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وصلت الصور التي شاركت بها في جائزة حمدان بن محمد الدولية للتصوير الضوئي 2011 إلى المراتب العليا بحسب الدرجات التي حصلت عليها من قبل المُحكمين، وقد تم عرضها اثناء الحفل الختامي للدورة الأولى لجائزة حمدان بن محمد بن راشد آل مكتوم الدولية للتصوير الضوئي الذي كان منقول مباشرة على قناة سما دبي الذي اقيم في برج بارك بمنطقة برج خليفة في دبي .. وسيتم نشرها ايضا في كتاب المسابقة السنوي ..

 

وذهبت المراكز الثلاثة الاولى ..

Zulkifli Zhu Qincay (Indonesia) - 1st place "

Pierpaolo Mittica (Italy) - 2nd place"

Oscar Cejas (Argentina) - 3rd place"

 

رابط الفديو

www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=270070893076073

 

اشرك الاخت Enas Photography

لتصوير هذا الفديو عند ضهور صورتي ..

طبعا ما لحكت تصور الصورة من بداية ضهورها لانها ضهرت اول صورة .. وبالرغم من هذا حصلت على بعض الثواني .. واشكرها :)

  

My picture that participated in the award Hamdan bin Mohammed International Photography 2011 to the top ranks, according to the grades obtained by the arbitrators, and have been presented during the closing ceremony of the first session of the Award Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography , which was shown directly on the Sama Dubai TV, >And my picture will be published also in the book of the competition

 

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Mostafa Hamad

مصطفى حمد

Camera:Canon IXUS 110 IS

  

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~ David Mallet, (Scottish Dramatist)(or Malloch) (c.1705–1765)

 

This is Henry, a beloved Barn Owl from the Fall Owl Fest in Apopka.

 

A tribute to Andy Williams who passed away yesterday evening (Tuesday) and a singer I admired~

 

Please view in lightbox ~

 

Here he is singing "Moon River" youtu.be/flm4xcOyiCo

 

Moon River - Andy Williams ~

 

BRANSON, Mo. -- With a string of gold albums, a hit TV series and the signature "Moon River," Andy Williams was a voice of the 1960s, although not the `60s we usually hear about.

"The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there," the singer once recalled. "Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred -- not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself."

Williams' plaintive tenor, boyish features and easy demeanor helped him outlast many of the rock stars who had displaced him and such fellow crooners as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, and continued to perform in his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo.

 

In November 2011, when Williams announced that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, he vowed to return to performing the following year: His 75th in show business.

Williams died Tuesday night at his home in Branson following a yearlong battle with the disease, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday. He was 84.

 

He became a major star the same year as Elvis Presley, 1956, with the Sinatra-like swing "Canadian Sunset," and for a time he was pushed into such Presley imitations as "Lips of Wine" and the No. 1 smash "Butterfly."

But he mostly stuck to what he called his "natural style," and kept it up throughout his career. In 1970, when even Sinatra had given up and (temporarily) retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from "Love Story," the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records and three platinum, was nominated for five Grammy awards and hosted the Grammy ceremonies for several years.

 

Movie songs became a specialty, from "Love Story" and "Days of Wine and Roses" to "Moon River." The longing Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini ballad was his most famous song, even though he never released it as a single because his record company feared such lines as "my huckleberry friend" were too confusing and old-fashioned for teens.

The song was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in the beloved 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but Mancini thought "Moon River" ideal for Williams, who recorded it in "pretty much one take" and also sang it at the 1962 Academy Awards. Although "Moon River" was covered by countless artists and became a hit single for Jerry Butler, Williams made the song his personal brand. In fact, he insisted on it.

"When I hear anybody else sing it, it's all I can to do stop myself from shouting at the television screen, `No! That's my song!"' Williams wrote in his 2009 memoir, titled, fittingly, "Moon River and Me."

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Actor Emma Roberts attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

I've just spend one of the most amazing weekends of my entire life in the beautiful city of Ghent, Belgium. The reason why it was such a pleasure has to do with my love for films and especially film music. I run a web magazine on film music (in german language) and talked to some composers before. I even interviewed some oscar winners, but Ghent was the opportunity to actually meet some of the most distinguished for chats, interviews and a gala concert. The occasion was the annual Ghent Film Festival and the World Soundtrack Awards Ceremony. For me, it's been the first visit of these events, so I was amazed by almost everything.

