was the death of Bristol born Field Marshall Viscount Slim (“Uncle Bill”) at the age of 79. During the hellish Burma Campaign of 1942/45 thousands of Slim’s men, the 14th Army, died fighting the Japanese. Although Bristol has no statue (there is one in Whitehall) there is a plaque outside his house in Bishopston, some sheltered housing named after him in St Jude’s and a pictorial bronze memorial on a stone plinth near the city’s war memorial.

 

In 1953 Slim was appointed Governor-General of Australia and in 1960, when he was elevated to the peerage, he choose the title Viscount Slim of Yarralumla AND Bishopston. Finally, the first electronic self service petrol station in the area opened at Churchill Bridge in Bath.

 

By the time the motorist had finished filling his tank, said the Post, the “date, pump number, gallons delivered and cash due” had been automatically printed out in the cashier’s control console. In addition the pumping units were covered by a large all weather canopy. The whole modern day miracle had been engineered by Esso and the Chippenham based Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company.

 

Bristol's Flower Show

 

Making the front pages of the Post 1970 this week was the 26th Bristol Flower Show.

 

After a very successful quarter century, the show was now under new management and seeking to beat a national trend towards falling attendances and financial losses.

 

To add to the organiser's woes, this was the first wet weather opening to the show, held on the Downs near the top of Blackboy Hill, for six years.

 

"This is a first-class show, on a first-class site in a city of gardeners," said an upbeat show chairman, Councillor Bob Wall.

 

"Whatever the weather, people will be dry inside the tents."

 

Cllr Wall said that he was determined that the three-day show would remain a horticultural one and not adopt side attractions – such as show jumping and donkey rides – as others had.

 

Non-gardeners were catered for by classes for home-made cakes, wines and honey.

 

The flower show – now unfortunately defunct – attracted 120 trade exhibits and 2,000 from the public, making it one of the top eight in the country.

 

But for the first time since 1952 the show was no longer under the personal supervision of top city gardener John Abrams, who many people will no doubt remember seeing giving out his tips on HTV.

 

Mods & Rockers

 

Things were not quite so cosy, however, in Weston-super-Mare, where traders were counting the cost of bank holiday battles between so-called "bovver boys."

 

Running fights by groups of teenagers and charges by groups of howling youngsters, hundreds strong, had terrified holiday-makers in the town.

 

About two hundred "skinheads" had thrown bottles, dustbin lids and clods of earth during a running battle with police. Most of the youths, said the Post, were from Bristol. Twenty were arrested and 12 detained.

 

Radio Bristol

 

It was a great day for Radio Bristol, then being officially opened by Frank Gillard, a former BBC regional controller.

 

Gillard – dubbed the "Father of local radio" – told the Post: "We have some excellent local papers in our area and this station wants to work alongside them, complementing but not competing."

 

Sonic Boom

 

Although Concorde was on her 38th flight – her fastest ever at 1,100mph – people throughout the South West and Wales were still experiencing her sonic boom – a double bang.

 

But the chief test pilot, Brian Trubshaw, said that he had to shut one engine down due to overheating and land with just three engines.

 

There were no reports of damage and the softness of the supersonic bang came as a surprise to the thousands of people who had waited patiently to catch a glimpse of the plane at 43,000 feet.

 

Cows under special observation by the Ministry of Technology were reported to have not even raised their heads as the plane flew overhead.

 

Long Hair

 

Finally, barbers' shops said that they were struggling – some were even closing – because men were wearing their hair longer.

 

Brian Neville, manager of a Southmead barber's shop told the Post: "Men used to have a trim every two or three weeks – now its about every five to six weeks."

 

"We used to have a staff of six – now we have just three."

 

HTV

 

And if you fancied seeing yourself on TV then HTV West were staging a Go-Go dancing competition at the Raquel Club at the New Bristol Centre in Frogmore Street.

 

You were invited to come along with your partner (or find one there).

 

Selected couples, said HTV, would appear in a new, weekly, late night TV show called "Fill This Space."

 

Janis Joplin

 

October 1970 - This was the autumn week in 1970 that Texas born singer Janis Joplin was found dead in her Hollywood apartment.

 

The 27 year old, said the press, had taken a drugs overdose.

 

In September, they reminded us, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix had died in London in similar circumstances.

 

Joplin had risen to fame as a member of the San Francisco based band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

 

She had wowed the crowds at Monterey Pop and then, later, at Woodstock, with her passionate, raunchy, delivery.

 

“I’d rather not sing than sing quiet” she once said.

 

So much for the US – what was happening in Bristol?

 

Making the front pages of the Post all this October week was industrial unrest.

 

This time round it was 5,000 plus council workers who had gone on strike demanding more money.

 

They wanted a pay rise of £2.75 to take their wages up to a minimum of £16.50 a week.

 

In those days an all out strike meant that vital public workers – everyone from social workers to dustmen – were absent from their duties.

 

The vital services – firemen and ambulancemen – said that they were “working to rule.”

 

As the dispute spread to pumping station staff so it looked as if raw, untreated, sewage would find its way into the River Avon.

 

After a few days Bristol’s 2000 busmen decided to join in, calling a mass meeting to decide what to do over an unresolved pay claim.

 

As a strike moved ever closer Bristol Omnibus management told the Post that the dispute had to be resolved at a national level.

 

Despite pleas from the busman they refused to enter into any local negotiations.

 

On a happier note soccer fans were taking advantage of a “free stand” on the Stapleton Road to watch Rovers play a Saturday match against Chesterfield.

 

The “stand” – which gave an almost complete view of the pitch – had recently been a row of shops and houses by Napier Road.

 

As forty or so people drifted in and out of the gap, Roy Miller, an ardent City fan, told the Post “ I would’nt pay to watch this lot.”

 

A Rovers supporter said, “ It’s a good shop window for Bert Tann.”

 

Finally, the ss Great Britain – now back safely back in the dock where she had been built – desperately needed money for restoration.

 

Industrialists were being asked to rally round and help preserve what in those days was pretty much a big rusting hulk.

 

Bob Holder, from the CBI, said “ I feel industrialists will want to support the restoration fund – and supporting the appeal could have great advertising value for them.”

 

She may look great now but back in 1970 Brunel’s pioneering iron vessel needed all the friends she could find.

 

1972 - Theatre Royal and Coopers’ Hall restored and re-opened.

 

This was the week in 1972 when the Home Secretary Reginald Maudling resigned over his links with disgraced Yorkshire architect John Poulson.

 

At a bankruptcy hearing into Poulson's company, which specialised in shopping centres and town centre redevelopments, it became clear that the architect had been paying bribes to win lucrative contracts.

 

In 1974, after lengthy investigations by the Fraud Squad, he was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

 

Although officially cleared of any wrongdoing, Maudling admitted having received "gifts" from the architect.

 

The Poulson Affair as it became known, was a major corruption scandal which involved many other well known businessmen and politicians.

 

In other news, the Post reported that 1,400 registered Port of Bristol dockers had walked out in protest against the arrest of five London shop stewards under the Industrial Relations Act.

 

In meant work stopping immediately on 20 ships already docked at Avonmouth.

The dispute, which soon spread to most of the major ports in the country, resulted in Tory PM Ted Heath calling an emergency Cabinet meeting.

 

With the building of the M5 bridge running at least year behind schedule a major concern in Bristol was the sheer amount of holiday traffic.

 

Such was the problem – queues often stretched for 50 miles right down to Taunton – that Weston-super-Mare MP Jerry Wiggin was calling for a temporary bailey bridge to be built across the River Avon.

 

A London firm, the Post said, was offering to build a suspension type bridge in eight weeks for a cool £1 million.

 

The motorway bridge finally opened in 1974.

 

Staying on the roads theme, there were hopes, said the council, that parts of Broadmead could be made traffic free by Christmas.

 

The delay, apparently, was due to the Department of the Environment dragging its heels over road closures.

 

Bristol architect Mike Jenner, a consultant for the Broadmead scheme, had suggested a rotunda at the Merchant Street intersection.

 

He had also suggested a glass roof for the shopping area – just as we now have over Cabot Circus.

 

It was the end of an era for Connaught Secondary Boys School when, after 38 years, they were amalgamating with Merrywood Grammar School for Boys and Knowle School to form Merrywood Boys School.

 

Finally, the stage was set for the final of the Post's Modern Miss 1972 contest at Bristol's Top Rank Centre.

 

The prize for the lucky winner? A fashion trip to New York.

 

1974 - It is 7.30 in the evening on Wednesday December 18, 1974 and Park Street is still busy with Christmas shoppers. Police receive a phone call from a man with an Irish accent telling them that a bomb will go off on Park Street in half an hour. A frantic search begins of shop doorways and litter bins, but before the Police have reached half-way, the windows of Dixons are blown out, shattering just about every other glass shopfront on the street in the process. Ten minutes later, another deafening roar splits the early evening silence. Altogether 15 people are injured but amazingly there are no fatalities.

 

1974 - Royce Creasey organises the first Ashton Court Festival, a series of four Sunday events at Ashton Court. Fred Wedlock plays one of the days, as does a band called Pussy Spasm.

 

Throughout the summer of 1974 was the row over the collapse of Court Line, the big holiday operator.

 

As well as numerous individuals who had lost out to the tune of hundreds of pounds Bristol airport claimed that they were owed £11,000 in landing fees.

 

And in a story familiar to us today unemployment both nationally and locally was escalating rapidly.

 

Nationally the figure stood at 691,000 (3%)- the biggest summer increase since records began in 1948.

 

Bucking the trend in Bristol was Robertson's jam factory at Brislington.

 

Despite making 750 workers redundant in other parts of the country the Bristol operation, said MD Neil Robertson, was to be increased making the jam factory in the city the largest in Europe.

 

That would mean, he said, taking on more staff.

 

In other news the first salvoes in what would, many years later, become the "Battle for Golden Hill" were being fired.

 

Bristol council were hoping to build houses on 26 acres of land at Henleaze which had been used as playing fields by Bristol Grammar School and Bristol Cathedral School.

 

But Avon County Council, as the new planning authority, were saying no to the planning application.

 

Councillor Brian Richards, Bristol's planning chairman, told the Post,

 

"Let there be no doubt about it. We will be going ahead with an appeal" (to the Department of the Environment)

 

This was also the start of an unresolved war between Bristol and Avon councils who had overlapping responsibilities for planning in the city.

 

Avon County planners were also coming under increasing pressure to delete a major interchange at the Bath and Wells road junctions - part of the controversial Outer Circuit Road plans - from their highway agenda.

 

But in the event it was decided to push on with the scheme - a decision which would blight the Totterdown area until the plan was finally shelved in 1980.

 

On the sports front the Football Association were holding a fact finding inquiry into violent scenes following a recent game between Bristol City and Cardiff City.

 

FA Secretary Ted Croker had ordered one of his senior officials to visit Ashton Gate for top level talks with police and soccer reps. about the incident.

 

Football hooliganism was, in fact, a nationwide problem in the 1970s, with the Minister of Sport, Denis Howell, holding top level talks with his Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins and the chairman of British Rail, Richard Marsh, into possible solutions.

 

1975 - The Arnolfini moves from the Triangle to its current site, Bush House, a former tea warehouse on Narrow Quay, and becomes a catalyst for harbourside redevelopment.

 

This was the November week in 1975 when the IRA stopped using bombs in their mainland campaign and turned to bullets instead.

 

In London, the co founder of the Guinness Book of Records, Ross McWhirter, was murdered outside his home in what the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, described as an “utterley barbaric crime.”

 

Police, who were linking two young Irishmen with the crime, feared the killing would signal the start of an assassination campaign in the capital.

 

But what was happening in the West?

 

Well, for one thing there was much fear, as now, over unemployment.

 

Due to a lack of international orders for Concorde the 6,000 strong BAC workforce at Filton was to be cut by 1,195.

 

Only 16 planes in total were now being built.

 

And at Avonmouth 600 dockers – half the workforce in fact – were sent home because there was no work for them.

 

The port, said a spokesman, had been hit by a general slump in trade.

 

Only a handful of ships were loading and unloading.

 

In the greater Bristol area unemployment stood at nearly 15,000, more than 6,000 up on 1974.

 

Vacancies numbered 1,500.

 

The row over the late 1960s decision to close the Floating Harbour to commercial shipping was still rumbling on in 1975.

 

Charles Hill’s shipyard, which still had plenty of orders, was demanding compensation of £2,265,000 from the council.

 

And this was in addition to £925,000 involved in two interim payments.

 

Hill’s, which launched its last ship, the Miranda Guinness in 1976, closed down the following year.

 

In other news both commuters and haulage companies were getting increasingly concerned over a 15 month long closure of the Portway for repairs.

 

Much to the annoyance of the residents traffic had been using the Downs and Westbury village to reach the M5.

 

The Severn Beach railway and its future prospects never seems to be out of the news, even today.

 

Back in 1975 people were up in arms over British Rail’s plans to axe 14 trains a day to save money.

 

By contrast Bristol’s environmentalists were jumping for joy over a government veto on the demolition of a listed St Paul’s terrace.

 

Developers had applied for permission to bulldoze 2-16 St Paul Street and then build a replica of the facade with offices behind.

 

Conservationist Dorothy Brown told the Post, “ This was a vital test case and the result is very, very, important.

 

“ If this had been allowed developers in the city could virtually demolish anything so long as they said they were going to build a replica.”

 

Finally Don Cameron was returning triumphant from France after a successful attempt on the world hot air balloon endurance record.

 

Having taken off from near Yeovil Cameron and his crew had stayed aloft for nearly 19 hours before landing in Brittany.

 

The balloon had been made at Cameron’s workshop in Cotham and the wicker basket by the Bristol Workshops for the Blind.

 

The trio became the first hot air balloonists to cross the English Channel at night.

 

1976 - Sun dried up our lakes and rivers during the heatwave of 1976. With the sunny weather here at last, We turn back the clock to the now legendary summer of 1976 - a year when the heat was really on Rationed: With water supplies running dry, many families had to rely on standpipes Heatwave: During the long, dry summer of 1976, even the mighty Chew Valley Reservoir virtually dried up AFTER basking in the sun for the last couple of weeks, let's hope we can look forward, with the help of a little global warming, to some long, hot summer days.

 

We're certainly due them after a dismal winter and cold spring. But how many readers, I wonder, recall the record-breaking long, hot summer of 1976, now an unbelievable 30 years ago? If you do, you'll have memories of what a summer should really be like, with day after day of unbroken sunshine and temperatures in the 80s and 90s. Weathermen said that it was the hottest year overall since 1826, though it was just a little cooler in the West. But Bristol certainly had the hottest June on record. Readers of the Post were asked to 'cool it' as ice cream was rationed, kids stripped off and jumped into the pool in front of the Council House and tempers became frayed. The outdoor swimming pools, like Portishead and the old Clifton Lido, came into their own and shops reported shortages of suntan oil and sunglasses.

 

Wildlife had a field day, with a plague of ladybirds descending on the seafronts at Clevedon and Weston-super-Mare. The local authorities started spreading sand on the roads to stop the tar from melting (which didn't work) and the water authorities became so stretched that they considered bringing in extra supplies to Avonmouth from Norway. Pupils at Winterbourne school were forced to attend lessons as the temperature topped 37.8 degrees in the classroom. But in more sensible Somerset, some children started school at 8am and finished at 1pm - missing at least some of the heat of the day. Despite constant warnings, youngsters just couldn't be stopped from diving into the area's many rivers and watercourses to cool off. More dangerously, many Bristol people started jumping into the icy, deep waters of the docks.

 

By the end of June it was official - Bristol was England's hottest spot, with a temperature of 91F (33C). By this time many people had had enough of the heat - but amazingly it just went on and on, right throughout July and August. With temperatures at night remaining very high (63 degrees) people found that they couldn't sleep. In fact, you could still feel the heat wafting off the pavements at midnight. The weathermen tell us that it did rain, but amounts were very small, and soon drought conditions set in.

 

Then, after over a month without rain, the brewery draymen went on strike - so we soon had beer rationing as well as water rationing to add to our misery. A hosepipe ban was implemented and the washing of cars was outlawed. There was much goverment advice on water-use, including the suggestion that only five inches of water was to be used in a bath, and that baths, it was daringly suggested, should be shared). A minister for drought, Denis Howell, was appointed. Just to prove he meant business a hastily conceived Drought Bill, implemented on July 14, allowed for fines of up to £400 for water misuse.

 

On June 28, the record for the hottest June day was broken when 32.8C (91F) was recorded. August was a record month with an amazing 264 hours of sunshine - more than eight hours a day. But not everyone lapped up the sun. There were casualties. In July, a local woman died from hyperpyrexia - caused by not drinking enough water or having enough salt in hot weather. It was something usually restricted to countries with very hot climates. Wildlife suffered, too.

 

Thousands of salmon and trout died in the region's rivers as the water became starved of oxygen. Many trees, especially those which had just started to recover from Dutch elm disease - started to wilt and die. Dust clouds covered the land as firemen strugled to cope with up to 20 grass-fires a day. In the Cotswolds, so-called dust-devils were reported.

 

These were small whirlwinds which only occur on fine, hot days. Brooks and springs which had never been known to dry up, even in the hottest weather, did just that and bowling greens and golf courses closed their doors to members as their 'greens' turned to 'browns'. Water was being lost by evaporation from the Mendip reservoirs at an alarming rate - nearly six million litres a day throughout August. The level in the vast Chew Valley reservoir fell so low that visitors could actually walk on the exposed baked earth and make out the old road bridges and skeletal remains of long-since drowned farms.

 

As temperatures stayed in the 90s, many country areas came to rely on standpipes and buckets of water. Some, with very limited supply, or even none at all, had water delivered by tanker. Finally, on August 28, the worst drought since 1921 came to an end with violent storms and flooding. Strangely, many people stood at their back doors and welcomed the rain back with open arms.

 

1977 - Royal Portbury Dock opens at Avonmouth.

 

Dominating the front pages this week of September 1977 was a story about an explosion and fire which had ripped through the Raj Indian restaurant in Eastville’s Stapleton Road.

 

Five people - three males and two females - living in flats above the three storey building had lost their lives in the inferno.

 

The restaurant belonged to businessman Nazir Muhammad who also owned the Bristol Knitwear Centre opposite, which suffered damage to its windows.

 

The blast, which threw rubble and glass over a 50 yard area, was heard up to four miles away, and witnesses said flames shot 30 to 40 feet into the air. A spokesman told the Post that when the fire brigade arrived on the scene they found the whole building ablaze from top to bottom.

 

A few days later 28 year old Mohammed Arshad, the manager of the restaurant, was charged with destroying the building.

 

This was the third major explosion in the city in just nine months - the other two being in Park Street and Bishopsworth.

 

Concorde was also making the front pages with the workers at BAC being devastated to hear that no more aircraft would be produced at Filton.

 

Government losses on the programme of 16 planes were estimated at some £200 million.

 

Then Sir Archibald Russell, the world renowned aircraft designer, upset them even more by announcing, “ There will never be a Mark II Concorde.”

 

The former Chairman of BAC Filton said that the expense was so great that no one would undertake the development without a firm commitment from the airlines to buy.

 

In other news Iain Patterson, the city’s deputy planning officer, told Bristol councillors that “one more winter of neglect” would be enough to finish off Brunswick Chapel, in Brunswick Square.

 

And admirers of full time model and beauty queen, 24 year old Gaye Hopkins from Yate, were pleased to see her come third in the Miss Great Britain Contest held in Morecombe.

 

Gaye’s success meant a cash prize and a fortnight’s holiday abroad.

 

Lastly City FC fans were looking forward to seeing Manchester City striker Joe Royle playing at Ashton Gate later in the season when transfer negotiations had been completed.

 

1978 - Bristol Industrial Museum opens.

 

1978 - Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby is born on July 25 to Lesley and John Brown of Hassell Drive, Easton.

 

1979 - This was the July week in 1979 – the first few days of the school holidays – when the rains came down after five weeks of fine weather.

 

Some areas had as much as two inches which pleased the farmers, if not the holiday makers.

 

In Bristol civil servants, teachers and trade unionists were getting angry over £8 million cuts proposed by Avon County Council.

 

With £4 million alone due to be sliced off the education budget a placard-waving lobby – Save our Services – greeted the councillors as they met at Avon House to debate where the axe would fall.

 

"It is criminal that education, social services, highways and the fire service should be pruned," a union spokesman told the Post.

 

Also in angry mood were West Country cider makers – this time over plans to increase the tax on their potent brew.

 

Government proposals, they said, would mean cider being taxed at £3 a gallon so increasing the price of a pint at the farmhouse door to 50p.

 

Somerset cider maker Julian Temperley said: "This tax could mean the end of the traditional industry."

 

There was better news concerning commercial radio as the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, announced that Bristol was on the Government's short list for a licence.

 

But it would be the early 1980s, he said, before the 15 towns and cities in the running would know who had been chosen to compete with BBC's Radio Bristol.

 

A consortium calling itself Radio Avonside was ready, the Post said, to take up the challenge in two years time.

 

In other news Louise Brown, the world's first test tube baby, was celebrating her first birthday.

 

Her parents, John and Lesley, said: "We are trying not to make too much fuss about it.

 

"Some of the family will be coming round and we'll be having a little party.

 

"Louise is everything we prayed for – she is our little miracle."

 

Speedway fans were disappointed to hear that Bristol Stadium had lost a High Court battle against the council allowing them to adapt the track for the sport.

 

Having started out as a Queen's Jubilee celebration in the summer of 1977, Clifton Village Fair, which attracted 20,000 people, was being hailed a great success by the organisers.

 

And out at Clevedon it was announced that Walton Castle – a ruinous 17th-century hunting lodge – would be rebuilt as a family home.

 

Bristol Chronicles 55BC - 1698

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1700 - 1800

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1860 - 1889

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1900 - 1904

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1905

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1906

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1907

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1908

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1909

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1910

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1911 - 1912

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1913

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1914-18

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1920s

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1930 - 1933

 

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Bristol Chronicles 1930s

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4019249156/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1939-45

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4019266276/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1946 - 1959

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4018524565/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1960 - 1965

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4018547559/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1966 - 1969

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4019325272/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1970s

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4018584379/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1980s

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4018611705/

 

Bristol Chronicles 1990 - 2008

 

www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4018623003/

Soon after Trump took office – he spearheaded the Republican war on our climate, our health and our lives. One of the first steps that he took was to silence the National Park Service on social media. I follow them on Facebook and almost immediately after they were silenced a Alt National Park Service Facebook page popped up. I follow them too. Yesterday they published an overview of the Trump administrations 2017 acts against the environment and wildlife. The list is not yet complete and doesn’t mention things like the Bonn Climate Conference that was an absolute debacle. The list is difficult to read - they are working on a timeline for their website that will be launched next week. The list is breathtaking in scope and the intent is astonishing. Try to have a good day.

 

Play Projects

 

1.On January 20th, Trump silenced the National Park Service from using social media.

2.On January 20th, National Park Service starts a “resistance” movement on social media accounts.

3.On January 24th, Trump issues several memoranda aiming to hasten permitting from the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.

4.On February 1st, U.S. Senate confirms ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

5.On February 16th, Trump signs a joint resolution passed by Congress revoking the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Stream Protection Rule.” The stream protection rule, which prevented mining companies dumping their waste into streams, is axed under the Congressional Review Act.

6.On February 17th, U.S. Senate confirms Scott Pruitt as the head of the U.S. EPA. In his prior role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt frequently sued the EPA over its regulations, notably leading a 27-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan.

7.On February 28th, President Trump issues an executive order formally asking the EPA to review the “Waters of the United States” rule.

8.On March 2, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spends his first day on the job rescinding an Obama-era prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters. Also, the EPA, Scott Pruitt, canceled a requirement for reporting methane emissions.

9.On March 7th, EPA’s Office of Science and Technology removed the word “science” from its mission statement.

10.On March 9th, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt that carbon dioxide’s role in the Earth’s changing climate remains unclear.

11.On March 13th, White House releases its first preliminary budget under Trump. The budget outlines deep cuts to U.S. science and environmental agencies.

12.On March 16th, the Trump administration proposed a 13 percent budget cut to the Park Service funding. These budget cuts would lose 1,242 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, leading to significant challenges at almost every park.

13.On March 28th, Trump issued an executive order charging the DOI with reviewing rules for oil and gas drilling inside the boundaries of our national park sites. Trump's executive order also made the EPA start the process of rewriting the clean power plan.

14.On March 29th, Against the advice of the EPA’s chemical safety experts, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt rejects a decade-old petition asking that the EPA ban all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Research suggests that chlorpyrifos may be associated with brain damage in children and farm workers, even at low exposures.

15.On March 29th, Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, revoked the freeze and review on new coal leases on public lands.

16.On April 3rd, Overturned a ban on hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges. Including the hunting of bear cubs in and around their dens.

17.On April 5th, the trump administration withdrew guidance from federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews.

18.On April 7th, staff members at EPA’s headquarters who specialized in climate change adaptation have been reassigned. Rolled back limits on toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways.

19.On April 16th, Trump issued an executive order calling on the DOI to reopen its five-year plan for offshore drilling.

20.On April 19th, An Interior Department official updates the department’s climate change website, deleting much of its content in the process.

21.On April 22nd, Scientist March on Washington, voicing support for science’s role in society.

22.On April 26th, Trump instructs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review as many as 40 national monuments created since 1996 to determine if any of Trump’s three predecessors exceeded their authority when protecting large tracts of already-public land under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

23.On April 27th, the EPA delayed a lawsuit over a rule regulating airborne mercury emissions from power plants.

24.On April 28th, EPA scrubs climate change from their website.

25.On May 5th, the EPA dismisses several members of the Board of Scientific Counselors.

26.On June 1st, the U.S. pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

27.On June 8th, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wednesday ordered a review of an Obama administration conservation plan to protect the greater sage-grouse to determine if that plan interferes with Trump administration efforts to increase energy production on federal lands.

28.On June 12th, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah’s red rock country be shrunk by President Trump.

29.On June 26th, the administration called for the repeal of the Clean Water Rule.

30.On July 6th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit that would allow Dominion Energy, to build 17 enormous transmission towers near Colonial National Historical Park, the site of the United States first English colony.

31.On July 19th, the DOI called for a reexamination of rules that protect bears and wolves in national preserves in Alaska from egregious hunting methods, including baiting bears with grease-soaked donuts and killing mother bears with their cubs.

32.On August 7th, The DOI relaxes aspects of sage grouse protection to help with the Trump administration’s efforts to increase energy production on federal lands.

33.On August 22nd, the trump administration has suspended a study of health risks to residents who live near mountaintop removal coal mine sites in the Appalachian Mountains.

34.On October 9th, Trump EPA works on scrapping the Clean Power Plan(CCP). Scott Pruitt gave a speech in Hazard, Kentucky and declared that he will sign a proposal on Tuesday that would eliminate the CCP.

35.On October 23rd, The Department of Interior proposed the largest ever gas and oil lease auction of 77 million acres of federal waters within the Gulf of Mexico.

36.On October 24th, A small Montana company located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown has signed a $300 million contract to help get the power back on in Puerto Rico. Whitefish Energy Holdings, LLC had only two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

37.On November 1st, Trump administration proposed a rule Tuesday to federalize regulation of drift gillnets used to catch swordfish on the West Coast. The rule would end California's right to prevent the deadly entanglements of sea turtles, whales, and dolphins in these underwater, mile-long nets.

38.On November 2nd, Trump administration is targeting for review a uranium mining ban that former President Barack Obama instituted in the watershed of the Grand Canyon.

39.On November 7th, French President Emmanuel Macron's Cabinet said Trump not invited to climate change summit for the time being.

40.On November 16th, The Trump administration has reversed the ban on elephant trophy imports. They have agreed to allow the remains of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back to the U.S.

41.On November 16th, The Keystone pipeline has leaked and spilled about 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone pipeline has been temporarily shut down.

42.On November 24th, Tucked away in the Senate report accompanying the funding bill for the Department of the Interior is a directive to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct.

43.On November 25th, Oil drilling in a vast Alaskan wildlife refuge moved a step closer to reality after the U.S. Senate energy and natural resources panel voted 13-10 to open part of the reserve.

44.On November 28th, The Cause of Action Institute (a group aligned with GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch) have filed suit accusing EPA employee of using an encrypted messaging services to protect their jobs. They report that EPA employees were using an encrypted messaging app to determine how to respond to a feared purge of climate science from the new Trump administration.

45.On November 28th, the Trump administration has approved an oil company’s request to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

46.On December 4th, Trump gave a speech in Salt Lake City announcing his intentions to reduce two Utah national monuments Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Bears Ears would be reduced by 1.35 million acres (-85%) and Grand Staircase Escalante would be reduced by 1.88 million acres (-50%).

47.On December 7th, Trump administration drops rule requiring mining companies to have money to clean up pollution, despite an industry legacy of abandoned mines that have fouled waterways across the U.S.

48.On December 8th, the Trump administration will suspend a rule to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations on federal land.

49.On December 14th, Trump administration removed net neutrality. This now allows broadband providers to block websites like ours. The Internet has played an increasingly vital role in political expression and organizing. Groups like ours have used social media to share information, plan events, and motivate participation.

50.On December 15th, It was reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke brought David Smith the superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park to his office to reprimand him for climate change-related tweets the park sent via Twitter.

51.On December 16th, Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using a list of words, including "fetus," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "vulnerable," "evidence-based" and "science-based."

52.On December 18th, Trump announced the US will no longer regard climate change by name as a national security threat.

53.On December 19th, EPA has ended a contract with a group (Definers Public Affairs) that had been investigating any EPA employees who disagreed with the Trump administration agenda.

54.On December 19th, in the emergency supplemental funding bill language was hidden that would exempt Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) from following requirements set by the Endangered Species Act.

55.On December 20th, Toxic chemical bans were indefinitely postponed for methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) and trichloroethylene (TCE).

56.On December 21st, Independent studies were halted that would improve the safety of offshore drilling platforms and another to look at health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining in central Appalachia.

57.On December 21st, Revoked the Obama-era Resource Management Planning Rule (Planning 2.0 Rule), which advocated new technologies to improve transparency related to mining on public lands. A Federal Register filing said this rule "shall be treated as if it had never taken effect."

58.On December 22nd, The Republican “tax reform” bill was signed and included opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

59.On December 22nd, Ruled that "incidental" killings of 1,000 migratory bird species are not illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

60.On December 22nd, Reversed a previous Obama-era Interior Department decision to withdraw permits for a proposed $2.8 billion copper mine in Minnesota.

61.On December 23rd, It was reported that hundreds of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists were barred from attending an industry conference this month.

62.On December 27th, A plan was announced to consider increasing the use of neonicotinoid insecticides known as thiamethoxam, which is proven to be deadly to bees.

63.On December 27th, Allowed oil and gas leasing and development near and even inside greater sage-grouse habitat management areas.

64.On December 28th, Announced a plan to repeal an Obama-era rule that governed fracking standards on federal and tribal lands. The rule would have required companies to disclose chemicals used in their fracking fluids, set standards for well construction, and required surface ponds holding fracking fluids to be covered.

65.On December 29th, Trump administration proposed to remove offshore-drilling safety regulations put in place after the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster.

© yohanes.budiyanto, 2014

 

PRELUDE

The 1st of August, 2014 was such an historic day as the world finally welcomed the birth of the first in line to the Parisian throne after a painstaking and extraordinary "labor" process that took four years in creation, and almost a decade in the making. I was not talking about a French rival to baby George, but instead a newborn that has sent shivers down the spines of Paris' oldest and current Kings and Grand Dames from the day it was conceived. Yes, I was referring to The Peninsula Paris, the youngest sister to the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong (circa 1928).

 

Ever since the project was announced to the public four years ago, it has been on my top list of the most eagerly awaited hotel openings of the decade. So when the hotel announced 1st of August as an opening date back in March, I immediately issued my First Class return tickets to the City of Light, risking the usual opening delay. A man of his word, Peninsula Paris finally opened as scheduled.

 

HISTORY

The Peninsula brand needs no introduction, as it is synonymous with quality, technology, innovation, craftsmanship and sophistication, -much like a slogan for French top brands and their savoir faire. Despite having only 10 current properties worldwide in its portfolio (Paris is its tenth), each Peninsula hotel is a market leader in each respective cities, and consistently tops the chart in many bonafide travel publications and reigns supreme as the world's best, especially elder sisters in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The Peninsula model is different from other rival hotel groups, which usually expand aggressively through both franchise and managed models worldwide. Instead, the Peninsula focuses on acquiring majority to sole ownership on all its properties to ensure control on quality (Hong Kong, New York, Chicago and Tokyo are 100% owned; Bangkok, Beijing and Manila are over 75%; Shanghai is 50%, while Beverly Hills and Paris are the only two with only 20% ownership).

 

The history of the Peninsula Paris could be traced back to a modest villa aptly called Hotel Basilevski on the plot of land at 19 Avenue Kleber back in 1864, -named after its Russian diplomat owner, Alexander Petrovich Basilevski, which caught the attention of hotelier Leonard Tauber for his prospective hotel project. The Versailles-styled property was partly a museum housing Basilevski's vast and impressive collection of 19th century medieval and Renaissance art, which eventually was acquired by Alexander III, -a Russian Tsar, at the sums of six millions francs. These collections were later transported to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and formed the base collection for the newly established Department of Medieval and Renaissance Art. After Basilevski sold the villa and moved to a more palatial residence at Avenue du Trocadero, the property was then acquired and rebranded the Palais de Castille as the residence of the exiled Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1868, who seeked refuge and continued to live there until 1904. Upon her death, the property was later demolished in 1906 to make way for the Majestic hotel, which finally opened in 1908 with much satisfaction of Leonard Tauber, who has eyed the premise from the very beginning.

 

The Majestic Hotel was exquisitely designed in the Beaux-Art style as a grand hotel by prominent architect of that time, Armand Sibien. Together with The Ritz (circa 1898), the two became the most preferred places to stay and entertain in Paris of the time. The Majestic has attracted the well-heeled crowd, and hosted many high profile events, most notably for a particular dinner hosted by rich British couple Sydney and Violet Schiff on 18 May 1922 as the after party of Igor Stravinsky's 'Le Renard' ballet premiere, and the hotel becomes an instant legend. The guests list were impressive: Igor Stravinsky himself, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev, and two of the 20th century most legendary writers: James Joyce and Marcel Proust, who met for the first and only time before Proust's death six months later. Since then, the Majestic continued to draw high profile guests, including George Gershwin on 25 March 1928, where he composed "An American in Paris" during the stay.

 

If the walls could talk, the Majestic has plenty of stories to tell. It was once converted into a hospital during the infamy in 1914, and the British took residency at the hotel during the Paris Peace Conference back in 1919. The hotel was then acquired by the French State in 1936 as the offices of the Ministry of Defence; and later had a stint as the German Military High Command in France between October 1940 to July 1944 during the World War II. Post war, it then became the temporary home for UNESCO from 16 September 1946 until 1958. More than a decade after, the Paris Peace talks was opened by Henry Kissinger in one of its spectacular Ballrooms in 1969 with the Northern Vietnamese. Four years later, the Paris Peace Accord was finally signed at the oak paneled-room next to the Ballroom on 27 January 1973, which ended the Vietnam War. This triumphant event has also led to another victorious event when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.

 

The hotel continued to serve as the International Conference Center of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs until it was up for sale by the government in 2008 as part of the cost cutting program to the Qatari Diar, -which later transferred its ownership to Katara Hospitality, for a staggering USD 460 million. An excess of USD 600 million was further spent on the massive rebuilding and refurbishment not only to restore the hotel to its former glory, but also to transform it into a Peninsula with the highest standard.

 

The epic restoration work was led by prominent French architect, Richard Martinet, who has also previously work with the restoration of Prince Roland Bonaparte's former mansion into the Shangri-La Paris and also the Four Seasons George V; and involved teams of France's leading craftsmen; heritage designers and organisations; stonemasons from historic monument specialist; master glass crafters; crystal manufacturer; wood, moulding and gilder restoration experts, -many of whom are third generation, and have carried out high profile projects such as the Palace of Versailles, Louvre Museum, the dome of Les Invalides, the Grand and Petit Palais, and even the flame of the Statue of Liberty in New York. The result is truly breathtaking, and it was certainly money well spent to revive and recreate one of the nation's most treasured landmark. One of my favorite places within the hotel is the Main Lobby at Avenue des Portugais where the grand hall is adorned with a spectacular chandelier installation comprising 800 pieces of glass leaves inspired by the plane trees along Avenue Kleber. The work of Spain's most influential artist since Gaudi, Xavier Corbero, could also be found nearby in the form of a beautiful sculpture called Moon River.

 

Katara Hospitality owns 80% of The Peninsula Paris, and already has a spectacular portfolio ownership consisting some of the world's finest hotels, including The Raffles Singapore, Le Royal Monceau-Raffles Paris, Ritz-Carlton Doha, Schweizerhof Bern, and most recently, 5 of the InterContinental Hotel's European flagships, including Amstel in Amsterdam, Carlton in Cannes, De la Ville in Rome, Madrid and Frankfurt. It is interesting to note that Adrian Zecha, founder of the extraordinary Amanresorts chain is a member of the Board of Directors at Katara since September 2011, lending his immense hospitality expertise to the group.

 

At over USD 1 billion cost, the Pen Paris project is easily the most expensive to ever being built, considering it has only 200 rooms over 6 storeys. As a comparison, the cost of building the 101 storey, 494m high Shanghai World Financial Center (where the Park Hyatt Shanghai resides) is USD 1.2 billion; whereas Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building on earth at 163 storey and 828m, costed a 'modest' USD 1.5 billion to build. The numbers are truly mind boggling, and The Peninsula Paris is truly an extraordinary project. It might took the Majestic Hotel two years to build; but it took four years just to restore and reincarnate it into a Peninsula.

 

HOTEL OPENING

On a pleasant afternoon of 1 August 2014, the hotel finally opened its door to a crowd of distinguished guests, international journalists, first hotel guests and local crowds who partake to witness the inauguration and rebirth of a Parisian legend and grande dame (Many A-list celebrities and even Head of State flocked to the hotel to witness its sheer beauty). It was an historic day not just for Paris, but also for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group as it marks their arrival in Europe with its first ever Peninsula, while the second is already on the pipeline with the future opening of The Peninsula London, located just behind The Lanesborough at Knightsbridge.

 

The eagerly-awaited opening ceremony was attended by the Chairman of Katara Hospitality, His Excellency Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani; CEO of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (HSH), Clement Kwok; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius; General Manager of the Peninsula Paris, Nicolas Béliard; and the event kicked off with an opening speech by the famous French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, Madame Fleur Pellerin, who clearly stole the show with her public persona. A ribbon cutting and spectacular lion dance show concluded the event, which drew quite a spectacle on Avenue des Portugais as it brought a unique display of Asian heritage to the heart of cosmopolitan Paris.

 

LOCATION

The Peninsula Paris stands majestically at the tree-lined Avenue Kléber, just off the Arc de Triomphe. Personally, this is an ideal location in Paris as it is a stone's throw away from all the happenings at the Champs-Élysées, but is set away from its hustle and bustle, which is constantly a tourist trap day and night. Once you walk pass the leafy Avenue Kléber, the atmosphere is very different: peaceful and safe. The Kléber Metro station is just a few steps away from the hotel, providing guests a convenient access to further parts of town.

 

Champs-Élysées is the center of Parisian universe, and it is just a short and pleasant stroll away from the hotel, where some of the city's most legendary commercial and cultural institutions reside. For a start, Drugstore Publicis at the corner by the roundabout has been a legendary hang-out since the 1960s, and is my ultimate favourite place in town. The Post Modern edifice by architect Michele Saee (renovated in 2004) houses almost everything: a Cinema; side walk Brasserie & Steak House; Newsagency; Bookshop (you can find Travel publications and even the Michelin Guide); upscale Gift shop and Beauty corner (even Acqua di Parma is on sale here); Pharmacy (whose pharmacist thankfully speaks English and gladly advises you on your symptoms); upscale deli (stocking pretty much everything from Foie gras burger on the counter, to fine wines & cigar cellar; to Pierre Herme & Pierre Marcolini chocolates; Dalloyau bakery; Marriage Freres tea; and even the Petrossian Caviar!). Best of all, it features a 2 Michelin star L'atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile on its basement; and the store is even opened on Sunday until 2am. It is a one stop shopping, eating and entertainment, showcasing the best of France.

 

Further down the road, Maison Louis Vuitton stands majestically on its own entire 7 storey building, which was opened in 2005 as one of the biggest flagship stores in the world, covering a total area of 1,800m2. Designed by Eric Carlson and Peter Marino, the entire store is an architectural marvel and the temple of luxury, elegance and sophistication. This is one of the very few stores to open in Sunday as the French Labour Unions prohibits commercial stores to open on Sunday, unless if it involves cultural, recreational and sporting aspect. Initially, Maison LV was ordered by the court to close on Sunday, but LVMH finally wins an appeal in 2007 on the grounds of cultural experience; and the store has continued to draw endless queue on Sunday.

 

A block away from Maison LV is the legendary Parisian Tea Room of Ladurée, which was founded in 1862 by Louis Ernest Ladurée on its original store at 16 Rue Royal as a bakery. The Champs-Élysées store was opened in 1997 and has since attracted an endless queue of tourists and locals who wish to savour its legendary Macarons and pastries. The Ladurée phenomenon and popularity could only be rivaled by fellow Frenchmen Pierre Hermé, who has also attracted a cult of loyal fans worldwide. It may not have a flagship store at Champs-Élysées, but one could easily stop by Drugstore Publicis for a quick purchase to ease the craving.

 

For those looking for upscale boutiques, Avenue Montaigne located just nearby on a perpendicular, and features the flagship presence of the world's finest luxury fashion labels: Armani, Bottega Veneta, Valention, Prada, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo to name a few. For the ultimate in shopping extravaganza, head down to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré where all money will (hopefully) be well spent.

 

Champs-Élysées is the most famous and expensive boulevard in the world, yet it has everything for everyone; and myriad of crowds flocking its grand boulevards for a pleasant stroll. It has no shortage of luxury stores, but it also offers mainstream stores for the general public, from Levi's to Zara and Lacoste; to McDonalds and Starbucks; and FNAC store (French answer to HMV).

 

In terms of fine dining experience, the areas around Champs-Élysées has plenty to offer. I have mentioned about the 2 Michelin L'atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile at the Drugstore Publicis, which was excellent. Robuchon never disappoints as it consistently serves amazing French cuisine amidst its signature red and black interior everywhere I visited, including Tokyo (3 Michelin), Hong Kong (3 Michelin), Paris (2 Michelin) and Taipei.

 

During my stay, I also managed to sample the finest cuisine from the kitchens of two, 3-Michelin Paris institutions: Pierre Gagnaire at Rue Balzac, just off Champs-Élysées; and Epicure at Le Bristol by Chef Eric Frechon on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which was undoubtedly the best and most memorable dining experiences I have ever had in Paris to date. It is certainly the gastronomic highlight of this trip.

 

Other 3 Michelin establishment, such as Ledoyen is also located nearby at an 18th century pavilion by the Gardens of Champs-Élysées by newly appointed famous French Chef Yannick Alléno, who previously also resided at the Le Meurice with 3 Michelin, until Alain Ducasse took over last year during the Plaza Athénée closure for expansion.

 

August is a time of misery for international visitors to Paris as most fine dining restaurants are closed for the summer holiday. When choices are limited, foodies could rely on Epicure and Robuchon, which are opened all year round; and also the 2 Michelin star Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V. Although its food could not compete with Robuchon, Epicure and Gagnaire, guests could still enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

 

ROOMS:

On my visit to Paris last year, I was not too impressed with my stay at the Four Seasons George V, as everything seemed to be pretty basic: the room design; the in-room tech and amenities; and even the much lauded service. It simply does not justify the hefty price tag. The only thing stood out there were the ostentatious designer floral display at the lobby, which reportedly absorbed a six digit figure budget annually. When I saw them at the first time, this was what came to mind: guests are paying for these excessive flowers, whether you like it or not.

 

Fortunately, the Peninsula Paris skips all this expensive gimmick, and instead spends a fortune for guests to enjoy: advance room technology; a host of complimentary essential amenities, including internet access, non-alcoholic minibar, and even long distance phone calls. In fact, every single items inside the room has been well thought and designed for guest's ultimate comfort.

 

Ever since The Peninsula Bangkok opened in 1998 to much success, the group has used it as a template for its signature rooms for future sister hotels, which consists of an open plan, ultra-wide spacious room equivalent to a 2 bays suite, with 5-fixtures bathroom, and a separate Dressing Room, which soon becomes a Peninsula signature.

 

The Peninsula Tokyo followed this template when it opened in 2007 to rave reviews; and it was soon adopted as a model for Peninsula Shanghai, which later opened in 2009 as the flagship property in Mainland China. This layout is also being applied at The Peninsula Paris, albeit for its Suites categories, i.e. Junior Suite, which measure at an astonishing 50 - 60m2. The entry level Superior and Deluxe Rooms lack the signature layout with smaller size at 35 - 45m2, but they are already spacious for a Parisian standard; and each is equipped with Peninsula's signature technology.

 

Technology is indeed at the core of the Peninsula DNA, and no expense is spared in creating the world's most advance in-room technology. When other hotels try to cut costs and budgets on in-room technology with lame excuses, the Peninsula actually spends a fortune to innovate and set a new benchmark. In fact, it is probably the only hotel group to have its own Technology laboratory at a secret location deep inside Aberdeen, Hong Kong, where in-room tech is being developed and tested. It was here where innovative devices, such as the outside temperature indicator; my favourite Spa Button by the bathtub; or even the portable nail dryer for the ladies are invented. The Peninsula took the world by storm when it introduced the Samsung Galaxy tablet device at the Peninsula Hong Kong in 2012, which is programmed in 11 languages and virtually controls the entire room, including the lights, temperature, curtains, TV, radio, valet calls and Do Not Disturb sign. It even features touch screen Room Service Menu, hotel information, city guide, and a function to request room service and housekeeping items, thus creating an entirely paperless environment.

 

All these technological marvel are also being replicated at the Peninsula Paris, together with other 'standard' features, such as Nespresso Coffee Machine; flat-screen 3D LED television; LED touch screen wall panels; an iPod/iPad docking station; memory card reader; 4-in1 fax/scanner/printer/photocopier machine; DVD player; complimentary in-house HD movies; complimentary internet access and long distance calls through the VOIP platform. Even the room's exterior Parisian-styled canopy is electronically operated. All these technological offerings is so extremely complex, that it resulted in 2.5 km worth of cabling in each room alone.

 

Bathroom at the Junior Suite also features Peninsula's signature layout: a stand alone bathtub as the focal point, flanked by twin vanities and separate shower and WC compartments amidst acres of white marble. Probably the first in Paris, it features a Japanese Toilet complete with basic control panel, and a manual handheld bidet sprayer.

 

When all these add up to the stay, it actually brings a very good value to the otherwise high room rates. Better yet, the non-alcoholic Minibar is also complimentary, which is a first for a Peninsula hotel. The Four Seasons George V may choose to keep looking back to its antiquity past and annihilate most technological offerings to its most basic form, but the Pen always looks forward to the future and brings the utter convenience, all at your finger tip. The Peninsula rooms are undoubtedly the best designed, best equipped and most high-tech in the entire universe.

 

ROOM TO BOOK:

The 50 - 60m2 Junior Suite facing leafy Avenue Kléber is the best room type to book as it is an open-plan suite with Peninsula's signature bathroom and dressing room; and the ones located on the Premiere étage (first floor) have high ceilings and small balcony overlooking Kleber Terrace's iconic glass canopy. Personally, rooms facing the back street at Rue La Pérouse are the least preferred, but its top level rooms inside the Mansart Roof on level 5 have juliet windows that allow glimpse of the tip of Eiffel Tower despite being smaller in size due to its attic configuration. Superior Rooms also lack the signature Peninsula 5 fixtures bathroom configuration, so for the ultimate bathing experience, make sure to book at least from the Deluxe category.

 

If money is no object, book one of the five piece-de-resistance suites with their own private rooftop terrace and gardens on the top floor, which allow 360 degree panoramic views of Paris. Otherwise, the mid-tier Deluxe Suite is already a great choice with corner location, multiple windows and 85m2 of pure luxury.

 

DINING:

Looking back at the hotel's illustrious past, the Peninsula offers some of the most unique and memorable dining experiences in Paris, steep in history.

 

The area that once housed Igor Stravinksy's after party where James Joyce met Marcel Proust for the first time is now the hotel's Cantonese Restaurant, aptly called LiLi; and is led by Chef Chi Keung Tang, formerly of Peninsula Tokyo's One Michelin starred Hei Fung Terrace. Lili was actually modeled after Peninsula Shanghai's Yi Long Court, but the design here blends Chinese elements with Art Nouveau style that flourished in the late 1920s. It also boasts a world first: a spectacular 3x3.3m fiber optic installation at the entrance of the restaurant, depicting the imaginary portrait of LiLi herself. The Cantonese menu was surprisingly rather simple and basic, and features a selection of popular dim sum dishes. The best and most memorable Chinese restaurants I have ever experienced are actually those who masterfully fuse Chinese tradition with French ingredients: Jin Sha at the Four Seasons Hangzhou at Westlake; 2 Michelin Tin Lung Heen at Level 102 of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong; Jiang at Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou by Chef Fei; and Ya Ge at Mandarin Oriental Taipei. Ironically, the world's only 3 Michelin star Chinese restaurant, Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hong Kong failed to impress me.

 

The former Ballroom area where Henry Kissinger started the Paris Peace talks with the Vietnamese has now been transformed as The Lobby, which is a signature of every Peninsula hotels where the afternoon tea ritual takes place daily. The spectacular room with intricate details and crystal chandeliers has been meticulously restored, and is an ideal place to meet, see and be seen. Breakfast is served daily here, and guests could choose to have it either inside or outside at the adjoining al fresco La Terrasse Kléber, which connects all the F&B outlets on the ground floor, including Lili. Guests could choose from a Chinese set breakfast, which includes dim sum, fried vermicelli, and porridge with beef slices; or the Parisian set, which includes gourmet items such as Egg Benedict with generous slices of Jamon Iberico on top. The afternoon tea ritual is expected to be very popular as renowned Chef Pattissier Julien Alvarez, -who claimed the World Pastry Champion in 2009; and also the Spanish World Chocolate Master in 2007 at the tender age of 23, is at the helm; and the venue quickly booked out from the opening day.

 

Next to the Lobby is a small, intimate bar covered in exquisite oak panelling where Henry Kissinger signed the Paris Peace Accord back in 1973 that ended the Vietnam War. Kissinger politely declined the offer to have the Bar named after him, and instead it is simply called Le Bar Kléber.

 

On the top floor of the hotel lies the signature restaurant L'Oiseau Blanc, which is named after the French biplane that disappeared in 1927 in an attempt to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York. A 75% replica of the plane has even been installed outside the main entrance of the restaurant with the Eiffel Tower on its background. The restaurant is divided into 3 distinct areas: a spectacular glass enclosed main dining room; a large outdoor terrace that runs the entire length of the hotel's roof; and an adjoining lively bar, all with breathtaking uninterrupted views of Paris' most identifiable landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœur at the highest point of the city at Montmartre.