 

The location, the medieval city of Ghent in Flanders (Belgie), is worth a visit in his own right. It's a big historic core with some small canals and nice architecture all over the place. I hope, this panorama shot in the minutes before sunset, displays some of the beauty of the City.

 

Stitched panorama of 8 portrait images

Canon EOS 7D

Canon 15-85mm @ 15mm

f11, 1/50s, ISO100

28 Feb 2016, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Emilia Clarke attending the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. --- Image by © Dennis Van Tine/Geisler-Fotopres/dpa/Corbis

New Year Celebration!!Best wishes to you my friends!!!Cold and rainy night!!!

 

Hollywood and Highland is a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment district on the world's most famous boulevard featuring over 60 shops, restaurants, and popular night spots.

 

The Hollywood & Highland Center is an entertainment complex at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in the Hollywood district in Los Angeles. The 387,000-square-foot (36,000 m2) center also includes Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. The historic site was once the home of the famed Hollywood Hotel. Located in the heart of Hollywood, along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it is among the most visited tourist destinations in Los Angeles.

 

Formerly the site of the legendary Hollywood Hotel which, built in 1903, was torn down in 1956, it is now a huge, sprawling shopping mall that also houses the Kodak Theatre, Oscar's first permanent home. A lot of money has gone into this controversial project, whose design might not be to everyone's liking. However, it is nevertheless an indicator of Hollywood's comeback as it encouraged other investors that Hollywood Boulevard has ceased to be the scruffy dive it had been for so many years. As a reference to Hollywood's rich and irretrievably lost past, the architecture includes replicas of D.W. Griffith's Babylonian set for his film Intolerance, which was shot just two miles east on the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. This fact, however, may be lost on the casual visitor who, unless they are familiar with Griffith's epochal film, are more likely to be startled by the fake elephants and references to ancient Egypt.

 

Hollywood. California.

A continuation of yesterdays 'Countdown' to the Oscars...

 

Here we are inside the BR Harris Pavilion where the ceremony is well under way. Many awards have been given out, but I will show just a few high lights that pertain to LL.

 

Many Thanks to Sydney Blackburn (AKA Syd Black), who collaborated with me on this. She created her unique character, Syd. She also invented the movie plot & details surrounding it, and she used her artistic skills to create the movie posters which you can find on her site:

[https://flic.kr/p/rfEXMJ]

And last, but not least, she wrote Syd's acceptance speech ! (with very little time, as I needed it right away!)

So I couldn't have done this without her! Thank you Sydney.

 

Matt & Gwyneth are reading off the winner of 'Best Costume Design in a Motion Picture'

"And the Winner is..........."

   

Oscar Fashion Photo Competition Entry

 

Style Details...

Hair: Truth

Gloves: :AE:

Dress: ^v^ DRBC ^v^

Stockings: ..::Knockers::.. February Freebie

Shoes: Reign.

 

♫ Greta Garbo, and Monroe

Deitrich and DiMaggio

Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean

On the cover of a magazine

 

Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean

Picture of a beauty queen

Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire

Ginger Rodgers, dance on air

 

They had style, they had grace

Rita Hayworth gave good face

Lauren, Katherine, Lana too

Bette Davis, we love you

 

Ladies with an attitude

Fellows that were in the mood

Don't just stand there, let's get to it

Strike a pose, there's nothing to it

 

Vogue, vogue ♫

 

Song: Madonna - Vogue

50 Years of the Great Film...... An Epic Adventure Drama directed by David Lean!

 

A Masterpiece of World Cinema.....One of the Greatest Films Ever Made!

 

In 1963, Lawrence of Arabia bagged 7 Oscars at the 35th Academy Awards ceremony in the following categories:

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Substantially Original Score, Best Sound

© 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

The Oscar ceremony is coming up.

When, if not now, can you get the large robe out of the closet?

 

Show us how your ladies prepare for the most glamorous party of the year

and how they are styled for this event.

 

The idea for this game comes from Lani (FashionRoyaltyLj) .

Tagged by Ivelin Monev, summer-sun and Integrite. Thank you so much dear friends!!! Loved this game!

 

Priscilla wanted a dazzling look inspired by the Oscar statue itself. Her exact words: "Even if I'm not getting one, I'm gonna look like one!"