 

L'Oiseau Blanc is led by Chef Sidney Redel, a former protégé of Pierre Gagnaire, and serves contemporary French cuisine focussing on 'terroir' menu of locally sourced seasonal ingredients from the region. During my stay, tomato was the seasonal ingredients, and Chef Redel created four courses incorporating tomato, even on dessert. While the food was of high quality, personally the menu still needs fine tuning, considering the sort of clientele the Pen is aiming for: the ultra rich (Chinese), who usually seek top establishments with luxury ingredients, such as caviar, black truffle, foie gras, blue lobster, Jamon Iberico, Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork and Challans chicken.

 

LEISURE:

The Peninsula Paris features one of the best health and recreational facilities in the city, housed within the basement of the hotel, and covers an expansive area of 1,800m2. For a comparison, rival Mandarin Oriental Spa covers a total area of only 900m2 over two floors. The Peninsula Spa is undoubtedly one of the nicest urban spa that I have been to, it easily beats the Spa at the Four Seasons George V. The pool is also one of the city's largest at 22m long, -compared to both the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental at 15m; the George V at only 9m, which is more like a bigger jacuzzi. The only two other pools better than the Peninsula is the one designed by Phillippe Starck at the Le Royal Monceau at 28m; and the spectacular grand pool at the Ritz.

 

There is the usual 24 hours gym within two fitness spaces equipped with Technogym machines and free weights; and the locker rooms features steam, sauna, and experience shower room. There is a total of 8 treatment rooms within the Spa area, and the highlight is certainly the Relaxation Room, which is equipped with amazing day beds with specially placed deep cushions. The best part? the beds are electronically operated, much like a first class seat on a plane.

 

X-FACTOR:

The Peninsula signature technology; The Spa Button in the bathroom; VOIP technology for complimentary long distance calls; The top suites (Historic, Katara and Peninsula Suites); Xavier Corbero's Moon River sculpture at the Lobby; Lili; The Lobby and Bar where Henry Kissinger signed Paris Peace Accord; L'Oiseau Blanc Restaurant; The 1,800m2 Peninsula Spa; and the 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II.

 

SERVICE:

There are a total of 600 staffs for just 200 rooms, so the service level is expected to be high; but it is perhaps unfair to judge the service during the opening weeks when all staffs were not at their best due to the intense preparation leading to the opening event. Furthermore, teething problems are expected for a newly opened hotel as great hotels are not born overnight, but takes a good few years of refinement.

 

Nonetheless, I was actually quite impressed with the level of service during the whole stay, as the majority of the staffs showed great attitude and much enthusiasm, which is a testament of great intense training. As one of the first guests arriving on the opening day, check-in was truly delightful and memorable as a battalion of staffs of different ranks welcomed and wished the most pleasant stay. The mood could not have been more festive as moments later, the hotel was finally inaugurated.

 

I was also particularly impressed with the service at both LiLi and The Lobby where staffs performed at an exceptional level like a veteran. There are two distinct qualities that made a lot of difference during the stay: humility and friendliness, which is quite a challenge to find, not only in Paris and the entire Europe, but even in Asian cities, such as Hong Kong. It is like finding needles in a haystack. A genuine smile seems to be a rare commodity these days, so I was happy to see plenty of smiles at the Peninsula Paris during the stay, from the signature Peninsula Pageboys to waiters, Maître d, receptionists and even to Managers and Directors. In fact, there were more smiles in Paris than Hong Kong.

 

When I woken up too early for breakfast one day, the restaurant was just about to open; and there were hardly anyone. I realized that even the birds were probably still asleep, but I was extremely delighted to see how fresh looking and energetic the staffs were at the dining room. There was a lot of genuine smile that warmed the rather chilly morning; and it was a great start to the day. One of the staffs I met during the stay even candidly explained how they were happy just to be at work, and it does not feel like working at all, which was clearly shown in their passion and enthusiasm.

 

That said, the Shangri-La Paris by far is still my top pick for best service as it is more personalized and refined due to its more intimate scale. The Shangri-La Paris experience is also unique as guests are welcomed to a sit down registration by the historic lounge off the Lobby upon arrival, and choice of drinks are offered, before being escorted to the room for in-room check-in. Guests also receive a Pre-Arrival Form in advance, so the hotel could anticipate and best accommodate their needs. During the stay, I was also addressed by my last name everywhere within the hotel, so it was highly personalized. I did receive similar treatment at The Peninsula Paris, -albeit in a lesser extent due to its size; and even the housekeeping greeted me by my last name. Every requests, from room service to mineral water were all handled efficiently at a timely manner. At times, service could be rather slow at the restaurants (well, it happens almost everywhere in Paris), but this is part of the Parisian lifestyle where nothing is hurried; and bringing bills/checks upfront is considered rude. I did request the food servings to be expedited during a lunch at LiLi on the last day due to the time constraint; and the staffs managed to succeed the task not only ahead of the time limit, but also it never felt hurried all along. Everything ran as smooth as silk.

 

VERDICT:

It was a personal satisfaction to witness the history in the making during the opening day on 1 August 2014, as the Peninsula Paris is my most eagerly awaited hotel opening of the decade. It was also historic, as it was a first in my travel to dedicate a trip solely for a particular hotel in a particular city (in this case Paris, some 11,578km away from home), without staying at other fine hotels. It was money well spent, and a trip worth taking as it was an amazing stay; and certainly a lifetime experience.

 

The Peninsula Paris could not have arrived at a better time, as two of the most established Parisian grande dames (Ritz and de Crillon) are still closed for a complete renovation, and will only be revealed in 2015; so there is plenty of time to adapt, grow and hone its skills. But with such pedigree, quality and illustrious history, the Pen really has nothing to be worried about. The Four Seasons George V seems to have a cult of highly obsessed fans (esp. travel agents) worldwide, but personally (and objectively), it is no match to the Peninsula. Based on physical product alone, the Pen wins in every aspect as everything has been meticulously designed with the focus on guest comfort and convenience. In terms of technology, the Pen literally has no rival anywhere on the planet, except from the obvious sibling rivalry.

 

The only thing that the Pen still needs to work on is its signature restaurants as all its rival hotels have at least 2 Michelin star restaurants (L'abeille at the Shangri-La; Sur Mesure at the Mandarin Oriental; and 3 Michelin at Epicure, Le Bristol; Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V and Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice). L'Oiseau Blanc design is truly breathtaking and would certainly be the most popular gastronomic destination in Paris, but at the moment, the food still needs some works.

 

There were the expected teething problems and some inconsistencies with the service; but with years of refinement, The Peninsula Paris will no doubt ascend the throne. Personally, the Shangri-La Paris is currently the real competitor, together with the upcoming Ritz and de Crillon when they open next year, especially when Rosewood has taken over Crillon management and Karl Lagerfeld is working on its top suites. The two, however, may still need to revisit the drawing boards and put more effort on the guestrooms if they ever want to compete; because at the moment, The Peninsula Paris is simply unrivaled.

 

UPDATE 2016:

*I have always been very spot-on with my predictions. After only two years since its opening, The Peninsula Paris has been awarded the much coveted Palace status. In fact, it is the only hotel in Paris to receive such distinction in 2016. Congratulations, it is very much deserving*

 

PERSONAL RATING:

1. Room: 100

2. Bathroom: 100

3. Bed: 100

4. Service: 90

5. In-room Tech: 100

6. In-room Amenities: 100

7. Architecture & Design: 100

8. Food: 80

9. View: 80

10. Pool: 95

11. Wellness: 95

12. Location: 95

13. Value: 100

 

Overall: 95.00

 

Compare with other Parisian hotels (all with Palace status) that I have stayed previously:

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, PARIS: 95.00

PARK HYATT PARIS-VENDOME: 90.00

FOUR SEASONS GEORGE V: 85.38

 

My #1 ALL TIME FAVORITE HOTEL

LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG: 95.38

 

THE PENINSULA, PARIS

19, Avenue Kléber, Paris

Awarded Palace Status in 2016

 

General Manager: Nicolas Béliard

Hotel Manager: Vincent Pimont

Executive Chef: Jean-Edern Hurstel

Head Chef (Lili): Chi Keung Tang

Head Chef (L'oiseau Blanc): Sidney Redel

Head Chef (The Lobby): Laurent Poitevin

Chef Patissier: Julien Alvarez

 

Architect (original Majestic Hotel, circa 1908): Armand Sibien

Architect (renovation & restoration, 2010-2014): Richard Martinet

Interior Designer: Henry Leung of Chhada Siembieda & Associates

Landscape Designer: D. Paysage

 

Art Curator: Sabrina Fung

Art Restorer: Cinzia Pasquali

Artist (Courtyard installation): Ben Jakober & Yannick Vu

Crystal work: Baccarat

Designer (Lili fiber optic installation): Clementine Chambon & Francoise Mamert

Designer (Chinaware): Catherine Bergen

Gilder Specialist & Restorer: Ateliers Gohard

Glass Crafter (Lobby Installation): Lasvit Glass Studio

Master Glass Crafters: Duchemin

Master Sculptor (Lobby): Xavier Corbero

Metalwork: Remy Garnier

Plaster & Moulding Expert: Stuc et Staff

Silverware: Christofle

Silk & Trimmings: Declercq Passementiers

Wood Restoration Expert: Atelier Fancelli

  

Hotel Opening Date: 01 August 2014

Notable owners: Katara Hospitality; Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group (HSH)

Total Rooms & Suites: 200 (including 35m2 Superior, 45m2 Deluxe, 50m2 Grand Deluxe, 55m2 Premier and 60m2 Grand Premier Rooms)

Total Suites: 34 Suites (including 70m2 Superior, 85m2 Deluxe and 100m2 Premier

Top Suites: Historic Suite, Katara Suite, and The Peninsula Suite

Bathroom Amenities: Oscar de la Renta

 

Restaurants: The Lobby (All day dining & Afternoon tea), LiLi (Cantonese), L'Oiseau Blanc (French), La Terrasse Kléber

Bars and Lounges: Le Bar Kléber; Kléber Lounge; Cigar Lounge; and L'Oiseau Blanc Bar

Meeting & Banquets: Salon de l'Étoile for up to 100 guests, and 3 smaller Function Rooms

Health & Leisure: 24 hours gym & 1,800m2 Peninsula Spa with 22m indoor swimming pool and jacuzzis; Steam & Sauna, Relaxation Room, and 8 treatment rooms

Transport: chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Extended Wheel Base Phantom; a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II; 2 MINI Cooper S Clubman; and a fleet of 10 BMW 7 Series

 

Complimentary facilities: Non-alcoholic Minibar; Wired and Wireless Internet; VOIP long distance calls; HD Movies; Daily fruit Basket; International Newspaper; Chauffeured MINI Cooper S Clubman for Suites guests; and Chauffeured Rolls Royce for top Suites

 

paris.peninsula.com

HSC Benchijigua Express

is a fast ferry, operated by shipping company Fred Olsen S.A.

between the Canary Islands, Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma in the Atlantic.

It was delivered to Olsen in April 2005.

 

At 127 metres ( 417 ft ) long, the Benchijigua Express is the second-longest trimaran in the world, less than a metre shy of the Independence class littoral combat ship, which was based on Benchijigua Express's design. Her body is made of aluminum and with a special offshore coating; and is the second-largest vessel with an aluminum hull. The ship's name was previously used twice since 1999.

 

Design and construction

The Benchijigua Express was built in Henderson, Western Australia by Austal. The vessel is

126.65 metres ( 415.5 ft ) long, 30.4 metres ( 100 ft ) wide, and with a draught of 4 metres ( 13 ft ).

She can reach speeds of 42 knots ( 78 km/h; 48 mph ),

although her normal service speed is 36 knots ( 67 km/h; 41 mph ).

 

The vessel is powered by four diesel engines of MTU Series 8000 ( 20 valves ),

each with 8,200 kW at 1,150 rpm driven, housed in two engine rooms.

 

Each of the two diesels in the rear engine-room

drive one Kamewa 125 SII steerable waterjet propulsion from Rolls-Royce.

 

The overall performance of both machines at the front engine room

is transferred to a Kamewa 180 BII booster waterjet.

 

The electrical energy is generated by four MTU 12V 2000 M40 generator units.

 

Up to 1,291 passengers are distributed on two decks. Due to the short crossing time, there are no passenger cabins. For vehicle transport there are 123 car spaces and 450 metres ( 1,480 ft ) of truck lane; the latter can be converted into an additional 218 car spaces.

 

The vehicle deck can be loaded and unloaded in 30 minutes over tree lines ! ! !.

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSC_Benchijigua_Express

 

www.ship-technology.com/projects/benchijigua/specs.html

 

______________________________________________________________________

  

Independence class littoral combat ship

The Independence class is a class of littoral combat ships built for the United States Navy.

 

Based on the high-speed trimaran Benchijigua Express, the Independence class was proposed by General Dynamics and Austal as a contender for USN plans to build a fleet of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone. Two ships were approved, to compete with Lockheed Martin's Freedom class design for a construction contract of up to 55 vessels.

 

As of 2010, the lead ship is active, while a second ship is under construction. Despite initial plans to only accept one our of the Independence and Freedom classes, the USN has requested that Congress order ten ships of each class.

 

Planning and construction

Planning for a class of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone began in the early 2000s. In July 2003, a proposal by General Dynamics ( partnering with Austal USA, the American subsidiary of Australian shipbuilder Austal ) was approved by the USN, with a contract for two vessels. These would then be compared to two ships built by Lockheed Martin to determine which design would be taken up by the Navy for a production run of up to 55 ships.

 

The first ship, USS Independence was laid down at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, on 19 January 2006. The planned second ship was cancelled in November 2007, but reordered in May 2009, and laid down in December of that year as USS Coronado, shortly before Independence was launched.

 

The development and construction of Independence as of June 2009 was running at 220% over-budget. The total projected cost for the ship is $704 million. The Navy had originally projected the cost at $220 million. Independence began builder's trials in July 2009, three days behind schedule because of maintenance issues. A leak in the port gas turbine saw the order of trials altered, but builder's and acceptance trials were completed by November. and although her first INSURV inspection revealed 2,080 deficiencies, these were rectified in time for the ship to be handed over to the USN in mid-December, and commissioned in mid-January 2010.

 

After much inconsistency on how testing and orders were to proceed, in November 2010, the USN asked that Congress approve ten of both the Independence and Freedom classes

 

Design

The Independence class design is based on Austal's commercial high-speed trimaran Benchijigua Express. The ships are 127.4 m ( 418 ft ) long, with a beam of 31.6 m ( 104 ft ), and a draft of 13 ft ( 3.96 m ). Their displacement is rated at 2,176 tons light, 2,784 tons full, and 608 tons deadweight.

 

The standard ship's company is 40-strong, although this can increase depending on the ship's role with mission-specifc personnel. The habitability area is located under the bridge where bunks for ships personnel are situated. The helm is controlled by joysticks instead of traditional steering wheels.

 

Although the trimaran hull increases the total surface area, it is still able to reach sustainable speeds of about 50 knots ( 93 km/h; 58 mph ), with a range of 10,000 nautical miles ( 19,000 km; 12,000 mi ).

Austal claims that the design will use a third less fuel than the competing Freedom-class, but the Congressional Budget Office found that fuel would account for 18 percent or less of the total lifetime cost of Freedom.

 

Modular mission capability

The Independence class carries a default armament for self-defense, and command and control. However unlike traditional fighting ships with fixed armament such as guns and missiles, tailored mission modules can be configured for one mission package at a time. Modules may consist of manned aircraft, unmanned vehicles, off-board sensors, or mission-manning detachments.

 

The interior volume and payload is greater than some destroyers and is sufficient to serve as a high-speed transport and maneuver platform. The mission bay is 15,200 square feet ( 1,410 m2 ), and takes up most of the deck below the hangar and flight deck. With 11,000 cubic metres ( 390,000 cu ft ) of payload volume, it was designed with enough payload and volume to carry out one mission with a separate mission module in reserve, allowing the ship to do multiple missions without having to be refitted.

 

In addition to cargo or container-sized mission modules, the bay can carry four lanes of multiple Strykers, armored Humvees, and their associated troops. An elevator allows air transport of packages the size of a 20-foot-long ( 6.1 m ) shipping container that can be moved into the mission bay while at sea. A side access ramp allows for vehicle roll-on/roll-off loading to a dock and allows the ship to transport the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

 

Armament and sensors

The Raytheon Evolved SeaRAM missile defense system is installed on the hangar roof. The SeaRAM combines the sensors of the Phalanx 1B close-in weapon system with an 11-missile launcher for the Rolling Airframe Missile ( RAM ), creating an autonomous system.

 

The Independence class ships also has an integrated LOS Mast, Sea Giraffe 3D Radar and SeaStar Safire FLIR. Northrop Grumman has demonstrated sensor fusion of on and off-board systems in the Integrated Combat Management System ( ICMS ) used on the LCS. Side and forward surfaces are angled for reduced radar profile. In addition, H-60 series helicopters provide airlift, rescue, anti-submarine, radar picket and anti-ship capabilities with torpedoes and missiles.

 

The flight deck, 1,030 m2 ( 11,100 sq ft ), can support the operation of two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, or one CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter.

The trimaran hull will allow flight operations up to sea state 5.

 

The vessels have an Interior Communications Center that can be curtained off from the rest of bridge instead of the heavily protected Combat Information Center found on Navy warships.

 

Derivative designs

Austal has proposed a much smaller and slower trimaran, called the 'Multi-Role Vessel' or 'Multi-Role Corvette'. Though it is only half the size of their LCS design, it would still be useful for border protection and counter piracy operations. Navy leaders said that the fixed price competition offered the Austal design an equal shot, in spite of its excess size and cost and limited service.

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_class_littoral_combat_...

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© yohanes.budiyanto, 2014

 

PRELUDE

The 1st of August, 2014 was such an historic day as the world finally welcomed the birth of the first in line to the Parisian throne after a painstaking and extraordinary "labor" process that took four years in creation, and almost a decade in the making. I was not talking about a French rival to baby George, but instead a newborn that has sent shivers down the spines of Paris' oldest and current Kings and Grand Dames from the day it was conceived. Yes, I was referring to The Peninsula Paris, the youngest sister to the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong (circa 1928).

 

Ever since the project was announced to the public four years ago, it has been on my top list of the most eagerly awaited hotel openings of the decade. So when the hotel announced 1st of August as an opening date back in March, I immediately issued my First Class return tickets to the City of Light, risking the usual opening delay. A man of his word, Peninsula Paris finally opened as scheduled.

 

HISTORY

The Peninsula brand needs no introduction, as it is synonymous with quality, technology, innovation, craftsmanship and sophistication, -much like a slogan for French top brands and their savoir faire. Despite having only 10 current properties worldwide in its portfolio (Paris is its tenth), each Peninsula hotel is a market leader in each respective cities, and consistently tops the chart in many bonafide travel publications and reigns supreme as the world's best, especially elder sisters in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The Peninsula model is different from other rival hotel groups, which usually expand aggressively through both franchise and managed models worldwide. Instead, the Peninsula focuses on acquiring majority to sole ownership on all its properties to ensure control on quality (Hong Kong, New York, Chicago and Tokyo are 100% owned; Bangkok, Beijing and Manila are over 75%; Shanghai is 50%, while Beverly Hills and Paris are the only two with only 20% ownership).

 

The history of the Peninsula Paris could be traced back to a modest villa aptly called Hotel Basilevski on the plot of land at 19 Avenue Kleber back in 1864, -named after its Russian diplomat owner, Alexander Petrovich Basilevski, which caught the attention of hotelier Leonard Tauber for his prospective hotel project. The Versailles-styled property was partly a museum housing Basilevski's vast and impressive collection of 19th century medieval and Renaissance art, which eventually was acquired by Alexander III, -a Russian Tsar, at the sums of six millions francs. These collections were later transported to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and formed the base collection for the newly established Department of Medieval and Renaissance Art. After Basilevski sold the villa and moved to a more palatial residence at Avenue du Trocadero, the property was then acquired and rebranded the Palais de Castille as the residence of the exiled Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1868, who seeked refuge and continued to live there until 1904. Upon her death, the property was later demolished in 1906 to make way for the Majestic hotel, which finally opened in 1908 with much satisfaction of Leonard Tauber, who has eyed the premise from the very beginning.

 

The Majestic Hotel was exquisitely designed in the Beaux-Art style as a grand hotel by prominent architect of that time, Armand Sibien. Together with The Ritz (circa 1898), the two became the most preferred places to stay and entertain in Paris of the time. The Majestic has attracted the well-heeled crowd, and hosted many high profile events, most notably for a particular dinner hosted by rich British couple Sydney and Violet Schiff on 18 May 1922 as the after party of Igor Stravinsky's 'Le Renard' ballet premiere, and the hotel becomes an instant legend. The guests list were impressive: Igor Stravinsky himself, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev, and two of the 20th century most legendary writers: James Joyce and Marcel Proust, who met for the first and only time before Proust's death six months later. Since then, the Majestic continued to draw high profile guests, including George Gershwin on 25 March 1928, where he composed "An American in Paris" during the stay.

 

If the walls could talk, the Majestic has plenty of stories to tell. It was once converted into a hospital during the infamy in 1914, and the British took residency at the hotel during the Paris Peace Conference back in 1919. The hotel was then acquired by the French State in 1936 as the offices of the Ministry of Defence; and later had a stint as the German Military High Command in France between October 1940 to July 1944 during the World War II. Post war, it then became the temporary home for UNESCO from 16 September 1946 until 1958. More than a decade after, the Paris Peace talks was opened by Henry Kissinger in one of its spectacular Ballrooms in 1969 with the Northern Vietnamese. Four years later, the Paris Peace Accord was finally signed at the oak paneled-room next to the Ballroom on 27 January 1973, which ended the Vietnam War. This triumphant event has also led to another victorious event when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.

 

The hotel continued to serve as the International Conference Center of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs until it was up for sale by the government in 2008 as part of the cost cutting program to the Qatari Diar, -which later transferred its ownership to Katara Hospitality, for a staggering USD 460 million. An excess of USD 600 million was further spent on the massive rebuilding and refurbishment not only to restore the hotel to its former glory, but also to transform it into a Peninsula with the highest standard.

 

The epic restoration work was led by prominent French architect, Richard Martinet, who has also previously work with the restoration of Prince Roland Bonaparte's former mansion into the Shangri-La Paris and also the Four Seasons George V; and involved teams of France's leading craftsmen; heritage designers and organisations; stonemasons from historic monument specialist; master glass crafters; crystal manufacturer; wood, moulding and gilder restoration experts, -many of whom are third generation, and have carried out high profile projects such as the Palace of Versailles, Louvre Museum, the dome of Les Invalides, the Grand and Petit Palais, and even the flame of the Statue of Liberty in New York. The result is truly breathtaking, and it was certainly money well spent to revive and recreate one of the nation's most treasured landmark. One of my favorite places within the hotel is the Main Lobby at Avenue des Portugais where the grand hall is adorned with a spectacular chandelier installation comprising 800 pieces of glass leaves inspired by the plane trees along Avenue Kleber. The work of Spain's most influential artist since Gaudi, Xavier Corbero, could also be found nearby in the form of a beautiful sculpture called Moon River.

 

Katara Hospitality owns 80% of The Peninsula Paris, and already has a spectacular portfolio ownership consisting some of the world's finest hotels, including The Raffles Singapore, Le Royal Monceau-Raffles Paris, Ritz-Carlton Doha, Schweizerhof Bern, and most recently, 5 of the InterContinental Hotel's European flagships, including Amstel in Amsterdam, Carlton in Cannes, De la Ville in Rome, Madrid and Frankfurt. It is interesting to note that Adrian Zecha, founder of the extraordinary Amanresorts chain is a member of the Board of Directors at Katara since September 2011, lending his immense hospitality expertise to the group.

 

At over USD 1 billion cost, the Pen Paris project is easily the most expensive to ever being built, considering it has only 200 rooms over 6 storeys. As a comparison, the cost of building the 101 storey, 494m high Shanghai World Financial Center (where the Park Hyatt Shanghai resides) is USD 1.2 billion; whereas Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building on earth at 163 storey and 828m, costed a 'modest' USD 1.5 billion to build. The numbers are truly mind boggling, and The Peninsula Paris is truly an extraordinary project. It might took the Majestic Hotel two years to build; but it took four years just to restore and reincarnate it into a Peninsula.

 

HOTEL OPENING

On a pleasant afternoon of 1 August 2014, the hotel finally opened its door to a crowd of distinguished guests, international journalists, first hotel guests and local crowds who partake to witness the inauguration and rebirth of a Parisian legend and grande dame (Many A-list celebrities and even Head of State flocked to the hotel to witness its sheer beauty). It was an historic day not just for Paris, but also for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group as it marks their arrival in Europe with its first ever Peninsula, while the second is already on the pipeline with the future opening of The Peninsula London, located just behind The Lanesborough at Knightsbridge.

 

The eagerly-awaited opening ceremony was attended by the Chairman of Katara Hospitality, His Excellency Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani; CEO of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (HSH), Clement Kwok; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius; General Manager of the Peninsula Paris, Nicolas Béliard; and the event kicked off with an opening speech by the famous French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, Madame Fleur Pellerin, who clearly stole the show with her public persona. A ribbon cutting and spectacular lion dance show concluded the event, which drew quite a spectacle on Avenue des Portugais as it brought a unique display of Asian heritage to the heart of cosmopolitan Paris.

 

LOCATION

The Peninsula Paris stands majestically at the tree-lined Avenue Kléber, just off the Arc de Triomphe. Personally, this is an ideal location in Paris as it is a stone's throw away from all the happenings at the Champs-Élysées, but is set away from its hustle and bustle, which is constantly a tourist trap day and night. Once you walk pass the leafy Avenue Kléber, the atmosphere is very different: peaceful and safe. The Kléber Metro station is just a few steps away from the hotel, providing guests a convenient access to further parts of town.

 

Champs-Élysées is the center of Parisian universe, and it is just a short and pleasant stroll away from the hotel, where some of the city's most legendary commercial and cultural institutions reside. For a start, Drugstore Publicis at the corner by the roundabout has been a legendary hang-out since the 1960s, and is my ultimate favourite place in town. The Post Modern edifice by architect Michele Saee (renovated in 2004) houses almost everything: a Cinema; side walk Brasserie & Steak House; Newsagency; Bookshop (you can find Travel publications and even the Michelin Guide); upscale Gift shop and Beauty corner (even Acqua di Parma is on sale here); Pharmacy (whose pharmacist thankfully speaks English and gladly advises you on your symptoms); upscale deli (stocking pretty much everything from Foie gras burger on the counter, to fine wines & cigar cellar; to Pierre Herme & Pierre Marcolini chocolates; Dalloyau bakery; Marriage Freres tea; and even the Petrossian Caviar!). Best of all, it features a 2 Michelin star L'atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile on its basement; and the store is even opened on Sunday until 2am. It is a one stop shopping, eating and entertainment, showcasing the best of France.

 

Further down the road, Maison Louis Vuitton stands majestically on its own entire 7 storey building, which was opened in 2005 as one of the biggest flagship stores in the world, covering a total area of 1,800m2. Designed by Eric Carlson and Peter Marino, the entire store is an architectural marvel and the temple of luxury, elegance and sophistication. This is one of the very few stores to open in Sunday as the French Labour Unions prohibits commercial stores to open on Sunday, unless if it involves cultural, recreational and sporting aspect. Initially, Maison LV was ordered by the court to close on Sunday, but LVMH finally wins an appeal in 2007 on the grounds of cultural experience; and the store has continued to draw endless queue on Sunday.

 

A block away from Maison LV is the legendary Parisian Tea Room of Ladurée, which was founded in 1862 by Louis Ernest Ladurée on its original store at 16 Rue Royal as a bakery. The Champs-Élysées store was opened in 1997 and has since attracted an endless queue of tourists and locals who wish to savour its legendary Macarons and pastries. The Ladurée phenomenon and popularity could only be rivaled by fellow Frenchmen Pierre Hermé, who has also attracted a cult of loyal fans worldwide. It may not have a flagship store at Champs-Élysées, but one could easily stop by Drugstore Publicis for a quick purchase to ease the craving.

 

For those looking for upscale boutiques, Avenue Montaigne located just nearby on a perpendicular, and features the flagship presence of the world's finest luxury fashion labels: Armani, Bottega Veneta, Valention, Prada, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo to name a few. For the ultimate in shopping extravaganza, head down to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré where all money will (hopefully) be well spent.

 

Champs-Élysées is the most famous and expensive boulevard in the world, yet it has everything for everyone; and myriad of crowds flocking its grand boulevards for a pleasant stroll. It has no shortage of luxury stores, but it also offers mainstream stores for the general public, from Levi's to Zara and Lacoste; to McDonalds and Starbucks; and FNAC store (French answer to HMV).

 

In terms of fine dining experience, the areas around Champs-Élysées has plenty to offer. I have mentioned about the 2 Michelin L'atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile at the Drugstore Publicis, which was excellent. Robuchon never disappoints as it consistently serves amazing French cuisine amidst its signature red and black interior everywhere I visited, including Tokyo (3 Michelin), Hong Kong (3 Michelin), Paris (2 Michelin) and Taipei.

 

During my stay, I also managed to sample the finest cuisine from the kitchens of two, 3-Michelin Paris institutions: Pierre Gagnaire at Rue Balzac, just off Champs-Élysées; and Epicure at Le Bristol by Chef Eric Frechon on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which was undoubtedly the best and most memorable dining experiences I have ever had in Paris to date. It is certainly the gastronomic highlight of this trip.

 

Other 3 Michelin establishment, such as Ledoyen is also located nearby at an 18th century pavilion by the Gardens of Champs-Élysées by newly appointed famous French Chef Yannick Alléno, who previously also resided at the Le Meurice with 3 Michelin, until Alain Ducasse took over last year during the Plaza Athénée closure for expansion.

 

August is a time of misery for international visitors to Paris as most fine dining restaurants are closed for the summer holiday. When choices are limited, foodies could rely on Epicure and Robuchon, which are opened all year round; and also the 2 Michelin star Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V. Although its food could not compete with Robuchon, Epicure and Gagnaire, guests could still enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

 

ROOMS:

On my visit to Paris last year, I was not too impressed with my stay at the Four Seasons George V, as everything seemed to be pretty basic: the room design; the in-room tech and amenities; and even the much lauded service. It simply does not justify the hefty price tag. The only thing stood out there were the ostentatious designer floral display at the lobby, which reportedly absorbed a six digit figure budget annually. When I saw them at the first time, this was what came to mind: guests are paying for these excessive flowers, whether you like it or not.

 

Fortunately, the Peninsula Paris skips all this expensive gimmick, and instead spends a fortune for guests to enjoy: advance room technology; a host of complimentary essential amenities, including internet access, non-alcoholic minibar, and even long distance phone calls. In fact, every single items inside the room has been well thought and designed for guest's ultimate comfort.

 

Ever since The Peninsula Bangkok opened in 1998 to much success, the group has used it as a template for its signature rooms for future sister hotels, which consists of an open plan, ultra-wide spacious room equivalent to a 2 bays suite, with 5-fixtures bathroom, and a separate Dressing Room, which soon becomes a Peninsula signature.

 

The Peninsula Tokyo followed this template when it opened in 2007 to rave reviews; and it was soon adopted as a model for Peninsula Shanghai, which later opened in 2009 as the flagship property in Mainland China. This layout is also being applied at The Peninsula Paris, albeit for its Suites categories, i.e. Junior Suite, which measure at an astonishing 50 - 60m2. The entry level Superior and Deluxe Rooms lack the signature layout with smaller size at 35 - 45m2, but they are already spacious for a Parisian standard; and each is equipped with Peninsula's signature technology.

 

Technology is indeed at the core of the Peninsula DNA, and no expense is spared in creating the world's most advance in-room technology. When other hotels try to cut costs and budgets on in-room technology with lame excuses, the Peninsula actually spends a fortune to innovate and set a new benchmark. In fact, it is probably the only hotel group to have its own Technology laboratory at a secret location deep inside Aberdeen, Hong Kong, where in-room tech is being developed and tested. It was here where innovative devices, such as the outside temperature indicator; my favourite Spa Button by the bathtub; or even the portable nail dryer for the ladies are invented. The Peninsula took the world by storm when it introduced the Samsung Galaxy tablet device at the Peninsula Hong Kong in 2012, which is programmed in 11 languages and virtually controls the entire room, including the lights, temperature, curtains, TV, radio, valet calls and Do Not Disturb sign. It even features touch screen Room Service Menu, hotel information, city guide, and a function to request room service and housekeeping items, thus creating an entirely paperless environment.

 

All these technological marvel are also being replicated at the Peninsula Paris, together with other 'standard' features, such as Nespresso Coffee Machine; flat-screen 3D LED television; LED touch screen wall panels; an iPod/iPad docking station; memory card reader; 4-in1 fax/scanner/printer/photocopier machine; DVD player; complimentary in-house HD movies; complimentary internet access and long distance calls through the VOIP platform. Even the room's exterior Parisian-styled canopy is electronically operated. All these technological offerings is so extremely complex, that it resulted in 2.5 km worth of cabling in each room alone.

 

Bathroom at the Junior Suite also features Peninsula's signature layout: a stand alone bathtub as the focal point, flanked by twin vanities and separate shower and WC compartments amidst acres of white marble. Probably the first in Paris, it features a Japanese Toilet complete with basic control panel, and a manual handheld bidet sprayer.

 

When all these add up to the stay, it actually brings a very good value to the otherwise high room rates. Better yet, the non-alcoholic Minibar is also complimentary, which is a first for a Peninsula hotel. The Four Seasons George V may choose to keep looking back to its antiquity past and annihilate most technological offerings to its most basic form, but the Pen always looks forward to the future and brings the utter convenience, all at your finger tip. The Peninsula rooms are undoubtedly the best designed, best equipped and most high-tech in the entire universe.

 

ROOM TO BOOK:

The 50 - 60m2 Junior Suite facing leafy Avenue Kléber is the best room type to book as it is an open-plan suite with Peninsula's signature bathroom and dressing room; and the ones located on the Premiere étage (first floor) have high ceilings and small balcony overlooking Kleber Terrace's iconic glass canopy. Personally, rooms facing the back street at Rue La Pérouse are the least preferred, but its top level rooms inside the Mansart Roof on level 5 have juliet windows that allow glimpse of the tip of Eiffel Tower despite being smaller in size due to its attic configuration. Superior Rooms also lack the signature Peninsula 5 fixtures bathroom configuration, so for the ultimate bathing experience, make sure to book at least from the Deluxe category.

 

If money is no object, book one of the five piece-de-resistance suites with their own private rooftop terrace and gardens on the top floor, which allow 360 degree panoramic views of Paris. Otherwise, the mid-tier Deluxe Suite is already a great choice with corner location, multiple windows and 85m2 of pure luxury.

 

DINING:

Looking back at the hotel's illustrious past, the Peninsula offers some of the most unique and memorable dining experiences in Paris, steep in history.

 

The area that once housed Igor Stravinksy's after party where James Joyce met Marcel Proust for the first time is now the hotel's Cantonese Restaurant, aptly called LiLi; and is led by Chef Chi Keung Tang, formerly of Peninsula Tokyo's One Michelin starred Hei Fung Terrace. Lili was actually modeled after Peninsula Shanghai's Yi Long Court, but the design here blends Chinese elements with Art Nouveau style that flourished in the late 1920s. It also boasts a world first: a spectacular 3x3.3m fiber optic installation at the entrance of the restaurant, depicting the imaginary portrait of LiLi herself. The Cantonese menu was surprisingly rather simple and basic, and features a selection of popular dim sum dishes. The best and most memorable Chinese restaurants I have ever experienced are actually those who masterfully fuse Chinese tradition with French ingredients: Jin Sha at the Four Seasons Hangzhou at Westlake; 2 Michelin Tin Lung Heen at Level 102 of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong; Jiang at Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou by Chef Fei; and Ya Ge at Mandarin Oriental Taipei. Ironically, the world's only 3 Michelin star Chinese restaurant, Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hong Kong failed to impress me.

 

The former Ballroom area where Henry Kissinger started the Paris Peace talks with the Vietnamese has now been transformed as The Lobby, which is a signature of every Peninsula hotels where the afternoon tea ritual takes place daily. The spectacular room with intricate details and crystal chandeliers has been meticulously restored, and is an ideal place to meet, see and be seen. Breakfast is served daily here, and guests could choose to have it either inside or outside at the adjoining al fresco La Terrasse Kléber, which connects all the F&B outlets on the ground floor, including Lili. Guests could choose from a Chinese set breakfast, which includes dim sum, fried vermicelli, and porridge with beef slices; or the Parisian set, which includes gourmet items such as Egg Benedict with generous slices of Jamon Iberico on top. The afternoon tea ritual is expected to be very popular as renowned Chef Pattissier Julien Alvarez, -who claimed the World Pastry Champion in 2009; and also the Spanish World Chocolate Master in 2007 at the tender age of 23, is at the helm; and the venue quickly booked out from the opening day.

 

Next to the Lobby is a small, intimate bar covered in exquisite oak panelling where Henry Kissinger signed the Paris Peace Accord back in 1973 that ended the Vietnam War. Kissinger politely declined the offer to have the Bar named after him, and instead it is simply called Le Bar Kléber.

 

On the top floor of the hotel lies the signature restaurant L'Oiseau Blanc, which is named after the French biplane that disappeared in 1927 in an attempt to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York. A 75% replica of the plane has even been installed outside the main entrance of the restaurant with the Eiffel Tower on its background. The restaurant is divided into 3 distinct areas: a spectacular glass enclosed main dining room; a large outdoor terrace that runs the entire length of the hotel's roof; and an adjoining lively bar, all with breathtaking uninterrupted views of Paris' most identifiable landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœur at the highest point of the city at Montmartre.

 

L'Oiseau Blanc is led by Chef Sidney Redel, a former protégé of Pierre Gagnaire, and serves contemporary French cuisine focussing on 'terroir' menu of locally sourced seasonal ingredients from the region. During my stay, tomato was the seasonal ingredients, and Chef Redel created four courses incorporating tomato, even on dessert. While the food was of high quality, personally the menu still needs fine tuning, considering the sort of clientele the Pen is aiming for: the ultra rich (Chinese), who usually seek top establishments with luxury ingredients, such as caviar, black truffle, foie gras, blue lobster, Jamon Iberico, Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork and Challans chicken.

 

LEISURE:

The Peninsula Paris features one of the best health and recreational facilities in the city, housed within the basement of the hotel, and covers an expansive area of 1,800m2. For a comparison, rival Mandarin Oriental Spa covers a total area of only 900m2 over two floors. The Peninsula Spa is undoubtedly one of the nicest urban spa that I have been to, it easily beats the Spa at the Four Seasons George V. The pool is also one of the city's largest at 22m long, -compared to both the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental at 15m; the George V at only 9m, which is more like a bigger jacuzzi. The only two other pools better than the Peninsula is the one designed by Phillippe Starck at the Le Royal Monceau at 28m; and the spectacular grand pool at the Ritz.

 

There is the usual 24 hours gym within two fitness spaces equipped with Technogym machines and free weights; and the locker rooms features steam, sauna, and experience shower room. There is a total of 8 treatment rooms within the Spa area, and the highlight is certainly the Relaxation Room, which is equipped with amazing day beds with specially placed deep cushions. The best part? the beds are electronically operated, much like a first class seat on a plane.

 

X-FACTOR:

The Peninsula signature technology; The Spa Button in the bathroom; VOIP technology for complimentary long distance calls; The top suites (Historic, Katara and Peninsula Suites); Xavier Corbero's Moon River sculpture at the Lobby; Lili; The Lobby and Bar where Henry Kissinger signed Paris Peace Accord; L'Oiseau Blanc Restaurant; The 1,800m2 Peninsula Spa; and the 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II.

 

SERVICE:

There are a total of 600 staffs for just 200 rooms, so the service level is expected to be high; but it is perhaps unfair to judge the service during the opening weeks when all staffs were not at their best due to the intense preparation leading to the opening event. Furthermore, teething problems are expected for a newly opened hotel as great hotels are not born overnight, but takes a good few years of refinement.

 

Nonetheless, I was actually quite impressed with the level of service during the whole stay, as the majority of the staffs showed great attitude and much enthusiasm, which is a testament of great intense training. As one of the first guests arriving on the opening day, check-in was truly delightful and memorable as a battalion of staffs of different ranks welcomed and wished the most pleasant stay. The mood could not have been more festive as moments later, the hotel was finally inaugurated.

 

I was also particularly impressed with the service at both LiLi and The Lobby where staffs performed at an exceptional level like a veteran. There are two distinct qualities that made a lot of difference during the stay: humility and friendliness, which is quite a challenge to find, not only in Paris and the entire Europe, but even in Asian cities, such as Hong Kong. It is like finding needles in a haystack. A genuine smile seems to be a rare commodity these days, so I was happy to see plenty of smiles at the Peninsula Paris during the stay, from the signature Peninsula Pageboys to waiters, Maître d, receptionists and even to Managers and Directors. In fact, there were more smiles in Paris than Hong Kong.

 

When I woken up too early for breakfast one day, the restaurant was just about to open; and there were hardly anyone. I realized that even the birds were probably still asleep, but I was extremely delighted to see how fresh looking and energetic the staffs were at the dining room. There was a lot of genuine smile that warmed the rather chilly morning; and it was a great start to the day. One of the staffs I met during the stay even candidly explained how they were happy just to be at work, and it does not feel like working at all, which was clearly shown in their passion and enthusiasm.

 

That said, the Shangri-La Paris by far is still my top pick for best service as it is more personalized and refined due to its more intimate scale. The Shangri-La Paris experience is also unique as guests are welcomed to a sit down registration by the historic lounge off the Lobby upon arrival, and choice of drinks are offered, before being escorted to the room for in-room check-in. Guests also receive a Pre-Arrival Form in advance, so the hotel could anticipate and best accommodate their needs. During the stay, I was also addressed by my last name everywhere within the hotel, so it was highly personalized. I did receive similar treatment at The Peninsula Paris, -albeit in a lesser extent due to its size; and even the housekeeping greeted me by my last name. Every requests, from room service to mineral water were all handled efficiently at a timely manner. At times, service could be rather slow at the restaurants (well, it happens almost everywhere in Paris), but this is part of the Parisian lifestyle where nothing is hurried; and bringing bills/checks upfront is considered rude. I did request the food servings to be expedited during a lunch at LiLi on the last day due to the time constraint; and the staffs managed to succeed the task not only ahead of the time limit, but also it never felt hurried all along. Everything ran as smooth as silk.

 

VERDICT:

It was a personal satisfaction to witness the history in the making during the opening day on 1 August 2014, as the Peninsula Paris is my most eagerly awaited hotel opening of the decade. It was also historic, as it was a first in my travel to dedicate a trip solely for a particular hotel in a particular city (in this case Paris, some 11,578km away from home), without staying at other fine hotels. It was money well spent, and a trip worth taking as it was an amazing stay; and certainly a lifetime experience.

 

The Peninsula Paris could not have arrived at a better time, as two of the most established Parisian grande dames (Ritz and de Crillon) are still closed for a complete renovation, and will only be revealed in 2015; so there is plenty of time to adapt, grow and hone its skills. But with such pedigree, quality and illustrious history, the Pen really has nothing to be worried about. The Four Seasons George V seems to have a cult of highly obsessed fans (esp. travel agents) worldwide, but personally (and objectively), it is no match to the Peninsula. Based on physical product alone, the Pen wins in every aspect as everything has been meticulously designed with the focus on guest comfort and convenience. In terms of technology, the Pen literally has no rival anywhere on the planet, except from the obvious sibling rivalry.

 

The only thing that the Pen still needs to work on is its signature restaurants as all its rival hotels have at least 2 Michelin star restaurants (L'abeille at the Shangri-La; Sur Mesure at the Mandarin Oriental; and 3 Michelin at Epicure, Le Bristol; Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V and Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice). L'Oiseau Blanc design is truly breathtaking and would certainly be the most popular gastronomic destination in Paris, but at the moment, the food still needs some works.

 

There were the expected teething problems and some inconsistencies with the service; but with years of refinement, The Peninsula Paris will no doubt ascend the throne. Personally, the Shangri-La Paris is currently the real competitor, together with the upcoming Ritz and de Crillon when they open next year, especially when Rosewood has taken over Crillon management and Karl Lagerfeld is working on its top suites. The two, however, may still need to revisit the drawing boards and put more effort on the guestrooms if they ever want to compete; because at the moment, The Peninsula Paris is simply unrivaled.

 

UPDATE 2016:

*I have always been very spot-on with my predictions. After only two years since its opening, The Peninsula Paris has been awarded the much coveted Palace status. In fact, it is the only hotel in Paris to receive such distinction in 2016. Congratulations, it is very much deserving*

 

PERSONAL RATING:

1. Room: 100

2. Bathroom: 100

3. Bed: 100

4. Service: 90

5. In-room Tech: 100

6. In-room Amenities: 100

7. Architecture & Design: 100

8. Food: 80

9. View: 80

10. Pool: 95

11. Wellness: 95

12. Location: 95

13. Value: 100

 

Overall: 95.00

 

Compare with other Parisian hotels (all with Palace status) that I have stayed previously:

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, PARIS: 95.00

PARK HYATT PARIS-VENDOME: 90.00

FOUR SEASONS GEORGE V: 85.38

 

My #1 ALL TIME FAVORITE HOTEL

LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG: 95.38

 

THE PENINSULA, PARIS

19, Avenue Kléber, Paris

Awarded Palace Status in 2016

 

General Manager: Nicolas Béliard

Hotel Manager: Vincent Pimont

Executive Chef: Jean-Edern Hurstel

Head Chef (Lili): Chi Keung Tang

Head Chef (L'oiseau Blanc): Sidney Redel

Head Chef (The Lobby): Laurent Poitevin

Chef Patissier: Julien Alvarez

 

Architect (original Majestic Hotel, circa 1908): Armand Sibien

Architect (renovation & restoration, 2010-2014): Richard Martinet

Interior Designer: Henry Leung of Chhada Siembieda & Associates

Landscape Designer: D. Paysage

 

Art Curator: Sabrina Fung

Art Restorer: Cinzia Pasquali

Artist (Courtyard installation): Ben Jakober & Yannick Vu

Crystal work: Baccarat

Designer (Lili fiber optic installation): Clementine Chambon & Francoise Mamert

Designer (Chinaware): Catherine Bergen

Gilder Specialist & Restorer: Ateliers Gohard

Glass Crafter (Lobby Installation): Lasvit Glass Studio

Master Glass Crafters: Duchemin

Master Sculptor (Lobby): Xavier Corbero

Metalwork: Remy Garnier

Plaster & Moulding Expert: Stuc et Staff

Silverware: Christofle

Silk & Trimmings: Declercq Passementiers

Wood Restoration Expert: Atelier Fancelli

  

Hotel Opening Date: 01 August 2014

Notable owners: Katara Hospitality; Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group (HSH)

Total Rooms & Suites: 200 (including 35m2 Superior, 45m2 Deluxe, 50m2 Grand Deluxe, 55m2 Premier and 60m2 Grand Premier Rooms)

Total Suites: 34 Suites (including 70m2 Superior, 85m2 Deluxe and 100m2 Premier

Top Suites: Historic Suite, Katara Suite, and The Peninsula Suite

Bathroom Amenities: Oscar de la Renta

 

Restaurants: The Lobby (All day dining & Afternoon tea), LiLi (Cantonese), L'Oiseau Blanc (French), La Terrasse Kléber

Bars and Lounges: Le Bar Kléber; Kléber Lounge; Cigar Lounge; and L'Oiseau Blanc Bar

Meeting & Banquets: Salon de l'Étoile for up to 100 guests, and 3 smaller Function Rooms

Health & Leisure: 24 hours gym & 1,800m2 Peninsula Spa with 22m indoor swimming pool and jacuzzis; Steam & Sauna, Relaxation Room, and 8 treatment rooms

Transport: chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Extended Wheel Base Phantom; a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II; 2 MINI Cooper S Clubman; and a fleet of 10 BMW 7 Series

 

Complimentary facilities: Non-alcoholic Minibar; Wired and Wireless Internet; VOIP long distance calls; HD Movies; Daily fruit Basket; International Newspaper; Chauffeured MINI Cooper S Clubman for Suites guests; and Chauffeured Rolls Royce for top Suites

 

paris.peninsula.com

Museum in the former Gare d'Orsay railway station on the River Seine.

 

Further back on the far left is the Caisse des Depots.

 

It's full name is the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.

 

Caisse des Depots

 

The Deposit and Consignment Office (CDC), sometimes simply called Caisse des Depots, is a public financial institution created in France in 1816. Placed under the direct supervision of Parliament, it operates in the public interest on behalf of the state and local governments, but also in competitive activities.

 

It is on Quai Anatole France.

 

Caisse des Dépôts is created by one of the great laws of the Restoration of April 28, 1816 to restore confidence in public finances, after the disorders of the First Empire. With its autonomous status, it can manage private funds outside the budget of the state and ensure the protection of savings. Beginning in 1816, it manages consignments and pensions of officials and invests the funds entrusted to its management.

 

The Musée d'Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine, housed in the former railway station, the Gare d'Orsay. It holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography, and is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist masterpieces by popular painters such as Monet and Renoir. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986.

© yohanes.budiyanto, 2014

 

PRELUDE

The 1st of August, 2014 was such an historic day as the world finally welcomed the birth of the first in line to the Parisian throne after a painstaking and extraordinary "labor" process that took four years in creation, and almost a decade in the making. I was not talking about a French rival to baby George, but instead a newborn that has sent shivers down the spines of Paris' oldest and current Kings and Grand Dames from the day it was conceived. Yes, I was referring to The Peninsula Paris, the youngest sister to the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong (circa 1928).

 

Ever since the project was announced to the public four years ago, it has been on my top list of the most eagerly awaited hotel openings of the decade. So when the hotel announced 1st of August as an opening date back in March, I immediately issued my First Class return tickets to the City of Light, risking the usual opening delay. A man of his word, Peninsula Paris finally opened as scheduled.

 

HISTORY

The Peninsula brand needs no introduction, as it is synonymous with quality, technology, innovation, craftsmanship and sophistication, -much like a slogan for French top brands and their savoir faire. Despite having only 10 current properties worldwide in its portfolio (Paris is its tenth), each Peninsula hotel is a market leader in each respective cities, and consistently tops the chart in many bonafide travel publications and reigns supreme as the world's best, especially elder sisters in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The Peninsula model is different from other rival hotel groups, which usually expand aggressively through both franchise and managed models worldwide. Instead, the Peninsula focuses on acquiring majority to sole ownership on all its properties to ensure control on quality (Hong Kong, New York, Chicago and Tokyo are 100% owned; Bangkok, Beijing and Manila are over 75%; Shanghai is 50%, while Beverly Hills and Paris are the only two with only 20% ownership).

 

The history of the Peninsula Paris could be traced back to a modest villa aptly called Hotel Basilevski on the plot of land at 19 Avenue Kleber back in 1864, -named after its Russian diplomat owner, Alexander Petrovich Basilevski, which caught the attention of hotelier Leonard Tauber for his prospective hotel project. The Versailles-styled property was partly a museum housing Basilevski's vast and impressive collection of 19th century medieval and Renaissance art, which eventually was acquired by Alexander III, -a Russian Tsar, at the sums of six millions francs. These collections were later transported to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and formed the base collection for the newly established Department of Medieval and Renaissance Art. After Basilevski sold the villa and moved to a more palatial residence at Avenue du Trocadero, the property was then acquired and rebranded the Palais de Castille as the residence of the exiled Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1868, who seeked refuge and continued to live there until 1904. Upon her death, the property was later demolished in 1906 to make way for the Majestic hotel, which finally opened in 1908 with much satisfaction of Leonard Tauber, who has eyed the premise from the very beginning.