At the 11th Academy Awards in 1939, George Bernard Shaw became a pub-quiz staple for becoming the only person to have won both an Oscar and a Nobel prize. Shaw got best adapted screenplay for the 1938 film Pygmalion - later this would become the musical My Fair Lady.

Shaw did not attend the ceremony, but his Oscars "moment" came with his grand dismissal of the Hollywood establishment for presuming to give him one of its baubles: "They might as well send some honour to George for being King of England". Oscar can be seen in the Shaw family home in Hertfordshire.

© 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

Emil Jannings, eigentlich Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz (* 23. Juli 1884 in Rorschach; † 2. Januar 1950 in Strobl) war ein deutscher Schauspieler. Er erhielt den ersten Oscar überhaupt und ist gleichzeitig der einzige Deutsche, der als bester Hauptdarsteller ausgezeichnet wurde.

de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Jannings

 

Emil Jannings was a Swiss-born German/Austrian actor. He was the first person to be presented with an Oscar when he was honored with the first Academy Award for Best Actor, at the 1929 ceremony.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Jannings

Picture 095 1-QQ CCRT L2-horz88

  

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

 

With her parents transformed into pigs after straying into what seems to be an abandoned theme park, a spoilt ten year-old girl takes a job in a bathhouse belonging to a wizened old crone and vows to deliver her family from its plight.

 

We're all used to the Hollywood ballyhoo that accompanies the release of a new cartoon. But, for once, the fuss is entirely justified (and not a merchandising opportunity in sight), as Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece has already notched up the notable double of the Golden Bear at Berlin (which it shared with Bloody Sunday) and an Academy Award.

 

It has also broken all Japanese box office records, becoming the first film to open in the States having already racked up $200 million. For this UK release, subtitled and dubbed options are available, depending on the venue. Pixar's John Lasseter has handled dubbing duties with typical sensitivity and, thus, opened up this magical experience to young and old alike.

 

Owing as much to Eastern mythology as to the works of Lewis Carroll or Mervyn Peake, this is an epic with a decidedly personal touch. The plot is gloriously labyrinthine and, as in most Miyazaki films, the quest element is key. But it's subservient to the themes of self-discovery and the value of relationships and, consequently, the tone and scale of the action feels much closer to the little-seen My Neighbour Totoro than the overrated Princess Mononoke.

 

There are still numerous flights of fancy, however, as characters constantly shift shapes - Chihiro's parents turn into pigs, the evil Yubaba into a sinister bird, the timid No Face into a rampaging carnivore, Okutaresama the malodorous monster into a benign river spirit, and the kindly but mysterious Haku into a dragon. Then there's the spider-like boilerman, Kamaji, and his scurrying soot-ball assistants, who help Chihiro escape the forbidding bathhouse on a ghostly railway.

 

But what really fires the imagination is the beauty and ingenuity of the wonderland that lies at the end of a tunnel leading off from the quiet country road where Chihiro and her parents get lost. Moreover, the fact that Miyazaki and his team hand-draw the images before they're digitally coloured and animated gives them an artistry that has been woefully lacking from so many recent American features.

 

Despite a dip midway through, this is a captivating fantasy that sets a new benchmark for animation.

  

Academy Awards, USA 2003

Won

Oscar Best Animated Feature

Hayao Miyazaki

 

Hayao Miyazaki was not present at the awards ceremony. Presenter Cameron Diaz accepted the award on his behalf.

 

★★★★★

 

© 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

*“I’ve got a very bad feeling about this.”

 

This picture has become rather popular and I keep running into it online in assorted blogs and whatnot. Eventually D.K Books saw it and contacted me, asking if I could scan and/or take pictures of some of the individual items for use in their 2010 coffee table book, Star Wars: Year By Year. So, somewhat bemused, I did, and you'll find the results in the Star Wars: A New Hope section, along with credits in the back of the book. This makes me smile because now I get to say "SEE!! I told you there was a reason for keeping all this junk!"

 

"At last, the circle is complete."

 

A LONG TIME AGO IN 1977.....

 

-Australia had its worst railway disaster at Granville near Sydney, with 83 dead.

 

-The first Apple 2 computers were sold.

 

-Queen Elizabeth the 2nd toured the world.

 

-Optical fibre telephone cables were introduced.

 

-The worst single aviation disaster in history occurred in the Canary Islands when two 747s collided, killing 583.

 

-The first public telephones with buttons instead of dials were introduced.

 

-Toy fads included skateboards and.....Slime!