 

The Majestic Hotel was exquisitely designed in the Beaux-Art style as a grand hotel by prominent architect of that time, Armand Sibien. Together with The Ritz (circa 1898), the two became the most preferred places to stay and entertain in Paris of the time. The Majestic has attracted the well-heeled crowd, and hosted many high profile events, most notably for a particular dinner hosted by rich British couple Sydney and Violet Schiff on 18 May 1922 as the after party of Igor Stravinsky's 'Le Renard' ballet premiere, and the hotel becomes an instant legend. The guests list were impressive: Igor Stravinsky himself, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev, and two of the 20th century most legendary writers: James Joyce and Marcel Proust, who met for the first and only time before Proust's death six months later. Since then, the Majestic continued to draw high profile guests, including George Gershwin on 25 March 1928, where he composed "An American in Paris" during the stay.

 

If the walls could talk, the Majestic has plenty of stories to tell. It was once converted into a hospital during the infamy in 1914, and the British took residency at the hotel during the Paris Peace Conference back in 1919. The hotel was then acquired by the French State in 1936 as the offices of the Ministry of Defence; and later had a stint as the German Military High Command in France between October 1940 to July 1944 during the World War II. Post war, it then became the temporary home for UNESCO from 16 September 1946 until 1958. More than a decade after, the Paris Peace talks was opened by Henry Kissinger in one of its spectacular Ballrooms in 1969 with the Northern Vietnamese. Four years later, the Paris Peace Accord was finally signed at the oak paneled-room next to the Ballroom on 27 January 1973, which ended the Vietnam War. This triumphant event has also led to another victorious event when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.

 

The hotel continued to serve as the International Conference Center of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs until it was up for sale by the government in 2008 as part of the cost cutting program to the Qatari Diar, -which later transferred its ownership to Katara Hospitality, for a staggering USD 460 million. An excess of USD 600 million was further spent on the massive rebuilding and refurbishment not only to restore the hotel to its former glory, but also to transform it into a Peninsula with the highest standard.

 

The epic restoration work was led by prominent French architect, Richard Martinet, who has also previously work with the restoration of Prince Roland Bonaparte's former mansion into the Shangri-La Paris and also the Four Seasons George V; and involved teams of France's leading craftsmen; heritage designers and organisations; stonemasons from historic monument specialist; master glass crafters; crystal manufacturer; wood, moulding and gilder restoration experts, -many of whom are third generation, and have carried out high profile projects such as the Palace of Versailles, Louvre Museum, the dome of Les Invalides, the Grand and Petit Palais, and even the flame of the Statue of Liberty in New York. The result is truly breathtaking, and it was certainly money well spent to revive and recreate one of the nation's most treasured landmark. One of my favorite places within the hotel is the Main Lobby at Avenue des Portugais where the grand hall is adorned with a spectacular chandelier installation comprising 800 pieces of glass leaves inspired by the plane trees along Avenue Kleber. The work of Spain's most influential artist since Gaudi, Xavier Corbero, could also be found nearby in the form of a beautiful sculpture called Moon River.

 

Katara Hospitality owns 80% of The Peninsula Paris, and already has a spectacular portfolio ownership consisting some of the world's finest hotels, including The Raffles Singapore, Le Royal Monceau-Raffles Paris, Ritz-Carlton Doha, Schweizerhof Bern, and most recently, 5 of the InterContinental Hotel's European flagships, including Amstel in Amsterdam, Carlton in Cannes, De la Ville in Rome, Madrid and Frankfurt. It is interesting to note that Adrian Zecha, founder of the extraordinary Amanresorts chain is a member of the Board of Directors at Katara since September 2011, lending his immense hospitality expertise to the group.

 

At over USD 1 billion cost, the Pen Paris project is easily the most expensive to ever being built, considering it has only 200 rooms over 6 storeys. As a comparison, the cost of building the 101 storey, 494m high Shanghai World Financial Center (where the Park Hyatt Shanghai resides) is USD 1.2 billion; whereas Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building on earth at 163 storey and 828m, costed a 'modest' USD 1.5 billion to build. The numbers are truly mind boggling, and The Peninsula Paris is truly an extraordinary project. It might took the Majestic Hotel two years to build; but it took four years just to restore and reincarnate it into a Peninsula.

 

HOTEL OPENING

On a pleasant afternoon of 1 August 2014, the hotel finally opened its door to a crowd of distinguished guests, international journalists, first hotel guests and local crowds who partake to witness the inauguration and rebirth of a Parisian legend and grande dame (Many A-list celebrities and even Head of State flocked to the hotel to witness its sheer beauty). It was an historic day not just for Paris, but also for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group as it marks their arrival in Europe with its first ever Peninsula, while the second is already on the pipeline with the future opening of The Peninsula London, located just behind The Lanesborough at Knightsbridge.

 

The eagerly-awaited opening ceremony was attended by the Chairman of Katara Hospitality, His Excellency Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani; CEO of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (HSH), Clement Kwok; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius; General Manager of the Peninsula Paris, Nicolas Béliard; and the event kicked off with an opening speech by the famous French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, Madame Fleur Pellerin, who clearly stole the show with her public persona. A ribbon cutting and spectacular lion dance show concluded the event, which drew quite a spectacle on Avenue des Portugais as it brought a unique display of Asian heritage to the heart of cosmopolitan Paris.

 

LOCATION

The Peninsula Paris stands majestically at the tree-lined Avenue Kléber, just off the Arc de Triomphe. Personally, this is an ideal location in Paris as it is a stone's throw away from all the happenings at the Champs-Élysées, but is set away from its hustle and bustle, which is constantly a tourist trap day and night. Once you walk pass the leafy Avenue Kléber, the atmosphere is very different: peaceful and safe. The Kléber Metro station is just a few steps away from the hotel, providing guests a convenient access to further parts of town.

 

Champs-Élysées is the center of Parisian universe, and it is just a short and pleasant stroll away from the hotel, where some of the city's most legendary commercial and cultural institutions reside. For a start, Drugstore Publicis at the corner by the roundabout has been a legendary hang-out since the 1960s, and is my ultimate favourite place in town. The Post Modern edifice by architect Michele Saee (renovated in 2004) houses almost everything: a Cinema; side walk Brasserie & Steak House; Newsagency; Bookshop (you can find Travel publications and even the Michelin Guide); upscale Gift shop and Beauty corner (even Acqua di Parma is on sale here); Pharmacy (whose pharmacist thankfully speaks English and gladly advises you on your symptoms); upscale deli (stocking pretty much everything from Foie gras burger on the counter, to fine wines & cigar cellar; to Pierre Herme & Pierre Marcolini chocolates; Dalloyau bakery; Marriage Freres tea; and even the Petrossian Caviar!). Best of all, it features a 2 Michelin star L'atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile on its basement; and the store is even opened on Sunday until 2am. It is a one stop shopping, eating and entertainment, showcasing the best of France.

 

Further down the road, Maison Louis Vuitton stands majestically on its own entire 7 storey building, which was opened in 2005 as one of the biggest flagship stores in the world, covering a total area of 1,800m2. Designed by Eric Carlson and Peter Marino, the entire store is an architectural marvel and the temple of luxury, elegance and sophistication. This is one of the very few stores to open in Sunday as the French Labour Unions prohibits commercial stores to open on Sunday, unless if it involves cultural, recreational and sporting aspect. Initially, Maison LV was ordered by the court to close on Sunday, but LVMH finally wins an appeal in 2007 on the grounds of cultural experience; and the store has continued to draw endless queue on Sunday.

 

A block away from Maison LV is the legendary Parisian Tea Room of Ladurée, which was founded in 1862 by Louis Ernest Ladurée on its original store at 16 Rue Royal as a bakery. The Champs-Élysées store was opened in 1997 and has since attracted an endless queue of tourists and locals who wish to savour its legendary Macarons and pastries. The Ladurée phenomenon and popularity could only be rivaled by fellow Frenchmen Pierre Hermé, who has also attracted a cult of loyal fans worldwide. It may not have a flagship store at Champs-Élysées, but one could easily stop by Drugstore Publicis for a quick purchase to ease the craving.

 

For those looking for upscale boutiques, Avenue Montaigne located just nearby on a perpendicular, and features the flagship presence of the world's finest luxury fashion labels: Armani, Bottega Veneta, Valention, Prada, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo to name a few. For the ultimate in shopping extravaganza, head down to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré where all money will (hopefully) be well spent.

 

Champs-Élysées is the most famous and expensive boulevard in the world, yet it has everything for everyone; and myriad of crowds flocking its grand boulevards for a pleasant stroll. It has no shortage of luxury stores, but it also offers mainstream stores for the general public, from Levi's to Zara and Lacoste; to McDonalds and Starbucks; and FNAC store (French answer to HMV).

 

In terms of fine dining experience, the areas around Champs-Élysées has plenty to offer. I have mentioned about the 2 Michelin L'atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile at the Drugstore Publicis, which was excellent. Robuchon never disappoints as it consistently serves amazing French cuisine amidst its signature red and black interior everywhere I visited, including Tokyo (3 Michelin), Hong Kong (3 Michelin), Paris (2 Michelin) and Taipei.

 

During my stay, I also managed to sample the finest cuisine from the kitchens of two, 3-Michelin Paris institutions: Pierre Gagnaire at Rue Balzac, just off Champs-Élysées; and Epicure at Le Bristol by Chef Eric Frechon on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which was undoubtedly the best and most memorable dining experiences I have ever had in Paris to date. It is certainly the gastronomic highlight of this trip.

 

Other 3 Michelin establishment, such as Ledoyen is also located nearby at an 18th century pavilion by the Gardens of Champs-Élysées by newly appointed famous French Chef Yannick Alléno, who previously also resided at the Le Meurice with 3 Michelin, until Alain Ducasse took over last year during the Plaza Athénée closure for expansion.

 

August is a time of misery for international visitors to Paris as most fine dining restaurants are closed for the summer holiday. When choices are limited, foodies could rely on Epicure and Robuchon, which are opened all year round; and also the 2 Michelin star Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V. Although its food could not compete with Robuchon, Epicure and Gagnaire, guests could still enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

 

ROOMS:

On my visit to Paris last year, I was not too impressed with my stay at the Four Seasons George V, as everything seemed to be pretty basic: the room design; the in-room tech and amenities; and even the much lauded service. It simply does not justify the hefty price tag. The only thing stood out there were the ostentatious designer floral display at the lobby, which reportedly absorbed a six digit figure budget annually. When I saw them at the first time, this was what came to mind: guests are paying for these excessive flowers, whether you like it or not.

 

Fortunately, the Peninsula Paris skips all this expensive gimmick, and instead spends a fortune for guests to enjoy: advance room technology; a host of complimentary essential amenities, including internet access, non-alcoholic minibar, and even long distance phone calls. In fact, every single items inside the room has been well thought and designed for guest's ultimate comfort.

 

Ever since The Peninsula Bangkok opened in 1998 to much success, the group has used it as a template for its signature rooms for future sister hotels, which consists of an open plan, ultra-wide spacious room equivalent to a 2 bays suite, with 5-fixtures bathroom, and a separate Dressing Room, which soon becomes a Peninsula signature.

 

The Peninsula Tokyo followed this template when it opened in 2007 to rave reviews; and it was soon adopted as a model for Peninsula Shanghai, which later opened in 2009 as the flagship property in Mainland China. This layout is also being applied at The Peninsula Paris, albeit for its Suites categories, i.e. Junior Suite, which measure at an astonishing 50 - 60m2. The entry level Superior and Deluxe Rooms lack the signature layout with smaller size at 35 - 45m2, but they are already spacious for a Parisian standard; and each is equipped with Peninsula's signature technology.

 

Technology is indeed at the core of the Peninsula DNA, and no expense is spared in creating the world's most advance in-room technology. When other hotels try to cut costs and budgets on in-room technology with lame excuses, the Peninsula actually spends a fortune to innovate and set a new benchmark. In fact, it is probably the only hotel group to have its own Technology laboratory at a secret location deep inside Aberdeen, Hong Kong, where in-room tech is being developed and tested. It was here where innovative devices, such as the outside temperature indicator; my favourite Spa Button by the bathtub; or even the portable nail dryer for the ladies are invented. The Peninsula took the world by storm when it introduced the Samsung Galaxy tablet device at the Peninsula Hong Kong in 2012, which is programmed in 11 languages and virtually controls the entire room, including the lights, temperature, curtains, TV, radio, valet calls and Do Not Disturb sign. It even features touch screen Room Service Menu, hotel information, city guide, and a function to request room service and housekeeping items, thus creating an entirely paperless environment.

 

All these technological marvel are also being replicated at the Peninsula Paris, together with other 'standard' features, such as Nespresso Coffee Machine; flat-screen 3D LED television; LED touch screen wall panels; an iPod/iPad docking station; memory card reader; 4-in1 fax/scanner/printer/photocopier machine; DVD player; complimentary in-house HD movies; complimentary internet access and long distance calls through the VOIP platform. Even the room's exterior Parisian-styled canopy is electronically operated. All these technological offerings is so extremely complex, that it resulted in 2.5 km worth of cabling in each room alone.

 

Bathroom at the Junior Suite also features Peninsula's signature layout: a stand alone bathtub as the focal point, flanked by twin vanities and separate shower and WC compartments amidst acres of white marble. Probably the first in Paris, it features a Japanese Toilet complete with basic control panel, and a manual handheld bidet sprayer.

 

When all these add up to the stay, it actually brings a very good value to the otherwise high room rates. Better yet, the non-alcoholic Minibar is also complimentary, which is a first for a Peninsula hotel. The Four Seasons George V may choose to keep looking back to its antiquity past and annihilate most technological offerings to its most basic form, but the Pen always looks forward to the future and brings the utter convenience, all at your finger tip. The Peninsula rooms are undoubtedly the best designed, best equipped and most high-tech in the entire universe.

 

ROOM TO BOOK:

The 50 - 60m2 Junior Suite facing leafy Avenue Kléber is the best room type to book as it is an open-plan suite with Peninsula's signature bathroom and dressing room; and the ones located on the Premiere étage (first floor) have high ceilings and small balcony overlooking Kleber Terrace's iconic glass canopy. Personally, rooms facing the back street at Rue La Pérouse are the least preferred, but its top level rooms inside the Mansart Roof on level 5 have juliet windows that allow glimpse of the tip of Eiffel Tower despite being smaller in size due to its attic configuration. Superior Rooms also lack the signature Peninsula 5 fixtures bathroom configuration, so for the ultimate bathing experience, make sure to book at least from the Deluxe category.

 

If money is no object, book one of the five piece-de-resistance suites with their own private rooftop terrace and gardens on the top floor, which allow 360 degree panoramic views of Paris. Otherwise, the mid-tier Deluxe Suite is already a great choice with corner location, multiple windows and 85m2 of pure luxury.

 

DINING:

Looking back at the hotel's illustrious past, the Peninsula offers some of the most unique and memorable dining experiences in Paris, steep in history.

 

The area that once housed Igor Stravinksy's after party where James Joyce met Marcel Proust for the first time is now the hotel's Cantonese Restaurant, aptly called LiLi; and is led by Chef Chi Keung Tang, formerly of Peninsula Tokyo's One Michelin starred Hei Fung Terrace. Lili was actually modeled after Peninsula Shanghai's Yi Long Court, but the design here blends Chinese elements with Art Nouveau style that flourished in the late 1920s. It also boasts a world first: a spectacular 3x3.3m fiber optic installation at the entrance of the restaurant, depicting the imaginary portrait of LiLi herself. The Cantonese menu was surprisingly rather simple and basic, and features a selection of popular dim sum dishes. The best and most memorable Chinese restaurants I have ever experienced are actually those who masterfully fuse Chinese tradition with French ingredients: Jin Sha at the Four Seasons Hangzhou at Westlake; 2 Michelin Tin Lung Heen at Level 102 of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong; Jiang at Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou by Chef Fei; and Ya Ge at Mandarin Oriental Taipei. Ironically, the world's only 3 Michelin star Chinese restaurant, Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hong Kong failed to impress me.

 

The former Ballroom area where Henry Kissinger started the Paris Peace talks with the Vietnamese has now been transformed as The Lobby, which is a signature of every Peninsula hotels where the afternoon tea ritual takes place daily. The spectacular room with intricate details and crystal chandeliers has been meticulously restored, and is an ideal place to meet, see and be seen. Breakfast is served daily here, and guests could choose to have it either inside or outside at the adjoining al fresco La Terrasse Kléber, which connects all the F&B outlets on the ground floor, including Lili. Guests could choose from a Chinese set breakfast, which includes dim sum, fried vermicelli, and porridge with beef slices; or the Parisian set, which includes gourmet items such as Egg Benedict with generous slices of Jamon Iberico on top. The afternoon tea ritual is expected to be very popular as renowned Chef Pattissier Julien Alvarez, -who claimed the World Pastry Champion in 2009; and also the Spanish World Chocolate Master in 2007 at the tender age of 23, is at the helm; and the venue quickly booked out from the opening day.

 

Next to the Lobby is a small, intimate bar covered in exquisite oak panelling where Henry Kissinger signed the Paris Peace Accord back in 1973 that ended the Vietnam War. Kissinger politely declined the offer to have the Bar named after him, and instead it is simply called Le Bar Kléber.

 

On the top floor of the hotel lies the signature restaurant L'Oiseau Blanc, which is named after the French biplane that disappeared in 1927 in an attempt to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York. A 75% replica of the plane has even been installed outside the main entrance of the restaurant with the Eiffel Tower on its background. The restaurant is divided into 3 distinct areas: a spectacular glass enclosed main dining room; a large outdoor terrace that runs the entire length of the hotel's roof; and an adjoining lively bar, all with breathtaking uninterrupted views of Paris' most identifiable landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœur at the highest point of the city at Montmartre.

 

L'Oiseau Blanc is led by Chef Sidney Redel, a former protégé of Pierre Gagnaire, and serves contemporary French cuisine focussing on 'terroir' menu of locally sourced seasonal ingredients from the region. During my stay, tomato was the seasonal ingredients, and Chef Redel created four courses incorporating tomato, even on dessert. While the food was of high quality, personally the menu still needs fine tuning, considering the sort of clientele the Pen is aiming for: the ultra rich (Chinese), who usually seek top establishments with luxury ingredients, such as caviar, black truffle, foie gras, blue lobster, Jamon Iberico, Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork and Challans chicken.

 

LEISURE:

The Peninsula Paris features one of the best health and recreational facilities in the city, housed within the basement of the hotel, and covers an expansive area of 1,800m2. For a comparison, rival Mandarin Oriental Spa covers a total area of only 900m2 over two floors. The Peninsula Spa is undoubtedly one of the nicest urban spa that I have been to, it easily beats the Spa at the Four Seasons George V. The pool is also one of the city's largest at 22m long, -compared to both the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental at 15m; the George V at only 9m, which is more like a bigger jacuzzi. The only two other pools better than the Peninsula is the one designed by Phillippe Starck at the Le Royal Monceau at 28m; and the spectacular grand pool at the Ritz.

 

There is the usual 24 hours gym within two fitness spaces equipped with Technogym machines and free weights; and the locker rooms features steam, sauna, and experience shower room. There is a total of 8 treatment rooms within the Spa area, and the highlight is certainly the Relaxation Room, which is equipped with amazing day beds with specially placed deep cushions. The best part? the beds are electronically operated, much like a first class seat on a plane.

 

X-FACTOR:

The Peninsula signature technology; The Spa Button in the bathroom; VOIP technology for complimentary long distance calls; The top suites (Historic, Katara and Peninsula Suites); Xavier Corbero's Moon River sculpture at the Lobby; Lili; The Lobby and Bar where Henry Kissinger signed Paris Peace Accord; L'Oiseau Blanc Restaurant; The 1,800m2 Peninsula Spa; and the 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II.

 

SERVICE:

There are a total of 600 staffs for just 200 rooms, so the service level is expected to be high; but it is perhaps unfair to judge the service during the opening weeks when all staffs were not at their best due to the intense preparation leading to the opening event. Furthermore, teething problems are expected for a newly opened hotel as great hotels are not born overnight, but takes a good few years of refinement.

 

Nonetheless, I was actually quite impressed with the level of service during the whole stay, as the majority of the staffs showed great attitude and much enthusiasm, which is a testament of great intense training. As one of the first guests arriving on the opening day, check-in was truly delightful and memorable as a battalion of staffs of different ranks welcomed and wished the most pleasant stay. The mood could not have been more festive as moments later, the hotel was finally inaugurated.

 

I was also particularly impressed with the service at both LiLi and The Lobby where staffs performed at an exceptional level like a veteran. There are two distinct qualities that made a lot of difference during the stay: humility and friendliness, which is quite a challenge to find, not only in Paris and the entire Europe, but even in Asian cities, such as Hong Kong. It is like finding needles in a haystack. A genuine smile seems to be a rare commodity these days, so I was happy to see plenty of smiles at the Peninsula Paris during the stay, from the signature Peninsula Pageboys to waiters, Maître d, receptionists and even to Managers and Directors. In fact, there were more smiles in Paris than Hong Kong.

 

When I woken up too early for breakfast one day, the restaurant was just about to open; and there were hardly anyone. I realized that even the birds were probably still asleep, but I was extremely delighted to see how fresh looking and energetic the staffs were at the dining room. There was a lot of genuine smile that warmed the rather chilly morning; and it was a great start to the day. One of the staffs I met during the stay even candidly explained how they were happy just to be at work, and it does not feel like working at all, which was clearly shown in their passion and enthusiasm.

 

That said, the Shangri-La Paris by far is still my top pick for best service as it is more personalized and refined due to its more intimate scale. The Shangri-La Paris experience is also unique as guests are welcomed to a sit down registration by the historic lounge off the Lobby upon arrival, and choice of drinks are offered, before being escorted to the room for in-room check-in. Guests also receive a Pre-Arrival Form in advance, so the hotel could anticipate and best accommodate their needs. During the stay, I was also addressed by my last name everywhere within the hotel, so it was highly personalized. I did receive similar treatment at The Peninsula Paris, -albeit in a lesser extent due to its size; and even the housekeeping greeted me by my last name. Every requests, from room service to mineral water were all handled efficiently at a timely manner. At times, service could be rather slow at the restaurants (well, it happens almost everywhere in Paris), but this is part of the Parisian lifestyle where nothing is hurried; and bringing bills/checks upfront is considered rude. I did request the food servings to be expedited during a lunch at LiLi on the last day due to the time constraint; and the staffs managed to succeed the task not only ahead of the time limit, but also it never felt hurried all along. Everything ran as smooth as silk.

 

VERDICT:

It was a personal satisfaction to witness the history in the making during the opening day on 1 August 2014, as the Peninsula Paris is my most eagerly awaited hotel opening of the decade. It was also historic, as it was a first in my travel to dedicate a trip solely for a particular hotel in a particular city (in this case Paris, some 11,578km away from home), without staying at other fine hotels. It was money well spent, and a trip worth taking as it was an amazing stay; and certainly a lifetime experience.

 

The Peninsula Paris could not have arrived at a better time, as two of the most established Parisian grande dames (Ritz and de Crillon) are still closed for a complete renovation, and will only be revealed in 2015; so there is plenty of time to adapt, grow and hone its skills. But with such pedigree, quality and illustrious history, the Pen really has nothing to be worried about. The Four Seasons George V seems to have a cult of highly obsessed fans (esp. travel agents) worldwide, but personally (and objectively), it is no match to the Peninsula. Based on physical product alone, the Pen wins in every aspect as everything has been meticulously designed with the focus on guest comfort and convenience. In terms of technology, the Pen literally has no rival anywhere on the planet, except from the obvious sibling rivalry.

 

The only thing that the Pen still needs to work on is its signature restaurants as all its rival hotels have at least 2 Michelin star restaurants (L'abeille at the Shangri-La; Sur Mesure at the Mandarin Oriental; and 3 Michelin at Epicure, Le Bristol; Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V and Alain Ducasse at Le Meurice). L'Oiseau Blanc design is truly breathtaking and would certainly be the most popular gastronomic destination in Paris, but at the moment, the food still needs some works.

 

There were the expected teething problems and some inconsistencies with the service; but with years of refinement, The Peninsula Paris will no doubt ascend the throne. Personally, the Shangri-La Paris is currently the real competitor, together with the upcoming Ritz and de Crillon when they open next year, especially when Rosewood has taken over Crillon management and Karl Lagerfeld is working on its top suites. The two, however, may still need to revisit the drawing boards and put more effort on the guestrooms if they ever want to compete; because at the moment, The Peninsula Paris is simply unrivaled.

 

UPDATE 2016:

*I have always been very spot-on with my predictions. After only two years since its opening, The Peninsula Paris has been awarded the much coveted Palace status. In fact, it is the only hotel in Paris to receive such distinction in 2016. Congratulations, it is very much deserving*

 

PERSONAL RATING:

1. Room: 100

2. Bathroom: 100

3. Bed: 100

4. Service: 90

5. In-room Tech: 100

6. In-room Amenities: 100

7. Architecture & Design: 100

8. Food: 80

9. View: 80

10. Pool: 95

11. Wellness: 95

12. Location: 95

13. Value: 100

 

Overall: 95.00

 

Compare with other Parisian hotels (all with Palace status) that I have stayed previously:

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, PARIS: 95.00

PARK HYATT PARIS-VENDOME: 90.00

FOUR SEASONS GEORGE V: 85.38

 

My #1 ALL TIME FAVORITE HOTEL

LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG: 95.38

 

THE PENINSULA, PARIS

19, Avenue Kléber, Paris

Awarded Palace Status in 2016

 

General Manager: Nicolas Béliard

Hotel Manager: Vincent Pimont

Executive Chef: Jean-Edern Hurstel

Head Chef (Lili): Chi Keung Tang

Head Chef (L'oiseau Blanc): Sidney Redel

Head Chef (The Lobby): Laurent Poitevin

Chef Patissier: Julien Alvarez

 

Architect (original Majestic Hotel, circa 1908): Armand Sibien

Architect (renovation & restoration, 2010-2014): Richard Martinet

Interior Designer: Henry Leung of Chhada Siembieda & Associates

Landscape Designer: D. Paysage

 

Art Curator: Sabrina Fung

Art Restorer: Cinzia Pasquali

Artist (Courtyard installation): Ben Jakober & Yannick Vu

Crystal work: Baccarat

Designer (Lili fiber optic installation): Clementine Chambon & Francoise Mamert

Designer (Chinaware): Catherine Bergen

Gilder Specialist & Restorer: Ateliers Gohard

Glass Crafter (Lobby Installation): Lasvit Glass Studio

Master Glass Crafters: Duchemin

Master Sculptor (Lobby): Xavier Corbero

Metalwork: Remy Garnier

Plaster & Moulding Expert: Stuc et Staff

Silverware: Christofle

Silk & Trimmings: Declercq Passementiers

Wood Restoration Expert: Atelier Fancelli

  

Hotel Opening Date: 01 August 2014

Notable owners: Katara Hospitality; Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group (HSH)

Total Rooms & Suites: 200 (including 35m2 Superior, 45m2 Deluxe, 50m2 Grand Deluxe, 55m2 Premier and 60m2 Grand Premier Rooms)

Total Suites: 34 Suites (including 70m2 Superior, 85m2 Deluxe and 100m2 Premier

Top Suites: Historic Suite, Katara Suite, and The Peninsula Suite

Bathroom Amenities: Oscar de la Renta

 

Restaurants: The Lobby (All day dining & Afternoon tea), LiLi (Cantonese), L'Oiseau Blanc (French), La Terrasse Kléber

Bars and Lounges: Le Bar Kléber; Kléber Lounge; Cigar Lounge; and L'Oiseau Blanc Bar

Meeting & Banquets: Salon de l'Étoile for up to 100 guests, and 3 smaller Function Rooms

Health & Leisure: 24 hours gym & 1,800m2 Peninsula Spa with 22m indoor swimming pool and jacuzzis; Steam & Sauna, Relaxation Room, and 8 treatment rooms

Transport: chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Extended Wheel Base Phantom; a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II; 2 MINI Cooper S Clubman; and a fleet of 10 BMW 7 Series

 

Complimentary facilities: Non-alcoholic Minibar; Wired and Wireless Internet; VOIP long distance calls; HD Movies; Daily fruit Basket; International Newspaper; Chauffeured MINI Cooper S Clubman for Suites guests; and Chauffeured Rolls Royce for top Suites

 

paris.peninsula.com

Ministry of War (Vienna)

(further pictures you can see by clicking on the link at the and of page!)

Former k.u.k. War Department at Stubenring 1, now the seat of several federal ministries

The War Department called building at Stubenring in the 1st District of Vienna was built in the years 1909 to 1913 under the architectural direction of Ludwig Baumann. To the Ministry itself, see k.u.k. War Department. The building is from 1945 officially called government building.

One story building

Building History

Idealized heads of soldiers from the monarchy

Roman warriors on the facade

The central part of the building and the Georg-Coch-Platz

Monument to Field Marshal Radetzky

Changing of the Guard (before 1931)

The War Department was housed at the turn of the century in the Hofkriegsratsgebäude (Court Council of War building) Am Hof ​​and half in private houses and barracks. Already at that time the decision was made to build a new Kriegsministerialgebäude (war ministerial building). Were begun negotiations with the Treasury Department, the City of Vienna and the syndicate for property transactions. The Imperial War Ministry secured itself an until the end of 1906 limited option on the altogether approximately 12,000 square meter building ground on which the new edifice was erected later. In December 1906 the option with the approval of Emperor Franz Joseph I was actually exercised and the new building in the sequence prepared. The medias were informed in detail at thee beginning of 1907. Also in 1907 began an architectural competition for the construction (see Section Contest projects).

The winning project "Maria Theresia", was submitted by the architect Ludwig Baumann. He had in 1902 a new building for the K.K. Academy of Oriental Languages ​​erected, which is now used as the United States Embassy in Vienna. In addition, he was also supervisor of the Neue Hofburg during the construction of the new War Department. In May 1909 the excavations began, on 1st July 1909 the construction management was activated and in October of that same year the building pressed ahead.

At the request of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este, who by request of the emperor took special interest of the military, was in the middle of the facade such a large bronze eagle (wingspan 16 m) as crowning placed that behind the hence necessary high Attica another - not originally planned - floor could be accommodated. Furthermore the too unsightly main gates had to be made stronger.

After the completion moved the k.u.k. Ministry of War (September 20, 1911, the name Ministry of War had been abandoned by the monarch on the Hungarian request) beginning with 1st of May in 1913 here, followed by the Memorial of Field Marshal Josef Wenzel Graf Radetzky von Radetz. The bells for the now electric clock tower were also taken from the old building. Artistically embellished spaces of the old Ministry were copied in the new building. In the process the panelings of the festival and reception rooms were taken and the equipment of the Gobelinsaal, which the Empress Maria Theresa originally for the Hofkriegsrat (Court war council) had embellished.

The building with a front length of 200 meters has an area of ​​9632 square meters. The rest of the 13,800 square meter building site is distributed to nine courtyards, one of those of 40 meters in length was provided with a glass roof and served as a riding school. The building enfolds seven floors and the attic floor and the about thousand rooms get through circa 2,500 windows light. The Ministry was responsible for the leadership and management of the common armed forces (called army during the war) and the Navy. For the k.u.k. Naval Department, the for the administration auf the Navy responsible section of the Ministry, was a separate building erected on the adjacent Vorderen Zollamtsstraße.

1913 a radio system was installed on the roof which was followed shortly after the war began in 1914 by another plant, but which was not used. With the alteration of the in 1913 built station for voice transmission in 1923, the former Ministry of War was the birthplace of radio broadcasting in Austria.

The Ministry had become obsolete with the collapse of Austria -Hungary in late October 1918, and was of 12 , according to decision of the Provisional National Assembly for German Austria November 1918 to dissolve .

Originally, the Austrian imperial crown was placed in an oversized replica of the large double-headed eagle . The crown was removed after 1918. The gable is the motto of " Si vis pacem para bellum " ( If you want peace , prepare for war ), it was also removed .

In the interwar period the building was used by the army and 3,000 windows from 1938 to 1945 by the Wehrmacht . During the Second World War the building was hit by a bomb, but did no great harm. It was not until the Battle of Vienna in 1945, the building was severely damaged.

From 1952, it could be re- oriented and has now availed by various federal ministries , especially the economic, formerly Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Social Affairs . The existing pre-1945 dome-like roof structures , which helped to organize the long , somewhat monotonous facade , were omitted from the simplified recovery of the roof.

Competition projects

1901 an internal competition of the military engineers was held. That of it emerged "General project on the new building of a war construction" of Feldzeugmeister (Quartermaster) Joseph Edlem of Ceipek, the deputy of the general civil engineer, represented the directive for the on 15th December 1907 tendered architectural competition.

166 architects ordered the tender documents, 66 of which submitted up to 15th April 1908 their designs. Here are some of the projects, among them the ultimately executed, shortly outlined:

Project " Homo".

The project "Homo" of the architecture rebel Adolf Loos (he did not stick, see his little later built house without eyebrows (Michaelerplatz), to the officially estimated historicism) was eliminated in the first meeting since facade plans, evidence of built-up surfaces and the enclosed space as well as an estimated budget were missing.

Project "Pallas"

Officially, the project was designed by Otto Wagner, who is now regarded as the most important architect of Vienna around 1900, due to non-compliance with relevant tender specifications and requirements of the building program removed from competition. Wagner justified this by saying this was the only way to receive an approximately symmetrical ground plan and to be able to arrange the space more appropriately.

Wagner had just before the competition the K.K. Post Office Savings Bank built, the main entrance of the War Department axially opposed. The heir to the throne, however, was an opponent of the early Viennese modernism, its most famous representative Otto Wagner was known.

In an unpublished response to a newspaper article about the construction of the War Department Ceipek criticized the program adversities, but also the in his view monotonous design of the facade by Wagner.

Project by Leopold Bauer

The project of Leopold Bauer (he began in 1911 with the construction of the building of today's Austrian National Bank) tried to make clear the military purpose of the administration building by the hint of medieval fortifications and a mighty tower. It was this tower, which pushed up the expected costs to much. Therefore, the design was indeed purchased but not implemented.

Project "Eugenio of Savoy"

Max von Ferstel, son of prominent architect Heinrich von Ferstel, by all means very busy, designed the project "Eugenio of Savoy", which was neither rewarded nor purchased and not praised. He tried the over 200 meters long main front to the Vienna's Ringstraße to design wth a multifaced structured facade arrangement.

Winning project "Maria Theresia"

The project "Maria Theresia" was submitted by architect Ludwig Baumann, who simultaneously, with the heir to the throne as representative of the client, as construction manager of the expansion of the Hofburg around the Neue Burg acted. That Baumann gave his design the project name "Maria Theresa" might have had to do with the fact that the heir had the style of Maria Theresa referred to as the most beautiful. Baumann could have been induced already with the project name to stimulate Franz Ferdinand's consent.

de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegsministerium_(Wien)

The brainchild of Lt. Commander J.W. Hobbs of Toronto, it was opened on 7 October 1930, and at 97.8 metres (321 ft) (22 floors) it was the tallest skyscraper in the city until 1939.

 

The Marine Building in downtown Vancouver is one of the world’s most exquisite examples of art deco architecture. When it opened in 1930, it had the distinction of being the tallest building in the British Empire.

 

According to the architects, McCarter & Nairne, the building was intended to evoke "some great crag rising from the sea, clinging with sea flora and fauna, tinted in sea-green, touched with gold.”

 

The building cost $2.3 million to build – $1.1 million over budget—but due to the Great Depression it was sold to the Guinness family of Ireland for only $900,000. The 2016 property assessment is $90 million.

 

By 1931, only a year after the building opened, its owners were willing to sell it to the city for its new city hall for about the same as, and maybe even a little less than it had cost them to build. But that deal fell through.

 

By 1933, the owners knew they were licked. They sold the building to British Pacific Building Co. (owned by the Guinness brewing people) for $900,000. Stimson had taken a million-dollar bath.

 

There was an observation deck, but during the depression in the 1930s the 25-cent admission price proved unaffordable for most. Currently, there are no public galleries in the building.

 

A.J.T. Taylor, who was managing director of British Pacific, moved into the building's penthouse with his wife and had a tiny elevator built to connect it with the 18th floor. They had a lavish apartment looking over the city but Mrs. Taylor eventually decided she didn't like heights, so they moved out.

 

The Marine Building penthouse is the stuff of legend, a masterpiece outfitted in the latest 1930s decor. It had a 17-foot-high ceiling in the living room, a spiral staircase leading to two bedrooms on the mezzanine level, a marble fireplace, wood-panelled walls, teak floors and elaborately tiled bathrooms.

 

There are all sorts of stories attached to the penthouse. One is that Taylor never actually lived in it because his wife didn't like living so high in the sky. The Taylors did in fact live in a house in West Vancouver, but Don Luxton (Vancouver Heritage buff) says the real reason Mrs. Taylor didn't want to live there was because as an office building the Marine Building shut down at night, leaving the Taylors marooned 300 feet above the city.

 

"They shut the elevators down at night," he says. "They couldn't get down unless they walked down."

 

Another story is that Taylor once took a pony up to the penthouse terrace to entertain his kids. Atkin says this is true, but it's been spun into another yarn that is a little more far-fetched.

 

"There is a tourism publication that says businessmen in downtown Vancouver used to meet up there for horse races, and that they had a horse-racing track on the roof," says Atkin. "Which is probably one of the dumbest things I've ever read."

 

Taylor moved to New York at the start of the Second World War, and in 1941 the penthouse was rented to a Mrs. Mary Fisher. Not much is known about her, but local theatre legend Norman Young recalls that her son had some wicked "Shaughnessy bathtub parties" at the penthouse in the early 1940s.

 

"They were social parties in the '40s," explains Young with a laugh. "Everybody would get drunk at the party and you'd cram into the bathtub as many people as you could, and then move on to the next bathroom. It was a way of mixing singles.

 

"But it could only take place in the mansions in Shaughnessy [because they had several bathrooms]. I think [the penthouse] had three bathrooms, but they weren't enough for a good party."

 

The Fishers moved out in 1944 and the penthouse was converted to an office by the Spencer department store family in 1947. It's now occupied by Sun Gold Mining company.

 

It seems appropriate that the longest-lasting of the building's tenants was the architectural firm that designed it: McCarter and Nairne. They moved in as soon as space was available and moved out in February of 1980, a tenancy just five months short of 50 years.

 

Inside the massive brass-doored elevators the walls are inlaid with 12 varieties of local hardwoods. All over the walls and polished brass doors are depictions of sea snails, skate, crabs, turtles, carp, scallops, seaweed and sea horses, as well as the transportation means of the era. The floor presents the zodiac signs. The exterior is studded with flora and fauna, tinted in sea-green and touched with gold.

 

During a renovation from 1982-1989 to update the electrical, mechanical and air-conditioning systems, the "battleship linoleum" (imported from Scotland) in the lobby was replaced with marble. The former Merchant Exchange was also gutted, and is now a restaurant called Tractor Foods. This building was also the management centre for Oneworld, of one of the three largest airline alliances in the world, from its founding in May 2000 until it was relocated to New York City in June 2011.

delighting "me" always

 

Picture: I suppose to focus my camera on the sculpture instead of on the pink lady. However, I was surprised when I got home with this result, my camera chosen to focus on pink lady! It is delighting me!!!

 

Canon, delighting you always...

 

Location: 798 Art Zone, Beijing. China

 

798 Art Zone (Chinese: 798艺术区; pinyin: 798 Yìshùqū), or Dashanzi Art District, is a part of Dashanzi in the Chaoyang District of Beijing that houses a thriving artistic community, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York's Greenwich Village or SoHo.

The area is often called the 798 Art District or Factory 798 although technically, Factory #798 is only one of several structures within a complex formerly known as Joint Factory 718. The buildings are located inside alleys number 2 and 4 on Jiǔxiānqiáo Lù (酒仙桥路), south of the Dàshānziqiáo flyover (大山子桥).

 

Construction

   

798 Space gallery, Jan,2009. Old Maoist slogans are visible on the ceiling arches.

The Dashanzi factory complex began as an extension of the "Socialist Unification Plan" of military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and the newly formed People's Republic of China. By 1951, 156 "joint factory" projects had been realized under that agreement, part of the Chinese government's first Five-Year Plan. However the People's Liberation Army still had a dire need of modern electronic components, which were produced in only two of the joint factories. The Russians were unwilling to undertake an additional project at the time, and suggested that the Chinese turn to East Germany from which much of the Soviet Union's electronics equipment was imported. So at the request of then-Premier Zhou Enlai, scientists and engineers joined the first Chinese trade delegation to East Germany in 1951, visiting a dozen factories. The project was greenlighted in early 1952 and a Chinese preparatory group was sent to East Berlin to prepare design plans. This project, which was to be the largest by East Germany in China, was then informally known as Project #157.

The architectural plans were left to the Germans, who chose a functional Bauhaus-influenced design over the more ornamental Soviet style, triggering the first of many disputes between the German and Russian consultants on the project. The plans, where form follows function, called for large indoor spaces designed to let the maximum amount of natural light into the workplace. Arch-supported sections of the ceiling would curve upwards then fall diagonally along the high slanted banks or windows; this pattern would be repeated several times in the larger rooms, giving the roof its characteristic sawtooth-like appearance. Despite Beijing's northern location, the windows were all to face north because the light from that direction would cast fewer shadows.

The chosen location was a 640,000 square metres area in Dashanzi, then a low-lying patch of farmland northeast of Beijing. The complex was to occupy 500,000 square metres, 370,000 of which were allocated to living quarters. It was officially named Joint Factory 718, following the Chinese government's method of naming military factories starting with the number 7. Fully funded by the Chinese side, the initial budget was enormous for the times: 9 million rubles or approximately 140 million RMB (US$17 million) at today's rates; actual costs were 147 million RMB.

Ground was broken in April 1954. Construction was marked by disagreements between the Chinese, Soviet and German experts, which led at one point to a six-month postponement of the project. The Germans' harshest critic was the Russian technology consultant in charge of Beijing's two Soviet-built electronics factories (714 and 738), who was also head consultant of the Radio Industrial Office of the Second Ministry of Machine Building Industry. The disputes generally revolved around the Germans' high but expensive quality standards for buildings and machines, which were called "over-engineering" by the Russians. Among such points of contention was the Germans' insistence, historical seismic data in hand, that the buildings be built to withstand earthquakes of magnitude 8 on the Richter scale, whereas the Chinese and Russians wanted to settle for 7. Communications expert Wang Zheng, head of Communications Industry in the Chinese Ministry of National Defense and supporter the East German bid from the start, ruled in favor of the Germans for this particular factory.

At the height of the construction effort, more than 100 East German foreign experts worked on the project. The resources of as many as 22 of their factories supplied the construction; at the same time, supply delays were caused by the Soviet Red Army's tremendous drain on East Germany's industrial production. The equipment was transported directly through the Soviet Union via the Trans-Siberian railway, and a 15 km track of railroad between Beijing Railway Station and Dongjiao Station was built especially to service the factory. Caltech-educated scientist Dr. Luo Peilin (罗沛霖), formerly head of the preparatory group in 1951-1953, was Head Engineer of Joint Factory 718 during its construction phase. Dr. Luo, now retired in Beijing, is remembered by his former colleagues as a dedicated perfectionist whose commitment to the obstacle-strewn project was a major factor of its eventual success.

[edit]Operation

 

Joint Factory 718 began production in 1957, amid a grandiose opening ceremony and display of Communist brotherhood between China and East Germany, attended by high officials of both countries. The first director was Li Rui (李瑞), who had been involved in the early negotiations in Berlin.

The factory quickly established a reputation for itself as one of the best in China. Through its several danwei or "work units", it offered considerable social benefits to its 10,000-20,000 workers, especially considering the relative poverty of the country during such periods as the Great Leap Forward. The factory boasted, among others:

the best housing available to workers in Beijing, providing fully furnished rooms to whole families for less than 1/30 of the workers' income;

diverse extracurricular activities such as social and sporting events, dancing, swimming, and training classes;

its own athletics, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams for men and women, ranked among the best in inter-factory competitions;

a brigade of German-made motorcycles, performing races and stunt demonstrations;

an orchestra that played not only revolutionary hymns, but also German-influenced classical Western music;

literary clubs and publications, and a library furnished with Chinese and foreign (German) books;

Jiuxianqiao hospital, featuring German equipment and offering the most advanced dental facilities in China.

The factory even had its own volunteer military reserves or jinweishi (近卫师), which numbered hundreds and were equipped with large-scale weapons and anti-aircraft guns.

Workers' skills were honed by frequent personnel exchanges, internships and training in cooperation with East Germany. Different incentives kept motivation high, such as rewards systems and "model worker" distinctions. At the same time, political activities such as Maoism study workshops kept the workers in line with Communist Party of China doctrine. During the Cultural revolution, propaganda slogans for Mao Zedong Thought were painted on the ceiling arches in bright red characters (where they remain today at the latter tenants' request).

Frequent VIP visits contributed to the festive atmosphere. Notable guests included Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, and Kim Il-Sung.

The Joint Factory produced a wide variety of military and civilian equipment. Civilian production included acoustic equipment for Beijing's Workers' Stadium and Great Hall of the People, as well as all the loudspeakers on Tiananmen Square and Chang'an Avenue. Military components were also exported to China's Communist allies, and helped establish North Korea's wireless electronics industry.

  

One of the old machine tools in front of some contemporary art in Dec 2005

After 10 years of operation, Joint Factory 718 was split into more manageable components, such as sub-Factories 706, 707, 751, 761, 797 and 798. The first Head of sub-Factory 798 (the largest) was Branch Party Secretary Fu Ke (傅克), who played a major role in recruiting skilled workers from southern China and among returned overseas Chinese.

However, the factory came under pressure during Deng Xiaoping's reforms of the 1980s. Deprived of governmental support like many state-owned enterprises, it underwent a gradual decline and was eventually rendered obsolete. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, most sub-factories had ceased production, 60% of the workers had been laid off, and the remains of the management were reconstituted as a real-estate operation called "Seven-Star Huadian Science and Technology Group", charged with overseeing the industrial park and finding tenants for the abandoned buildings.

[edit]

 

The Dashanzi factory complex was vacated at around the time when most of Beijing's contemporary artist community was looking for a new home. Avant-garde art being frowned upon by the government, the community had traditionally existed on the fringes of the city. From 1984 to 1993, they worked in run-down houses near the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in northwestern Beijing, until their eviction. They had then moved to the eastern Tongxian County (now Tongzhou District), more than an hour's drive from the city center.

Then in 1995, Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), looking for cheap, ample workshop space away from downtown, set up in the now defunct Factory 706. The temporary move became permanent and in 2000 Sui Jianguo(隋建国), Dean of the Department of Sculpture, located his own studio in the area. The cluttered sculpture workshops have always remained open for visitors to peek at the dozens of workers milling about.

In 2001, Texan Robert Bernell moved his Timezone 8 Art Books bookshop and publishing office (founded in 1997) into a former factory canteen; he was the first foreigner to move in. One of Timezone 8's early employees was fashion designer Xiao Li, who along her husband, performance artist Cang Xin, helped artists secure and rent spaces in the area.

Through word-of-mouth, artists and designers started trickling in, attracted to the vast cathedral-like spaces. Despite the lack of any conscious aesthetic in the Bauhaus-inspired style, which grounded architectural beauty in practical, industrial function, the swooping arcs and soaring chimneys had an uplifting effect on modern eyes, a sort of post-industrial chic. At the artists' requests, workers renovating the spaces preserved the prominent Maoist slogans on the arches, adding a touch of ironic "Mao kitsch" to the place.

Later that year, Mr. Tabata Yukihito from Japan's Tokyo Gallery set up Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP, 北京东京艺术工程) inside a 400-m² division of Factory 798's main area; this was the first renovated space featuring the high arched ceilings that would become synonymous with the Art District. BTAP's 2002 opening exhibition "Beijing Afloat" (curator: Feng Boyi), drew a crowd of over 1,000 people and marked the beginning of the popular infatuation with the area.

In 2002, designer artist Huang Rui (黄锐) and hutong photographer Xu Yong (徐勇) set up the 798 Space gallery (时态空间) next to BTAP. With its cavernous 1200-m² floor and multiple-arched ceilings at the center of Factory 798, it was and still is the symbolic center of the whole district. (Huang and Xu since designed at least seven spaces in the area and became the prime movers and de facto spokespersons of the District.) A glass-fronted café was set up in the former office section at the back of the 798 space, opening into a back alley now lined with studios and restaurants such as Huang's own At Café, and Cang Xin's #6 Sichuan restaurant, the area's "canteen".

In 2003, Lu Jie (卢杰) set up the Long March Foundation, an ongoing project for artistic re-interpretation of the historical Long March, inside the 25,000 Li Cultural Transmission Center (二万五千里文化传播中心). Around that time, Singapore-owned China Art Seasons (北京季节画廊) opened for display for pan-Asian art, and was one of several new galleries setting up at that time.

 

Source from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/798_Art_Zone

Here's a link to how this same Edsel looked in 1959. I took this picture with my Brownie Hawkeye when I was thirteen.

farm2.static.flickr.com/1286/544933741_8e82112e81.jpg

 

A bit busy today and tomorrow, but will try to visit everyone's stream. Thanks for your patience

 

When my stepfather first met my mother in 1959, he was driving a brand new 1958 Ford Edsel. At that time it was touted as being far ahead of its time. The big feature was the ability of the driver to shift gears by pushing buttons on a touch pad in the centre of the steering wheel.

 

After a few years the Edsel was abandoned. It had become an embarrassment to Ford. The button shift did not live up to its potential, and was notorious for losing its timing. It sometimes took up to five seconds from the time you pushed a button until the time the transmission shifted, usually with a jolting 'thunk'. Further, the Edsel was an overly heavy car, even in an age of heavy cars.

 

I did drive it a fair bit over a ten year period, and it could be scary at times.

 

Over the years I wondered what happened to it. I couldn't remember it being traded in. Then, several years ago, I spotted it in the farm yard at my brother, Steve's, place. it was pretty badly smacked up, and had been used for .22 practice. I always meant to photograph it, but didn't get a chance until yesterday. It had been towed about fifty feet from where I originally saw it, and the tow had not been kind.

 

From my set entitled “Steve and Marg’s Farm”

www.flickr.com/photos/21861018@N00/sets/72157608031549391/

In my collection entitled “Places”

www.flickr.com/photos/21861018@N00/collections/7215760074...

In my photostream

www.flickr.com/photos/21861018@N00/

 

The Story of the Edsel

(taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edsel

The Edsel was a marquee division of Ford Motor Company during the 1958, 1959 and 1960 model years.

 

In the early 1950s, the Ford Motor Co. became a publicly traded corporation that was no longer entirely owned by members of the Ford family. They were then able to sell cars according to then-current market trends following the sellers' market of the postwar years. The new management compared the roster of Ford makes with that of General Motors, and noted that Lincoln competed not with Cadillac, but with Oldsmobile. Since Ford had an excess of money on hand from the success of the Ford Thunderbird the plan was developed to move Lincoln upmarket with the Continental at the top, and to add another make to the intermediate slot vacated by Lincoln. Research and development had begun in 1955 under the name "E-car," which stood for "Experimental car." This represented a new division of the firm alongside that of Ford itself and the Lincoln-Mercury division, whose cars at the time shared the same body.