 

-Fashions included flares, disco hot pants, wide ties, moustaches and sideburns, big floppy hats for women and Punk swaggered down the street with torn clothing, aggro hair, safety pins and chains.

 

-In music the Sex Pistols and many others put the boot into Punk. Blondie released their eponymous album, David Bowie let Heroes take wing, and the Alan Parson's Project activated I Robot, while ABBA were THE Dancing Queens.

 

-Jimmy Carter was the US Prez.

 

-The Roots mini-series was on the telly. In Australia we watched Don Lane, Paul Hogan, and Mike Walsh in their shows. Graeme Kennedy hosted the game show Blankety Blanks, and long running soaps like Bellbird, Number 96 and The Box were winding up. Other shows new or popular that year included: Charlies Angels, Fantasy Island, Three's Company, Eight Is Enough, The Goodies, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Are You being Served?, Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers, Soap, CHiPs, The Love Boat, The Good Life, and The Naked Vicar Show.

 

-The Soviet Salyut Space Station was in orbit.

 

-UFOs were beginning to overfly Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Peg and Ed Blumquist were just starting to plot their bloody reign of terror, though no one would have believed it, if told.

 

-Malcolm Fraser was the Australian Prime Minister.

 

-Sarah Michelle Gellar, Orlando Bloom, Shakira, Tom Welling (Smallville's Superboy), and Liv Tyler were all born in '77.

 

-Elvis, BIng, Wernher von Braun, Joan Crawford, Zero Mostel, Chaplin and Groucho (and his brother Gummo) all died in '77.

 

-The Space Shuttle Enterprise (named after the US Navy vessels and the Star Trek ship) was undergoing flight tests as the testbed prototype for the future space fleet.

 

-Films released that year included Smokey and The Bandit, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall, Airport 77, The Spy Who Loved Me, Looking For Mr Goodbar, The Gauntlet, Oh God!, The Goodbye Girl, The Island Of Dr Moreau, Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger, The Deep, Freaky Friday, ABBA-The Movie, Kingdom Of The Spiders, Capricorn 1, Empire Of The Ants, The Incredible Melting Man, Spider-Man (The Nicholas Hammond T.V pilot packaged for theatrical release), Wizards, Julia, and Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo.

 

And.. Star Wars!

 

Actually, I'm not a very keen Star Wars fan now, haven't really been since the series "Jumped The Sarlac" back in Return of The Jedi and certainly not at all impressed by the bloated toy franchise second trilogy...retro first trilogy or whateverthehell those three films were supposed to be. Of course, now we have a new cycle of Star Wars films...but I've evolved a bit since 1977 and the genre 'verse has too, so I'm unlikely to return to the franchise fold in a big way.

 

I wasn't going to go on a pre-Star Wars VII binge of rewatching the earlier movies before seeing The Force Awakens. Goodness, I'm not even sure I have copies! I think there was a set of preview screeners I got from somewheres, I did dig 'em out before the opening weekend and watched the first two, which proved to be a tactical error.

 

I couldn't bring myself to rewatch that first dreadful wave of bloated S.W preqs, though. Amongst their countless, inexplicably artlessly charmless moments, where they really misfired is not managing to effectively tell Anakin's fall into Vader as a genuine tragedy. Instead it's just...grubby, with a rather creepy and unlikely romance thrown in alongside stodgy political commentary that would've taken Aaron Sorkin's fine hand to make live. It does make me wonder if the prequels had actually come first if Vader would've been seen as being quite so cool.

 

The genre cinema landscape has changed a lot since 1977. It's a rare year now that doesn't have at least five aspirationally major science fiction movies hit the big screen, and then there's the amazingly deep work being done on television where the long form fiction game plays out in greater complexity than ever. Star Wars isn't the only rodeo in town, and its supervillains and superheroes would probably have to pass an entrance exam to join, say, the Avengers or Guardians Of The Galaxy. But that's okay, the genre is as mainstream as it is now because it's standing on the shoulders of Star Wars, and Star Trek, and 2001, and Planet Of The Apes, and Forbidden Planet....and, well, you get the idea.

 

Still, my old New Hope was that the new films were/are good 'uns too, and will help kick the genre can even further down the road!

 

Well, having seen The Force Awakens now, I must admit to being somewhat disappointment, especially now I have Rogue On" to compare and contrast it with. Several things to like about 'Force (truly!) but the intensively cloned plot wasn't one of them. Every time (and there were many) I settled into enjoying the film I kept getting tractored out of happyspace by the realisation that I had seen them do precisely the same thing in A New Hope. They tried way too hard to mimic precise plot details from that very first Star Wars movies. Yet another ginormous battlestation to be exploderated, the inevitable 'chosen one' Jedi rising from humble, deserty origins (a girl, and well past time, too!) with another pouty teenage Sith (Darth Vader's his Grandad!) to play the villain. Add a clumsily realized death for the beloved character, Han Solo. None of it works particularly well, save perhaps the introduction of a rebellious Stormtrooper, which ironically, leaves you awkwardly questioning the multitude of throwaway deaths of the hitherto faceless, thinly armoured soldiers throughout the series.

 

I don't know if the filmmakers were trying to be stylishly 'meta' but pretty much the entire story was lifted whole from the very first movie, with some bits thrown in from the others. A bit of a let down for me and inevitably it's going to be the Bantha in the room when discussing the new flick. I've since read that the aim was to remind the punters of the original films by presenting familiar plot points, but that didn't work out very with the first lot of prequels, did it?

 

Yet another prequel, Rogue One, fared much better, because it didn't even pretend to be doing something new, as it plugged so neatly, like an astro-mech droid into an X-Wing socket, into the immediate backstory of A New Hope. It did something entirely grimly necessary, which was to bring a a little bit more adult understanding and realization of the underlying interstellar struggle of the story into play. Simply put, it effectively put the "War" into Star Wars, in a way that rang tragically true, albeit in an admittedly watered down cinematic way. In fact, it's enough good at that, that A New Hope plays more naively as the now direct sequel, almost as if it's set in an alternate, much less nuanceduniverse.

 

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

 

But, back in the Day, in 1977....I was a potential Star Warrior, and it certainly had an influence upon my eventual uber-geekhood, though not as much as Star Trek did, to be sure. This collection of early Star Wars booty really represents a Road Not Taken by me.

 

Anyway, May 25th, 1977 was the day the film was released in the US but it didn't open in Melbourne until October 27th. We used to have a pretty big time lag between overseas film releases and them washing up Downunder.

 

I don't know exactly when I first saw it, I've long since tossed the 14 ticket stubs that would tell the story, but I may have seen it on my birthday, which was the day after it opened. The tickets cost $4.00 Australian each back then, so it cost me $56 plus just to see the film those 14 times. No wonder I never bothered getting the video when it came out!

 

Anyway, Star Wars was the very first feature film screened in a big city cinema (at the now defunct Hoyts Mid-City theatre) that I caught a bus to see all by myself.

 

I must have been about 16, which most folks would probably think was quite late. I actually did get around a lot on my own of course, just not to the city much. We had a small town hall in the suburb where I lived, where they played films on a miniscule screen. They even had a piano player for some silent flicks! :) I used to enjoy going out to the city with my mum and we'd go shopping, go to bookshops and sometimes to the pictures...I have vague memories of seeing Westerns and, of all things, a Man From Uncle television story tarted up as a big screen release. We used to get a lot of those here, in fact the cinema is where I saw the original Battlestar Galactica pilot.

 

But that Star Wars clone came later of course....

 

I think the only other film I have seen in the cinema more times was Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan....one reason for so many repeated viewings of that was to note down all the books on Khan's makeshift bookshelf so I could read them all! I don't think any other film has inspired me to do quite so much reading, certainly not Star Wars.

 

A couple of months after I saw Star Wars I caught a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was enjoying a re-release, perhaps because of the enormous interest in space movies that Star Wars helped kick-start again. Now 2001, was much more my idea of a Science Fiction movie I could sink my precocious intellectual teeth into and its high standards have influenced my genre tastes ever since.

 

“Don’t call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease.”

 

So, my early Star Wars collection is really quite puny compared to ones compiled by folks who had or have more resources, both monetary and enthusiasm, to bring to this particular sub-genre of fandom.

 

Still, I think it's a fair cross section of the tie-in publications if not (thankfully!) the other merchandise available at the time. This, by the way, isn't all of it. Just what I thought made a decent composition. I also didn't mess with the set up much, didn't get anal about lining everything up perfectly. This is the raw way I would have pasted all this stuff into, say, a scrapbook, back in the 70s.

 

"I have you now!"