 

The Edsel was introduced amidst considerable publicity on "E Day"—September 4, 1957. It was promoted by a top-rated television special, The Edsel Show on October 13, but it was not enough to counter the adverse public reaction to the car's styling and conventional build. For months Ford had been circulating rumours that led consumers to expect an entirely new kind of car when in reality the Edsel shared its bodywork with other Ford models.

 

The Edsel was to be sold through a new Ford division. It existed from November 1956 until January 1958, after which Edsels were made by the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln division (referred to as M-E-L). Edsel was sold through a new network of 1,500 dealers. This briefly brought total dealers of all Ford products to 10,000. Ford saw this as a way to come closer to parity with the other two companies of the Big Three: Chrysler had 10,000 dealers and General Motors had 16,000. As soon as it became apparent that the Edsels were not selling, many of these dealers added Lincoln-Mercury, English Ford and/or Taunus dealerships to their lines with the encouragement of Ford Motor Company. Some dealers, however, closed.

 

For the 1958 model year, Edsel produced four models, including the larger Mercury-based Citation and Corsair, and the smaller Ford-based Pacer and Ranger. The Citation came in two-door and four-door hardtops and two-door convertible versions. The Corsair came in two-door and four-door hardtop versions. The Pacer came in two-door and four-door hardtops, four-door sedan, and two-door convertible. The Ranger came in two-door and four-door hardtop or sedan versions. The four-door Bermuda and Villager wagons and the two-door Roundup wagon were based on the 116" wheelbase Ford station wagon platform and shared the trim and features of the Ranger and Pacer models. It included several innovative features, among which were its "rolling dome" speedometer and its Teletouch transmission shifting system in the center of the steering wheel. Other design innovations included an ergonomically designed controls for the driver, and self-adjusting brakes (often claimed as a first for the industry, although Studebaker had pioneered them earlier in the decade).

 

In the first year, 63,110 Edsels were sold in the U.S. with another 4,935 sold in Canada. Though below expectations, it was still the second largest car launch for any brand to date, second only to the Plymouth introduction in 1928.

 

For the 1959 model year, there were only two Edsels: the Ranger and the Corsair. The two larger cars were not produced. The new Corsair came in two-door and four-door hardtops, four-door sedan, and two-door convertible. The Ranger came in two-door and four-door hardtops, two-door and four-door sedans, and the Villager station wagon. In the 1959 model year, 44,891 cars were sold in the U.S., with an additional 2,505 sales in Canada.

 

For the 1960 model year, Edsel's last, only the Ranger and Villager were produced. The 1960 Edsel, in its final model year, emerged as a Ford. Its grill, hood, and four taillights, along with its side sweep spears, were the only real differences separating the Edsel from the Ford.

 

Ford announced the end of the Edsel program on Thursday, November 19, 1959. However, cars continued being produced until late in November, with the final tally at 2,846 1960 models. Total sales were approximately 84,000, less than half McNamara's projected break-even point. The company lost $350 million on the venture [1].

 

On Friday, November 20, United Press International's (UPI) wire service reported that book values for used Edsels had decreased by as much as $400 [approximately $2800 in 2006 dollars] (based on condition and age) immediately following the Ford press release. In some newspaper markets, dealers scrambled to renegotiate newspaper advertising contracts involving the 1960 Edsel models, while others dropped the name from their dealership's advertising "slugs." Ford issued a statement that it would distribute coupons to consumers who purchased 1960 models (and carryover 1959 models) prior to the announcement, valued at $300 to $400 towards the purchase of new Ford products to offset the decreased values. The company also issued credits to dealers for stock unsold or received, following the announcement.

 

There is no single reason why the Edsel failed, and failed so spectacularly. Popular culture often faults the car’s styling. Consumer Reports cited poor workmanship. Marketing experts hold the Edsel up as a supreme example of corporate America’s failure to understand the nature of the American consumer. Business analysts cite the weak internal support for the product inside Ford’s executive offices. According to author and Edsel scholar Jan Deutsch, the Edsel was "the wrong car at the wrong time."

 

One popular misconception was that the Edsel was an engineering failure, or a lemon, although it shared the same general reliability of its sister Mercury and Ford models that were built in the same factories. The Edsel is most famous for being a marketing disaster. Indeed, the name Edsel came to be synonymous with commercial failure, and similar ill-fated products have often been colloquially referred to as Edsels. Since it was such a debacle, it provided a case study for marketers on how not to market a product. The main reason the Edsel's failure is so famous was that it flopped despite Ford’s investment of $400,000,000 in its development.

 

The prerelease advertising campaign touted the car as having "...more YOU ideas," and the teaser advertisements in magazines only revealed glimpses of the car through a highly blurred lens or wrapped in paper or under tarps. Edsels were shipped to the dealerships undercover and remained wrapped on the dealer lots.

 

But the public also had a hard time understanding what the Edsel was, mostly because Ford made the mistake of pricing the Edsel within Mercury’s market price segment. Theoretically, the Edsel was conceived to fit into Ford’s marketing plans as the brand slotted in between Ford and Mercury. However, when the car arrived in 1958, its least expensive model—the Ranger—was priced within $73 of the most expensive and best-trimmed Ford sedan and $63 less than Mercury’s base Medalist model. In its midrange pricing, Edsel's Pacer and Corsair models were more expensive than their Mercury counterparts. Edsel's top-of-the-line Citation four door hardtop model was the only model priced to correctly compete with Mercury’s mid-range Montclair Turnpike Cruiser model.

 

Not only was the Edsel competing against its own sister divisions, but model for model, consumers did not understand what the car was supposed to be—a step up or a step below the Mercury.

 

After its introduction to the public, the Edsel did not live up to its overblown hype, even though it did have many new features, such as self-adjusting rear brakes and automatic lubrication. While consumer focus groups had said these and other features would make the "E" car attractive to them as car buyers, the cost of the cars outstripped what the public was willing to pay. When many potential buyers saw the base price tag, they simply left the dealership, and others were frightened by the price for a fully loaded, top of the line model.

 

One of the external forces working against the Edsel that Ford had no control over was the onset of the recession in late 1957.

 

When the Edsel was in its planning stages in the early and mid-1950s, the American economy was robust and growing. However, in the years that spanned the planning to its introduction, an economic recession hit, and American consumers not only shifted their idea of what an ideal car should be; in prior economic downturns, buyers flocked to the lower price marques like Plymouth, Chevrolet, and Ford. But in 1958, even these cars were perceived by some as unnecessarily large, and while the compact Rambler saw itself shoot to the third best selling make, none of the Big Three had anything compact to sell except their European cars built for Vauxhall, Simca, and Opel. The compacts introduced by the Big Three in 1960 were the direct result of the recession of 1958.

 

Compounding Edsel's problems was that the car had to appeal to buyers of other well established nameplates from the Big Three, such as Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Dodge, DeSoto, and even its internal sister division, Mercury -- itself never a stellar sales success.

 

Even if the 1958 recession hadn't hit when it did, the Edsel was entering into a shrinking marketplace. While Ernest Breech convinced Ford management that this market segment offered great untapped opportunity in the early 1950s, when the "E" car was in its earliest stages, by 1957, independent manufacturers in the mid-price field were drifting towards insolvency. Hoping to turn around their losses, Packard acquired Studebaker, yet the venerable Packard was no longer produced after 1958. On the other hand, American Motors changed its focus to the compact Rambler models, while their pre-merger brands (Nash and Hudson) were discontinued after the 1957 model year. Even Chrysler saw sales of its DeSoto marque drop dramatically from its 1957 high by over 50% in 1958. Following a disastrous 1959 model year, plans were made in Highland Park to discontinue DeSoto during its 1961 model year run.

 

Thus, the large, expensive Edsel that was planned to be all things to all people suddenly stood for excess, not progress.

 

The name of the car, Edsel, is also often cited as a further reason for its unpopularity. Naming the vehicle after Edsel Ford was proposed early in its development. However, the Ford family strongly opposed its use, Henry Ford II stating that he didn't want his father's good name spinning around on thousands of hubcaps. Ford also ran internal studies to decide on a name and even dispatched employees to stand outside movie theaters to poll audiences as to what their feelings were on several ideas. They reached no conclusions.

 

Ford hired the advertising firm Foote, Cone and Belding to come up with a name. However, when the advertising agency issued its report, citing over 6,000 possibilities, Ford's Ernest Breech commented that they had been hired to develop a name, not 6,000. Early favorites for the name brand included Citation, Corsair, Pacer, and Ranger, which were ultimately chosen for the vehicle's series names.

 

David Wallace, Manager of Marketing Research, and coworker Bob Young unofficially invited poet Marianne Moore for input and suggestions. Moore's unorthodox contributions (among them "Utopian Turtletop," "Pastelogram," and "Mongoose Civique") were meant to stir creative thought and were not officially authorized or contractual in nature. History has greatly exaggerated her relationship to the project.

At the behest of Ernest Breech, who was chairing a meeting in the absence of Henry Ford II, the car was finally called "Edsel" in honor of Edsel Ford, former company president and son of Henry Ford. Marketing surveys later found the name was thought to sound like the name of a tractor (Edson) and therefore was unpopular with the public.

 

Moreover, several consumer studies showed that people associated the name "Edsel" with "weasel" and "dead cell" (dead battery), drawing further unattractive comparisons.

 

Perhaps the most important factor in the Edsel's failure, however, was that when the car was introduced, the U.S. was entering a period of recession. Sales for all car manufacturers, even those not introducing new models, were down; consumers entered a period of preferring less expensive, more fuel-efficient automobiles.

 

Edsels were fast, but required premium gas and did not have the fuel economy desired during a recession. Mechanics disliked the bigger engine because of its unique design. The cylinder head had no combustion chamber and was perfectly flat, with the head set at an angle and "roof" pistons forming both a squish zone on one side and a combustion chamber on the other, meaning that the combustion took place entirely within the cylinder bore. This design reduced the cost of manufacture and possibly carbon buildup, but appeared strange to mechanics.

 

There were also reports of mechanical flaws in the models originating in the factory, due to lack of quality control and confusion of parts with other Ford models. Edsels in their first (1958) model year were made in both Mercury and Ford factories; the longer wheelbase models, Citation and Corsair, were produced alongside the Mercury products, and the shorter wheelbase models, Pacer and Ranger, were produced alongside the Ford products. There was never a stand-alone Edsel factory devoted solely to Edsel model production; workers making Fords and Mercurys literally had to change parts bins and tools to assemble extra Edsels once their hourly quota of regular Fords and Mercurys was achieved. As such, the desired quality control of the different Edsel models was difficult to attain for the new make of car. Many Edsels left the line unfinished, with the extra parts having been put into the trunks, with assembly instructions for the mechanics at the dealerships.

 

The Edsel is best remembered for its trademark "horsecollar" grille, which made it stand out from other cars of the period. A widely circulated wisecrack at the time was that "It looked like an Oldsmobile sucking on a lemon." Men often referred to the horsecollar grille as being akin to a woman’s genitalia. In fact, Robin Jones, a Ford designer at the time, later recalled that someone in the design studio - presumably as a cruel joke - actually taped hair to the inside of the grille area on one of the clay models produced during the design process; the end result, according to Jones, "looked like a hormonally-disturbed cow after giving birth."

 

Jokes aside, the front of the original Edsel turned out nothing like what was originally intended. Roy Brown, the original chief designer on the project, wanted a slender, almost delicate opening in the center; engineers, fearing engine cooling problems, vetoed the intended design, which led to the "horsecollar." The vertical grille theme, while improved for the 1959 models, was discontinued for the 1960 models, which were almost indistinguishable from Ford models of the same year, although the new front-end design bore no small resemblance to that of the 1959 Pontiac.

 

Many drivers disliked having the automatic transmission as pushbuttons (above) mounted on the steering wheel hub: this was the traditional location of the horn, and drivers ended up shifting gears instead of honking the horn. While the Edsel was fast, the location of the transmission pushbuttons was not conducive to street racing. There were jokes about stoplight dragsters and the buttons: D for Drag, L for Leap, and R for Race (instead of Drive, Low and Reverse).

 

There were also complaints about the taillights on 1958-model Edsel station wagons, which were boomerang-shaped and placed in a reverse fashion; at a distance, they appeared as arrows pointed in the opposite direction of the turn being made. While the left turn signal blinked, its arrow shape pointed right, and vice versa. However, there was little that could be done to give the Ford-based station wagons a unique appearance from the rear; corporate management insisted that no sheetmetal could be changed. Only the taillights and trim could be touched.

 

While the car and Ford’s planning of the car are the most often cited reasons for its failure, internal politics within the executive offices at Ford are as much to blame for the failure of the Edsel. Following World War II, Henry Ford II brought on Robert McNamara as one of the "whiz kids" to help turn Ford around. McNamara’s cost cutting and cost containment skills helped Ford emerge from its near collapse after the war. As such, McNamara eventually assumed a great deal of power at Ford. In many ways, McNamara was very much like Henry Ford: both men were committed to Ford above all other things and had little use for Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, and Edsel brand cars made by the company.

 

McNamara was against the formation of the separate divisions for Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, and Edsel cars, and moved to consolidate Lincoln, Mercury, and Edsel into the M-E-L division. McNamara saw to it that the Continental program was canceled and that the model was merged into the Lincoln range for 1958. He next set his sights on Edsel by maneuvering for elimination of the dual wheelbases and separate body used in 1958; instead, the Edsel would share the Ford platform and use Ford’s inner body structure for 1959. In 1960, the Edsel emerged as a Ford with different trim. McNamara also moved to reduce Edsel’s advertising budget for 1959, and for 1960, he virtually eliminated it. The final blow came in the fall of 1959, when McNamara convinced Henry Ford II and the management structure that the Edsel was doomed and that it was time to end production before the Edsel bled the company dry. (Note: McNamara also attempted to end the Lincoln nameplate; however, that effort ended with Elwood Engel's now classic redesign of 1961.) McNamara left Ford when he was named Secretary of Defense by President John F. Kennedy.

 

During the 1964 presidential election, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater blamed McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, for the Edsel's failure. Eventually, Ford's former executive vice president and financial contributor to Goldwater's campaign Ernest R. Breech wrote the Senator's campaign explaining that "Mr. McNamara ... had nothing to do with the plans for the Edsel car or any part of the program." However, the charge continued to be leveled against McNamara for years. During his time as head of the World Bank he instructed his public affairs officer to distribute copies of Breech's letter to the press whenever the accusation was made.[2]

 

The scheduled 1960 Edsel Comet compact car was hastily rebranded the Comet and assigned to Mercury dealerships. The Comet was an instant success, selling more cars in its first year than all models of Edsel produced during its three-year run. Styling touches seen in the Comets sold to the public that allude to being part of the Edsel family of models included the instrument cluster, rear tailfins (though canted diagonally), and the taillight shape (the lens is visually similar to that used on the 1960 Edsel, and even retained the embossed "E" code). The Comet's keys were even shaped like Edsel keys, with the center bar removed from the "E" to form a "C." For 1962, Ford officially assigned the Comet to the Mercury brand.

 

As the Edsel was a large commercial failure, the name became a popular joke in various media. A backronym, "Every Day Something Else Leaks", was inspired by the car's failure. Television programs, cartoons, video games, and films have all used the Edsel as humor, usually as a quick joke or as a sight gag.

 

In May 1958, then Vice President Richard Nixon was on a trip to Peru, riding in an Edsel convertible, when he was pelted with eggs and tomatoes by demonstrators. Nixon later joked: "They were throwing eggs at the car, not me."[3]

 

Fifty years after its spectacular failure, Edsel has become a highly collectible item amongst vintage car hobbyists. Fewer than 6,000 Edsels survive and are considered collectors’ items. A mint 1958 Citation convertible sometimes sells for over $100,000,[1] while rare models, like the 1960 convertible, may price up to $200,000. While the design was considered "ugly" fifty years ago, many other car manufacturers, such as Pontiac and Alfa Romeo, have employed similar vertical grille successfully on their car designs.

Many of the Edsel's features, such as transmission lock on ignition, adjustable brakes, gear selection as steering wheel buttons etc, which were considered "too impractical" in the late 1950s, are today standard features of sports cars.

 

Post Processing:

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Skyscrapers in New York

 

As a reminder, keep in mind that this picture is available only for non-commercial use and that visible attribution is required. If you'd like to use this photo outside these terms, please contact me ahead of time to arrange for a paid license.

Please view Large on Black. Portion of J. Paul Getty Museum, Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. Dec. 26, 2012. Captured with Canon EOS5DIII, Canon EF24-105mm f4L IS USM at 35mm, f 11 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 50. Handheld. Post Processing with CS5. NikSofware SilverEfexPro 2.0.

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The Getty Center, in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, is a campus for the J. Paul Getty Trust founded by oilman J. Paul Getty. The $1.3 billion center, which opened on December 16, 1997, is also well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. The center sits atop a hill connected to a visitors' parking garage at the bottom of the hill by a three-car, cable-pulled tram. The center draws 1.3 million visitors annually.

It is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. This branch of the museum specializes in "pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs". Among the works on display is the painting Irises by Vincent van Gogh. Besides the museum, the center's buildings house the Getty Research Institute(GRI), the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the administrative offices of the J. Paul Getty Trust, which owns and operates the center. The center also has outdoor sculptures displayed on terraces and in gardens. Designed by architect Richard Meier, the campus includes a central garden designed by artist Robert Irwin. GRI's separate building contains a research library with over 900,000 volumes and two million photographs of art and architecture. The center's design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and fires.

 

Location and history

Originally, the Getty Museum started in J. Paul Getty's house located in Pacific Palisades in 1954. He expanded the house with a museum wing. In the 1970s, Getty built a replica of an Italian villa on his home's property to better house his collection, which opened in 1974. After Getty's death in 1976, the entire property was turned over to the Getty Trust for museum purposes. However, the collection outgrew the site, which has since been renamed the Getty Villa, and management sought a location more accessible to Los Angeles. The purchase of the land upon which the center is located, a campus of 24 acres (9.7 ha) on a 110-acre (45 ha) site in the Santa Monica Mountains above Interstate 405, surrounded by 600 acres (240 ha) kept in a natural state, was announced in 1983. The site cost $25 million. The top of the hill is 900 feet (270 m) above I-405, high enough that on a clear day it is possible to see not only the Los Angeles skyline but also the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains to the east as well as the Pacific Ocean to the west.

In 1984, Richard Meier was chosen to be the architect of the center. After an extensive conditional-use permit process, construction by the Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company began in August 1989. The construction was significantly delayed, with the planned completion date moved from 1988 to 1995 (as of 1990). By 1995, however, the campus was described as only "more than halfway complete".

The center finally opened to the public on December 16, 1997. Although the total project cost was estimated to be $350 million as of 1990, it was later estimated to be $1.3 billion. After the center opened, the villa closed for extensive renovations and reopened on January 28, 2006, to focus on the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. Currently, the museum displays collections at both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

In 2005, after a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times about the spending practices of the Getty Trust and its then-president Dr. Barry Munitz, the California Attorney General conducted an investigation of the Getty Trust and found that no laws had been broken. The trust agreed to appoint an outside monitor to review future expenditures. The Getty Trust experienced financial difficulties in 2008 and 2009 and cut 205 of 1,487 budgeted staff positions to reduce expenses. Although the Getty Trust endowment reached $6.4 billion in 2007, it dropped to $4.5 billion in 2009.

 

Architecture

Meier has exploited the two naturally-occurring ridges (which diverge at a 22.5 degree angle) by overlaying two grids along these axes. These grids serve to define the space of the campus while dividing the import of the buildings on it. Along one axis lie the galleries and along the other axis lie the administrative buildings. Meier emphasized the two competing grids by constructing strong view lines through the campus. The main north-south axis starts with the helipad, then includes a narrow walkway between the auditorium and north buildings, continues past the elevator kiosk to the tram station, through the rotunda, past the walls and support columns of the exhibitions pavilion, and finally the ramp besides the west pavilion and the central garden. Its corresponding east-west visual axis starts with the edge of the scholar's wing of the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the walkway between the central garden and the GRI, the overlook to the azalea pool in the central garden, the walkway between the central garden and the west pavilion, and finally the north wall of the west pavilion and the courtyard between the south and east pavilions.

The main axes of the museum grid that is offset by 22.5 degrees begins with the arrival plaza, carries through the edge of the stairs up to the main entrance, aligns with the columns supporting the rotunda as well as the center point of the rotunda, aligns with travertine benches in the courtyard between the pavilions, includes a narrow walkway between the west and south pavilions, a staircase down to the cactus garden and ends in the garden. The corresponding cross axis starts with the center point of the circle forming the GRI library garden, then passing to the center of the entrance rotunda, and aligning with the south wall of the rotunda building. Although all of the museum is aligned on these alternative axes, portions of the exhibitions pavilion and the east pavilion are aligned on the true north-south axis as a reminder that both grids are present in the campus.

The primary grid structure is a 30-inch (760 mm) square; most wall and floor elements are 30-inch (760 mm) squares or some derivative thereof. The buildings at the Getty Center are made from concrete and steel with either travertine or aluminium cladding. Around 1,200,000 square feet (110,000 m2) of travertine was used to build the center.

Throughout the campus, numerous fountains provide white noise as a background. The initial design has remained intact; however benches and fences have been installed around the plaza fountains to discourage visitors from wading into the pools. Some additional revisions have been made in deference to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The north promontory is anchored by a circular grass area, which serves as a heliport in case of emergencies, and the south promontory is anchored by a succulent plant and cactus garden. The complex is also encircled by access roads that lead to loading docks and staff parking garages on both the west and east sides of the buildings. The hillside around the complex has been planted with California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) trees.

The museum has a seven-story deep underground parking garage with over 1,200 parking spaces. Its roof has an outdoor sculpture garden. An automated three-car, cable-pulled tram takes passengers between the parking garage at the bottom of the hill and the museum at the top of the hill.

   

Excerpts sourced from Wikipedia.

  

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Three (+1 / 0 / -1) bracketed exposures in .JPG format HDR processed with Corel and Photomatix.

 

Cary is a town and suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina in Wake and Chatham counties in the state of North Carolina. Located almost entirely in Wake County, it is the second largest municipality in that county and the third largest municipality in The Triangle after Raleigh and Durham. In 2003, the previous Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was re-defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, resulting in the formation of the Raleigh-Cary, NC MSA and the Durham, NC MSA.

 

The Research Triangle region encompasses the U.S. Census Bureau's Combined Statistical Area (CSA) of Raleigh-Durham-Cary in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina. The Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is estimated to be the nation's fastest growing metropolitan area.

  

Tyntesfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Tyntesfield

  

Tyntesfield is located in Somerset

Former names Tyntes Place

General information

Type Country House

Architectural style Gothic Revival

Town or city Wraxall, North Somerset

Country England

Coordinates 51.4403°N 2.7135°W

Completed 1863

Cost £70,000

Client William Gibbs

Owner National Trust

Technical details

Other dimensions 106 rooms[1]

26 main bedrooms, 43 in total including servants quarters

Floor area 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2)

Design and construction

Architect John Norton (Main house)

Henry Woodyer (Internal adjustments)

Arthur Blomfield (Chapel)

Other designers Powell; Wooldridge; Salviati; Hart, Son, Peard and Co.; Collier and Plucknett

Main contractor William Cubitt & Co.

Designations Grade I listed

Website

Tyntesfield @ National Trust

 

Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival house and estate near Wraxall, North Somerset, England. The house is a Grade I listed building.

 

The house is named after the Tynte baronets, who had owned estates in the area since about 1500. The location was formerly that of a 16th-century hunting lodge, which was used as a farmhouse until the early 19th century. In the 1830s a Georgian mansion was built on the site, and this was bought by English businessman William Gibbs. In the 1860s, Gibbs had the house significantly expanded and remodelled; later, a chapel being added in the 1870s. The Gibbs family owned the house until the death of Richard Gibbs in 2001.

 

Tyntesfield was acquired by the National Trust in June 2002 after a fundraising campaign to prevent it being sold to private interests and to ensure it would be open to the public. The house was opened to visitors for the first time just 10 weeks after the acquisition, and as more rooms are restored they are added to the tour. The mansion was visited by 189,329 people in 2012, a fall of 8.5 per cent on the previous year.[2]

Contents

  

History

Background

 

The land on which the house and its estate were developed was originally part of the Tynte family estate; this family had lived in the area since the 1500s, and was based between Halswell House in Goathurst near Bridgwater to the south,[3] and Berkeley, Gloucestershire in the north.[4]

 

By the late 1700s, John Tynte owned what is now the Tyntesfield estate; at that time the house was approached by an avenue of elm trees, planted after they were bequeathed in the 1678 will of Sir Charles Harbord to the people of Wraxall in memory of two boys he had apprenticed from the village.[4] The Tynte's had originally lived on the estate, but by the early 1800s, John had made Chelvey Court in Brockley his principal residence, downgrading Tyntes Place to a farmhouse he leased to John Vowles.[4] In 1813, George Penrose Seymour of the adjoining Belmont estate purchased the property and gave it to his son, the Rev. George Turner Seymour.[5] He in turn built a new Georgian mansion on the site of the former Saddler’s Tenement, and then demolished the old farmhouse.[4]

 

This Georgian house was later remodelled by Robert Newton of Nailsea.[4]

Purchase by the Gibbs family

 

In 1843, the property was bought by businessman William Gibbs, who had made his fortune from his family business, Antony Gibbs & Sons. Antony Gibbs, William's father, from Clyst St Mary, Devon, had after a roller-coaster career become wealthy through the import and marketing of guano as a fertilizer from South America.[6] The firm's profits from this trade were such that William Gibbs became the richest non-noble man in England.[7][3]

 

Throughout his life, William Gibbs and his wife Matilda Blanche Crawley-Boevey (known as Blanche), were principally domiciled on London[8], for the greater part of his marriage this was at 16 Hyde Park Gardens, which the family owned until Blanche's death.[9] However, as he travelled regularly on business to the Port of Bristol he required a residence in the area; thus it was, in 1843, he came to buy Tyntes Place, which he subsequently renamed Tyntesfield.[9] Within a few years of making his purchase, Gibbs was to begin a large program of rebuilding and enlarging of the mansion.