 

I was already a bit of a collector before Star Wars. Folks nowadays (groan!) sometimes think that Star Wars started the media spin-off explosion but that's just not so. Every category represented here was already well explored by the Star Trek marketers, at least, before the mid 1970s. Radio, film and television had been churning out saleable junk for decades. Still, Star Wars certainly plumbed new wallet depths.....

 

“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”

 

The items in the list refer to numbered notes on the picture which run roughly left to right, row by row downwards.

 

1) Magazine. 1977. Star Wars Official Collectors Edition. Marvel Comics International. English Printing. 76 pages plus covers. Cover prices: Australia- $2.95. USA $1.75. U.K 95p.

 

The cover is the famous Brothers Hildebrandt one. Carrie Fisher used to hoot with laughter at the way they 'enhanced' her legs and breasts! Still, it's a cracking illustration that captures the feel of the movie very successfully. The contents were quite interesting. The usual retrospective on Science Fiction and cinematic influences was always handy, as I'd keep an eye out for films and books. There was a little glossary of terms (why did it take so long to put out a Star Wars Encyclopaedia?) and a comprehensive storybook of the film with lots of stills and articles about special effects, music and production artwork by the likes of Ralph McQuarrie. I really poured over the FX and behind-the-scenes shots in particular.

 

I still laugh at the breathless questions posed about sequels at the end of the mag. "Will the hero marry the strong-willed Princess Leia? (Ewwwww!) Or will he have to challenge Han Solo to a duel for Leia's hand?" Always with Star Wars it's about the lopping off with the Hans!

 

“Watch your mouth kid, or you’ll find yourself floating home.”

 

2) The original Star Wars bubble gum cards. 1977. These are the blue edged Topps ones, or a local Australian variant. 66 in all. You could put several of them together and the backs would form a mini-poster, there were also movie facts. I’ve tossed several of these cards into the picture.

 

3) Soft cover picture book. 1978. Story adapted by Geraldine Richelson. Armada Books. Wiliam Collins Publishers, Sydney. Printed In Victoria, Australia. Cover Prices: Australia $4.95. U.K 1 pound 45. Canada $4.50. The movie story with really well reproduced stills as illustrations. There was a great shot of Vader on the back cover that I still remember referencing for drawings.

 

4) Original Movie Programme Booklet. 1977. S.W Ventures Inc. New York. Printed in the U.S.A. Australian cover price unknown but you could get them for $1.50 in the U.S. Remember these? I don't know when they decided that we didn't need programme books for sale at Australian cinemas, but this was probably the first one I ever purchased. I never really saw one again after the mid 80s or so, although have since gotten some pretty nice ones in press kits as a movie reviewer. It had all the bells and whistles: good pictures, a cast list, actor bios and a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff.

 

5) Magazine. Famous Monsters Of Filmland #137 September 1977 Yearbook. 90 pages plus cover. Cover Price $1.90 Australian. $1.50 U.S. Warren Publishing. U.S. My favourite magazine treat back then, along with the later, glossy Starlog. Absolutely crammed with all kinds of groovy ghouly fan treasures! The yearbook was just a cheap way of recycling stories of course, but useful if you'd missed previous issues. I have several surviving copies from this era. I like the titles in burnt orange...surely the signature colour of the 70s? Well, along with brown and assorted garish greens....

 

In spite of the cover there was actually minimal Star Wars content in this issue. Everything else though was magic! Features on the Japanese monster Ghidrah, a story by Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Bloch called "The Horror Of The Lighthouse" (Illustrated with movie stills that included Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee playing a cross eyed vampire from The House That Dripped Blood film), an account of a fan's phone call with actor Christopher Lee (Lee, of course, had his own part to play in the Star Wars saga decades later), and those advertisements! Page after page of fascinating odds and sods: Planet of the Apes and monster masks, a Frankenstein bust plaster casting kit, Dick Smith Monster make-up kits, Super 8 films of Zorro, Tarzan, and of course Star Wars, and the projector to show 'em with! Posters, vinyl L.Ps, Frank Frazetta art books, glow in the dark (anatomically correct!) skulls, Star Trek posters that you hand coloured, model Batmobiles, and....curious underwear that featured covers from this mag and its sister titles, Creepy and Eerie.

 

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

 

All accompanied by what were allegedly Forry Ackerman's exuberant puns and “Forrest” of exclamation marks..."Every ghoulboy reader...", "You won't be dozing when you read what this half dozen horror stars did in THE BLACK SLEEP!" *Bliss*

 

The name Dick Smith stuck in my head (THUNK !!) and would later prove pivotal in interesting me in the fine art of monster making myself....

 

6) Magazine. 1977. Science Fantasy Film Classics Collectors Edition #1 Tandem Corporation Chicago, USA. Cover price $2.00 Australian. 70 pages. This was a thoughtfully produced magazine with some quite intricate, well researched articles. This first issue focused on Star Wars, Forbidden Planet and 2001 making it very attractive to me. There was a piece on the science of light sabres, Robby the Robot and an extended analysis of 2001. A big foldout poster used original artwork to create a homage to all three films. On the back of it was a concise guide to the special effects seen in them.

 

7) Magazine. Famous Monsters Star Wars Spectacular. 1977. Warren Publishing. New York. 50 pages. Cover Price: $1.55 Australian. $1.25 US. More bandwagon repackaging. The picture captions were frakking unbelievable! For example..."There have been a handful of monumental landmarks in the history of Earth: the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, man on the moon*, the birth of Famous Monsters...and now - STAR WARS! Buy ten copies of this issue and they'll send your kids to college in the 21st century." Well, by 'sending to college' they must have meant bus fare, 'cos I've seen this on eBay from $3.00....

 

“That’s no moon, it’s a space station.”

 

8) Poster Magazine. Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2. 1977. Paradise Press, London. Cover Price $1.50 Australian. Identical to the Star Trek poster magazines these foldouts packed in quite a few articles on the back of the poster, which in this case was a neat still of Vader and the Stormies in a corridor of the captured Reb Blockade Runner. In this issue a rather gushing expose on Vader also opinions that "The Galaxy was ruled by wise members of the Senate". Guessing that would be the likes of Senator Jar Jar Binks ? Righhhht. Other pieces included a focus on Tatooine, and how the space dogfights were filmed. Never letting a chance to sell more stuff go by an advertisement lists, amongst other allegedly cool junk, a "Genuine Darth Vader Communicator for sending light signals through deep space." A tricked up mirror, in other words, though the copywriter earnestly assured, "The mirror can be used to see your own reflection!" Guess D.V used it to touch up his lippy, the Sithy!

 

"Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force"

 

9) Artwork Portfolio. The Star Wars Portfolio: Paintings by Ralph McQuarrie. September 1977. Ballantine Books. New York. I was quite used to the beaut Star Trek range of technical manuals and other related material that Ballantine Books produced and wasn't surprised that their Star Wars merchandise was also of a high standard. This classic artwork folio contains twenty one 35 cm X 27 cm colour prints of Ralph McQuarrie's glorious preproduction paintings for the film. Mine are still in excellent nick, and are just as handsome to look at today as they were then. McQuarrie's evocative artwork, if anything, looks better than the finished film. McQuarrie, born in Gary, Indiana, in 1929 is a fine futurist artist, formerly a conceptual design artist for Boeing (his aviation and aerospace art is stunning!) whose film and television work included Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Cocoon (he won an Oscar for that one), E.T, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, *batteries not included, Cherry 3000, Total Recall, and Battlestar Galactica. He has an excellent online gallery at:

 

www.ralphmcquarrie.com/index.html

 

10) Soft cover Sketchbook. The Star Wars Sketchbook by Joe Johnston. Ballantine Books. New York. 96 pages. A lot of fan artists loved this book! Ballantine, primed with its Star Trek tie-in experience, was quick off the mark, no doubt because the preproduction artwork was both high quality and readily translated into print. Johnston's work, a mixture of pen and ink and brushed washes or perhaps illustrator markers, is evocative but clear, just the thing for the model-makers to base their work on! Evolutionary sketch sequences trace the design development of iconic hardware from the films and I was particularly chuffed with the modular drawings of the Death Star which explain how the sections could be mixed and matched to make the battlestation look as vast as it did.

 

There was even a little size comparison chart that showed how humungously big a Stardestroyer was supposed to be! (Ssshh! It's only a model...)

 

"Look at the size of that thing!"

 

Joe Johnston worked for Lucasfilm as a storyboard artist straight out of college. Lucas later helped fund his entry into film school, and Johnston became a director in his own right. After graduating he directed films including: Hidalgo, Jurassic Park III , October Sky, Jumanji, The Pagemaster, The Rocketeer, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and of course, Captain America: The First Avenger.