 

The architectural style selected for the rebuilding was a loose Gothic combining many forms and reinventions of the medieval style. The choice of Gothic architecture was influenced by William and Blanche Gibb's Anglo-Catholic beliefs as a followers of the Oxford Movement.[10] This wing of the Anglican Church advocated the view set out in the architect Augustus Pugin's 1836 book Contrasts. The book argued for the revival of the medieval Gothic style, and also "a return to the faith and the social structures of the Middle Ages".[11] The Oxford Movement, of which both Pugin and Gibbs were disciples, later took this philosophy a step further and claimed that the Gothic style was the only architecture suitable for Christian worship. [12] Thus, the Gothic style became a symbolic display of Christian beliefs and lifestyle and was embraced by devout Victorians such as Gibbs.[13] The completion of the mansion's chapel further accentuated the building's medieval monastical air so beloved by the Oxford Movement's devotees. When completed, the ecclesiastical design was reinforced by a dominating, square tower with steeply pitched roof adorned by four tourelles. This was demolished in 1935.[14]

Redevelopment

View of the approach to the house from the west via the visitors centre, effectively to the rear of the property. Architect John Norton designed an irregular roof to emphasise the asymmetrical design. This picture was taken in September 2005, before the restoration of the roof and its distinct diaper-pattern.

Image of Tyntesfield in an 1866 edition of The Builder magazine (the central clock tower shown was demolished in 1935)

 

In 1854, William Gibbs commissioned John Gregory Crace, an architect he was already using elsewhere, to redesign and decorate the principal rooms at Tyntesfield. These new designs included gilded panelling, woodwork, moulding and chimneypieces all in the Gothic style.[9]

 

However, rebuilding work did not begin in earnest until 1863 when with John Norton as architect and William Cubitt & Co. as sub-contracted builders, William Gibbs had the property substantially remodelled in a Gothic Revival style.[15] Norton's design enveloped the original house. He added two new wings, an extra floor and towers. Norton emphasised the restoration of architectural continuity relating to several different historical periods. As a result, while some walls remained plain, others were decorated with a mixture of Gothic and naturalistic carvings.[4][16]

Design

 

The house is built of two-types of Bath Stone, and is highly picturesque, bristling with turrets and possessing an elaborate roof. The combined effect of the architecture and chosen materials has been described by journalist Sir Simon Jenkins as "severe".[17] During restoration, stonemasons either conserved and occasionally copy-carving new elements, carving new mouldings to replace standard architectural elements that formed the weathering, as well repointing most of the miles of lime pointing.[16] All stone was accurately matched to the original, with Cotswold oolitic limestone from Veyzeys quarry near Tetbury.[16] The house, which includes the servants' wing and the chapel, was made a Grade II* listed building in 1973,[18] and has since been upgraded to Grade I.[19]

 

The front (facing east over the gardens towards towards Backwell Hill) and north (entrance courtyard) are faced in one shade of ochreous Bath Stone;[16] while the south (rear) which is mainly allocated to the service area and servants quarters is faced in cheaper red-tinged Draycott marble rubble,[16] and has some plastered finishes. All facades have many Gothic main windows, Tudor oriel windows, chimneys and attic dormers.[17] Norton topped the design with an irregular roof, it's various pitches and gables emphasising the building's asymmetrical architecture.[16] The final external addition was a huge ironwork conservatory by Hart, Son, Peard and Co. to the rear.[20] The final external result was described by novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge, a cousin of Blanche Gibbs, as "like a church in spirit.".[9]

 

The interiors were also in the Gothic style. Crace was again engaged to remodel the interiors, in some places extending or adapting his initial works, in others providing new schemes. Other notable elements of the house include glass by Powell and Wooldridge, mosaics by Salviati, and ironwork by Hart, Son, Peard and Co. George Plucknett was Cubitt's foreman, who was related to James Plunkett of Collier and Plucknett, furniture makers of Warwick. The result was that Gibbs ordered a number of specially commissioned pieces from the firm,[21] including a fully fitted bathroom for his wife.[22] All of these fine pieces of craftsmanship were added to by Gibb's expanding collection of artworks.[9]

 

While the reconstruction on the house was being undertaken, William Gibbs had rented Mamhead Park in Devon.[23] The total cost of redevelopment to create a house with 23 main bedrooms and 47 in total including servants accommodation came to £70,000 (£5,670,000 as of 2013).[24] The sum was equivalent to 18 months gross profit from all of Gibbs's business interests.[25] After completion of the main building works, Gibbs created more cash by selling shares in Antony Gibbs & Sons to his nephew Henry Hucks Gibbs (later Lord Aldenham), which enabled him to purchase two adjoining properties – including Belmont to the east from his nephew George Lewis Monck Gibbs[4] – to create a farming estate, founded on dairy production and forestry management. Added to further by later land purchases, at its peak the Tyntesfield estate spanned over 6,000 acres (2,400 ha), encompassing 1,000 acres (400 ha) of forestry, from Portishead in the north to south of the valley in which the main house lay. The house and estate employed more than 500 workers.[9]

Chapel

The chapel, modelled by Arthur Blomfield on Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, as viewed from the main entrance courtyard to its south

 

Gibbs' final addition to Tyntesfield was added between 1872 and 1877, when he commissioned Arthur Blomfield to add a Gothic chapel to the northside of the house. Modelled on Sainte-Chapelle in Paris,[26] it housed an organ by William Hills & Sons,[27] and below a vault in which Gibbs intended to be buried. However, combined opposition from both the vicar of the local All Saints Church, Wraxall and the church's patron, a member of the Gorges family, led to the Bishop of Bath and Wells decreeing that he would not sanction the consecration of Tyntesfield's chapel, through fears that it would take power away from the local population fully into Gibb's hands. Despite this, the chapel formed a central part of life at Tyntesfield; twice-daily prayer meetings were held there for the family and their guests.[9] Throughout their period of residence, the family would also open the chapel to local people on an annual basis, often during Rogation days and at Christmas.[4] In praise of the resultant final building, Yonge hailed the chapel as the necessary culmination of the Tyntesfield project, giving "a character to the household almost resembling that of Little Gidding", the Huntingdonshire home of Nicholas Ferrar during the reign of Charles I who was much idealized by 19th-century Anglo-Catholics.[9]

Owners of Tyntesfield

William Gibbs: 1846–1875

William and Blanche Gibbs and family at Tyntesfield, c. 1862–3

 

William and Matilda had seven children and eighteen grandchildren. The family were devout Anglicans, and William and his wife were supporters of the Oxford Movement. He was a major benefactor of Keble College, Oxford, and dedicated the later part of his life to philanthropic works. Also being teetotal, he added to the estate's holding by buying the local Failand Inn, which enabled him to control any riotous behaviour (it was sold to Courage Brewery in 1962 by the second Lord Wraxall).[4] William Gibbs died at Tyntesfield on 3 April 1875. After a service at the estate chapel on 9 April, his coffin was carried to All Saints Church, Wraxall by relays of 30 estate workers rather than in a carriage. He is buried within the family plot in the church grounds.[9]

Antony Gibbs:1875–1907

 

The estate then passed to William's eldest son Antony. After graduating with a Master of Arts degree from Exeter College, Oxford, he joined the North Somerset Yeomanry where he attained the rank of Major. He married Janet Louisa Merivale on 22 June 1872, and returned to Tyntesfield to manage the family estate. Antony held various positions of authority, including Justice of the Peace and later Deputy Lieutenant of Somerset. The couple had 10 children.[28]

 

During the 1880s, Antony had the hallway staircase reconfigured by Henry Woodyer to let in more light from the glazed lantern roof, which allowed more light to permeate the lower floors and hence turn the hallway into a reception room..[26][29] Woodyer also extended the Dining Room by taking in part of the original housekeeper's room. Crace's original wallpaper – a British imitation of Japanese paper, that itself imitated Spanish tooled leather – was lightened by a 14-year-old apprentice who hand-painted in a cream background. The sideboard, which had been commissioned from Collier and Plucknett and later enlarged, was further extended.[3] New items were also ordered from Collier and Plucknett.[22] Simultaneously, Antony had electricity installed. This made Tyntesfield one of the first houses in the UK to have electricity.[1] Antony spent the first night after turning on the electrical system watching the main entrance light, to ensure that it did not create a fire and was hence safe for his family.[26] At some point between 1868 and 1884 a water hydraulic lift was installed by Waygood and Co., the remains of which were discovered in 2008. A wooden lift car was discovered on the ground floor and a 55 inches (1,400 mm) spanning sheave in the roof space.[30]

George Abraham Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxall: 1907–1931

The staircase gallery

 

George Abraham Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxall served as a colonel in the North Somerset Yeomanry and served heroically in the Boer War campaign. On his return to England he married the Hon. Victoria Florence de Burgh Long; the couple moved to Clyst St George in Devon. Between 1918 and 1928, he served as MP for Bristol West and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Wraxall in 1928, for which his appointment as Treasurer of the Household had been instrumental.[31]

 

Under his ownership, the Drawing Room was redecorated in a Renaissance Venetian style,[32] In the process, Crace's stencilling was over painted and then covered by damasked silk, the Norton fireplace was removed, the furniture replaced with Edwardian pieces, and the carpet dyed by Sketchleys.[3] In 1917, to assist the war effort, the ironwork conservatory was razed, and its ironwork melted down for ammunition.[33][3]

 

Survived by a daughter, Albina, George's first wife died at Tyntesfield from influenza in 1920. In 1927, George married Ursula Mary Lawley. The couple had two sons, George (known as Richard) and Eustace. George died at Tyntesfield on 28 October 1931, aged 58, from pneumonia.[34]

Ursula Gibbs: 1931–1979

The dining room

 

The young widow Ursula Gibbs was left with two children under two years of age, little income, and a large estate. She was noted for her efficiency and practicality; hence in 1935, when the clock-tower which was the focal point of the house needed substantial repairs to overcome dry and wet rot, she simply had it disassembled, with the metal parts stored for possible later usage and the roof realigned as if the clock tower had never existed.[31][35]

 

During World War II, Clifton High School was relocated to the property, and in 1941, the U.S. Army Medical Corps established a facility for wounded soldiers, known as the 74th General Hospital, in the estate grounds.[4][36] The construction of this temporary tented village resulted in the US Army Engineers breaching what was then England's longest holly hedge.[4][37][36] With many tents later replaced by prefabricated buildings and some nissen huts, at one point in the war following D-Day it became the largest US Army hospital in Europe.[4][37][36] During the hostilities, management of the estate's farmland was assumed by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), leaving Lady Wraxall only the Home Farm.[4][36]

 

Bombs often landed on the estate during the blitz of Bristol. In September 1940, during a raid on the Bristol Aeroplane Company factory at Filton, bombs cut off the estate's water supply,[4][36] and during a later raid, one bomb badly damaged the lantern roof light over the hallway. After the end of the war, in 1946, Lady Wraxall applied to the Ministry of Defence for a repair grant, but was turned down. As a result damp, and latterly birds, entered the house through the roof light, until the house came into the ownership of the National Trust and was repaired.[26]

Richard Gibbs, 2nd Baron Wraxall: 1979–2001

The drawing room

 

George Richard Lawley Gibbs, known as Richard, was born on 16 May 1928, and was educated at Eton and Sandhurst. He spent eight years with the Coldstream Guards. After retiring from the Army to run the estate, he was involved with the Territorial Army and was a Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Avon.[38] He never married and was succeeded by his brother, Sir Eustace Gibbs, a diplomat; he became the third Baron Wraxall.[39]

 

Richard died unmarried in 2001 from complications arising from an asthma attack,[3] having reduced his usage of the substantial accommodation within Tyntesfield to just three rooms.[40]

National Trust purchase

 

Concerned with the demolition and desecration of various historic country houses since the end of the Second World War — 450 great houses were completely demolished in England between 1945 and 1955 — in the 1970s the National Trust commissioned architect Mark Girouard to catalogue and assess the remaining Victorian country houses across the United Kingdom for significance and structural integrity. He published his findings in a report, and later in the book The Victorian Country House, which in the revised second edition of 1976 included Tyntesfield as allowing access.[41] With the Trust as a result placing Tyntesfield second on its list of priorities for preservation, Girouard said of the property:[42]

 

There is no other Victorian country house which so richly represents its age as Tyntesfield.

 

In his later life, Richard Gibbs recognised that the diverse interests of the large family, and the need to invest heavily in even basic refurbishment of the house to make it weather-secured and habitable, would require the family to sell Tyntesfield. Recognising also that substantial death duties would become payable on his death, Richard drew up a will based around a trust which would allow his fortune to pass to the surviving children of his brother and half sister, a total of 19 beneficiaries.[40]

 

When Richard died, the trust that he had set up stated that, should the trustees agree by majority that the estate should be sold, such a sale should be completed within 12 months, and to the highest bidder. The house and estate of 1,000 acres (400 ha) of farmland, 650 acres (260 ha) of woodlands, plus 30 houses and cottages, were listed for sale by Savills in three main lots (total estimated at £15 million); with Christie's contracted to secure the sale of the house and estate contents via a separate auction (total estimated at a further £15 million).[43]

 

Having not bought a county house since the 1991 purchase of Chastleton House, which took seven years to open to the public,[22] and competing with no special status amongst the bidders, the rumoured competitors to the Trust were listed by the media to have included composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, and pop stars Madonna and Kylie Minogue.[44] However, the new Director-General of the National Trust, Fiona Reynolds, launched a £35 million appeal in May 2002 via the "Save Tyntesfield" campaign, with support from designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, newsreader Jon Snow and several top architects and historians.[45] The Trust's appeal collected £8.2 million in just 100 days,[42] with: £3 million+ from the public; and two substantial anonymous donations of £1 million from the UK, and £4 million from the United States.[3] The Trust also received £17.4 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund after negotiations with its chair, Liz Forgan,[46] its largest single grant ever which caused some controversy.[47] The National Lottery has earmarked a further £25 million for the major conservation work that is needed.[16]

 

As a result of the auction, the former "Tyntesfield Estate" no longer exists as such:

 

The National Trust purchased only the main central part of the Estate which comprises the house, the kitchen garden, and the park. The trust also sold off additional lands of part of the two packages from the sale that it bought. The resultant preserved house and surrounding gardens sat on a total of 150 acres (61 ha) of land are now simply known as Tyntesfield

Charlton Farm, is now home to Children's Hospice South West, which provides palliative care to children with terminal illnesses.[48]

Charlton House was sold into private hands, having been since 1927 the home of the Downs School.[49][50]

 

Initial conservation

 

After taking ownership in 2002, National Trust staff secured the house and gardens, preserving them and the contents, and then catalogued the contents of the house which had been collected by the four generations of the family. Starting out with a staff of 30 volunteers, by 2013 the total of employed and volunteer staff exceeded 800 people, three times the number engaged by any other NT property.[3]

 

The initial conservation work focused around weatherproofing the house, which involved:[3][26]

 

Repairing the roof: 20 times the size of the average British families home, it was covered by Europe's largest temporary free-standing scaffold roof structure, the size of 10 tennis courts. This allowed over 18 months repairs and restoration to take place, including the final restoration of the original bold red and black tiled geometric diaper pattern.[1]

Electrically rewiring the entire property with special cabling, copper sheathed (fire and rodent proofed). Undertaken by specialist contractor Haysham Ltd, the lights were chosen to model Victorian-levels of light from candles and later gas, so that additional light damage to the interiors is minimised

Complete re-plumbing to replace much of the original lead piping

Designing and then implementing a fireproofing scheme, mainly through the design of a suitable compartmentation system

Exterior scaffolding: At the height of the restoration works, 28 miles (45 km) of scaffolding tubes enveloped the building's entire exterior.[51]

Interior scaffolding: installing scaffolding in the 43 feet (13 m) high hallway to repair the lantern rooflight, and to provide access to other high points of the interior.[26]

 

These initial works cost over £10 million, much of which was raised through donations via the "Save Tyntesfield" campaign and the sale of lottery tickets to visitors.[52][3]

 

The Trust had been reluctant to allow visitors to view the works and the house while it was under way, especially taking into account the costs of Health and Safety requirements and the delays these could cause to the essential preservation works. But the need for cash dictated the answer, and the Trust learnt that, through giving the public close access to the preservation works, they actually gave more additional donations as a result of seeing where their money was going and how they were making a difference.[52][3][26]

Estate

Panoramic view of the entrance area, showing (left to right) the library, entrance hall, main house, bedroom wing and chapel

House interior

The Drawing Room, photographed in 1878 by Bedford Lemere

 

Principal rooms include the library, drawing room, billiard room, dining room and chapel. Some of the ground-floor rooms and the chapel are currently open to the public. Restoration work is under way on the remainder of the house, which will gradually be opened to visitors as the work is completed.

 

The library is regarded as the most important gentleman’s library in the possession of the Trust. The carpet and some of the furnishings in the library were designed by Crace, whilst the book collection is the most extensive Victorian library collection owned by the Trust.[3]

 

At the heart of the house is the hallway and staircase, which show the greatest number of changes since the original design.

 

Once the Trust took ownership, scaffolding was placed into the hallway to repair the roof lantern. This allowed architectural paint analyst Lisa Oestreicher to identify three principal phases of decoration in the public rooms and spaces: 1860s original; 1870s updates and adaptions; 1887–90 redecoration, which returned the main spaces to the original green colours and motifs created by Crace.[26] Once lantern repairs were complete, the Trust replaced the elderly chenille carpet destroyed by contractors working for Christie's, with a new Wilton carpet with a replica design by Linney Cooper, bought for £45,000 from public lottery donations.[26]

Contents

Tyntesfield is decorated with large amounts of stained glass.

 

Christie's originally estimated the house contents at in excess of 10,000 items, but by 2008 a total of 30,000 items had been listed including: William Butterfield designed silver; original print books by Pugin and Ruskin; an unexploded Second World War bomb; a jewel-encrusted chalice; a roll of 19th-century flock wallpaper; and a coconut with carved face and hair.[47] By 2013 the inventory had risen to 47,154 items, with still more rooms to unpack and catalog.[53]

Paintings

 

Many of the family's extensive collection of paintings, most sourced from Spain by William, were donated to the Trust. In part this was due to their poor condition, which involved not just water but also ironically guano damage. The most important painting in the collection is the 17th-century painting of St Lawrence attributed to Zambrano, which hangs in the centre of one wall of the hall. It was cleaned and repaired by local art conservators Bush and Berry, who work from a chapel built by William Gibbs in the village of Flax Bourton.[26] In 2011, the Trust bought the painting The Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo at Christie's auction in New York, this had previously been hung at Tyntesfield from when William had purchased it until some time after 1910.[54]

Home Farm Visitor Centre

 

The Home Farm buildings were built in the 1880s, split over two levels. To the south is a two-storey covered yard with a spectacular timber roof structure, used to rear farm animals. On the upper level is the main yard, where to the east and west are two wings, one side of which housed the former piggery. The farm offices make up the north wing, to fully enclose the square but gently south-sloping yard.[55]

 

The GradeII* listed buildings needed full renovation, which took a secondary priority in the Trusts plans after the house. The Trust have converted the buildings into an integrated and self-contained visitor centre, which opened in mid-2011 with:[55]

 

Upper yard:

Ticket and information office

Demonstration area: country crafts from visiting crafts people

Plant centre: excess plants raised by the gardeners are sold to raise funds

Farm-themed play area

Secondhand books stall: proceeds from which raise funds for the Trust

Restaurant: the former two-story covered yard has been fully renovated and converted into a cafe/restaurant, and also houses the gift shop. A new-build staircase, lift and bridge walkway all in steel provide access from the upper yard

A separate building to the east provides power and heat to the visitor centre, using a combined system of a biomass boiler, solar thermal panels and photovoltaic cells

 

Park

View from the eastern formal gardens looking up towards the house, April 2008

 

The house sits within 150 acres (61 ha) of parkland, which the Trust gained from the auction and retained around the property to preserve the house within its environment. The wooded park leads down a tree-lined drive to balustraded terraces, and paths lead to the rose garden, summer houses, the aviary and the former concrete-lined lake (empty since WW2).

Kitchen garden

 

The kitchen garden includes glasshouses and frames, the large classical Orangery and quarters for the gardeners.

Orangery

The Orangery

 

The Grade II* listed Orangery was once the architectural focal point of the kitchen garden complex. But when the Trust bought the property, the Orangery was in such a precarious state of deterioration that it was on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register in the highest priority category, A.[56][57]

 

Built in 1897, it is a rare surviving example of a late Victorian orangery in the Classical style, constructed from ashlar and red brick. It has a seven-bay east/west plan with central entrances and three bays north/south, topped by a fully glazed ironwork hipped-roof. An entablature with protruding horizontal geison sits above Ionic half-column supports and corner pilasters. The centre entrance bay on the west front towards the kitchen garden breaks forward as a portico, with pairs of giant engaged columns and broken pediment with a small oculus. Between each pair of columns are large round-headed windows with Gibbs surrounds and keystones.[58]

 

To preserve and restore the Orangery, the Trust teamed-up with City of Bath College and Nimbus Conservation Ltd in an innovative partnership, whereby 12 trainee stonemasons worked alongside professional craftsmen to hone their skills and carry out the specialist stonework needed. The Trust also introduced workshops for other restoration professionals, academics and eventually opened them to interested members of the public, where all were educated in a hands-on environment in the skills required to repair the building. For this crafts-based training initiative, in 2011 the Trust won a Daily Telegraph sponsored English Heritage Angel Award.[57][59]

 

The budget for the works was £420,000, with initial work focused around stabilising the foundations and lower masonry. Much of this was achieved through the injection of stabilising materials into the foundations, which needed time to cure and solidify. Works then progressed to the walls and roof, and finally the decorative embellishments. Today, while part of the Orangery is a dedicated cafe, the rest is an international education centre of excellence for the Trust, training new craftsmen and restoration specialists.[60]

Aviary

 

The aviary at Tyntesfield is Grade II listed,[61] and is situated to the west of the house, adjacent to the footings of the old conservatory. It was built in 1880 to house exotic birds, but was converted into a playhouse for Doreen, the first Lord Wraxall's daughter. The aviary is considered one of the most distinctive features of the estate.[62]

Sawmill

  

Located on a site originally occupied by a foreman's office when the land was used for quarrying, the new sawmill building was completed in 1899, providing electricity via two enclosed steam engines and pneumatic power across the estate. The engines were housed in what is now called the Engine Room, whilst the multiple lead acid batteries were housed in the Lantern Room. After opening, the decision was made to relocate the estates entire sawmill to the building, to enable better access to electrical power. After the steam engines were replaced by diesel generators, mains electricity was provided from the national grid post-WW2. In the 1960s, the sawmill was decommissioned and all wood sold to third party contractors to be converted into sawn wood products.[63]

 

Under ownership of the Trust, the sawmill has been renovated and converted into a combined learning, educational and business-rentable meeting space, most often used by volunteers to educate visiting school groups. Half of the former wood shed was converted into a "bat palace" to create a new roost site for bat species living in the area, while the other half now houses a biomass boiler for the main house, saving 141 tonnes of CO2 a year over the old oil-fired boiler.[64] The centre was opened in May 2009 by Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund who funded the works.[65]

© yohanes.budiyanto, 2014

 

PRELUDE

The 1st of August, 2014 was such an historic day as the world finally welcomed the birth of the first in line to the Parisian throne after a painstaking and extraordinary "labor" process that took four years in creation, and almost a decade in the making. I was not talking about a French rival to baby George, but instead a newborn that has sent shivers down the spines of Paris' oldest and current Kings and Grand Dames from the day it was conceived. Yes, I was referring to The Peninsula Paris, the youngest sister to the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong (circa 1928).

 

Ever since the project was announced to the public four years ago, it has been on my top list of the most eagerly awaited hotel openings of the decade. So when the hotel announced 1st of August as an opening date back in March, I immediately issued my First Class return tickets to the City of Light, risking the usual opening delay. A man of his word, Peninsula Paris finally opened as scheduled.

 

HISTORY

The Peninsula brand needs no introduction, as it is synonymous with quality, technology, innovation, craftsmanship and sophistication, -much like a slogan for French top brands and their savoir faire. Despite having only 10 current properties worldwide in its portfolio (Paris is its tenth), each Peninsula hotel is a market leader in each respective cities, and consistently tops the chart in many bonafide travel publications and reigns supreme as the world's best, especially elder sisters in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The Peninsula model is different from other rival hotel groups, which usually expand aggressively through both franchise and managed models worldwide. Instead, the Peninsula focuses on acquiring majority to sole ownership on all its properties to ensure control on quality (Hong Kong, New York, Chicago and Tokyo are 100% owned; Bangkok, Beijing and Manila are over 75%; Shanghai is 50%, while Beverly Hills and Paris are the only two with only 20% ownership).

 

The history of the Peninsula Paris could be traced back to a modest villa aptly called Hotel Basilevski on the plot of land at 19 Avenue Kleber back in 1864, -named after its Russian diplomat owner, Alexander Petrovich Basilevski, which caught the attention of hotelier Leonard Tauber for his prospective hotel project. The Versailles-styled property was partly a museum housing Basilevski's vast and impressive collection of 19th century medieval and Renaissance art, which eventually was acquired by Alexander III, -a Russian Tsar, at the sums of six millions francs. These collections were later transported to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and formed the base collection for the newly established Department of Medieval and Renaissance Art. After Basilevski sold the villa and moved to a more palatial residence at Avenue du Trocadero, the property was then acquired and rebranded the Palais de Castille as the residence of the exiled Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1868, who seeked refuge and continued to live there until 1904. Upon her death, the property was later demolished in 1906 to make way for the Majestic hotel, which finally opened in 1908 with much satisfaction of Leonard Tauber, who has eyed the premise from the very beginning.

 

The Majestic Hotel was exquisitely designed in the Beaux-Art style as a grand hotel by prominent