 

11) Magazine Cover. Movie News. September/October 1977. Volume 13, Number 5. Cover price: 75 cents Australian. This is actually a cover cut and glued into one of several scrapbooks I made of Star Wars related ephemera, newspaper clippings and so on. I used to hand letter captions for the articles and photos and draw spacey little borders around them. A friend pointed once pointed out that I was still doing the same with Flickr! So it goes. :)

 

Some of the articles proved useful when I was writing this little monograph. For example, I got the ticket prices and cinema location from the advertisements and reviews. One review, by Melbourne's beloved film critic Ivan Hutchinson is particularly poignant. Who would've guessed that I'd be sitting next to him reviewing films (thanks to my Science Fiction and Fantasy radio show) 17 years later?

 

“Sometimes I amaze even myself.”

 

Anyway, I'm glad I never tossed these scrapbooks out, as they're also reminders to me that when it comes to being a fan of anything for me it's also about interactivity. Costumes, artwork, photoshoots, writing...I’m happier than a womp rat in a sand wallow!

 

12) 12 inch Vinyl L.P Record Album. 1977 (?) Themes From The Movies. Peter Pan/Rainbow Records. The Marty Gold Orchestra. RPG 7233. Cover price $2.99 I threw this one in as an example of how iconic the Star Wars music became. John Williams rousing main title theme was a ‘must have’ addition to any musical compilation, and could likely be found several times amongst any soundtrack buff’s Easy Listening collection amongst their K-Tel record selector! Many a good record ended its days abruptly when those damned things overbalanced and fell off tables....

 

“Put that thing away, you'll get us all killed.”

 

Marty Gold’s Orchestra was a staple of space age music covers and you can hear its work on dozens of these compilation albums. The popcorn rendition of Star Wars has the usual disco beat and R2D2 mimicking sound effects but Princess Leia's theme is soooo laid back it nods off and would not be out of place as department store Muzak. Some of the other tracks are hard to fathom, especially main titles of The Deep but The Spy Who Loved Me theme actually benefits from the brassy, sassy treatment. The cover artwork is laughable, though the sleeve hype is worth bottling: “Stupendous! Far out! Exhilarating!”

 

“What a piece of junk!”

 

13) 12 inch Vinyl Double Disc Record Album. Star Wars: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra. 1977. 20th Century Records L 45753/4. Manufactured in Australia by Festival Records.

 

Here’s one that could justify any amount of marketing hype on the cover but instead settles for two words stark against a space black background. STAR WARS. Strewth, it’s not hard to recall how big this was back in the day! Sold in starship cargo hold loads and was one of the all-time most popular soundtrack albums. The double disc format facilitated a nice selection of good quality stills in the gatefold that made it look like a photo album. There was a glorious additional poster of the Death Star battle by artist John Berkey, which I remember clearly had more than one Millennium Falcons dogfighting! I originally misremembered the poster as being done by Bob McCall but a kind visitor to this picture (ta stasiuwong !) put me right. Berkey did quite a few film posters back in the 1970s, with the 1976 King Kong remake poster being one of the best remembered. I also recall his cover for the book Colonies In Space, which depicted a glorious future in space that has still, sadly, yet to come to pass.

 

John William’s music for the film was mind bogglingly rich, and for many fans of a certain age would prove an introduction to classical music, as I’m sure it was the very first such album they purchased. An enticing entry point to the likes of Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and even Gustav Holst, Richard Wagner and William Walton. As a radio D.J I’ve got a pretty good musical memory, but even without that re-listening to this album now is like having an old friend around for tea. I can anticipate most of the cues and recognise the major thematic leitmotifs at least. Even though the main movements have passed into cliché over time it’s a lot of fun exploring the other pieces, especially some of the more subtle tracks backing the action on Tatooine.

 

Go on, you know you want to drag it out and sling it on the turntable....don’t bother trying to stop the dialogue quotes scrolling through your head....though I must say that if George Lucas wrote dialogue as strongly memorable as this music I’d still be a fan of the movies today!

 

As it is, although I’m generally somewhat weary of John Williams’ now universally copied musical style, I still appreciate his immense body of work. My favourite scores of his include: Jurassic Park, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Last Crusade, Superman, 1941, Jaws, The Reivers, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Empire Strikes Back, Saving Private Ryan, The Time Tunnel, Lost In Space, and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.

 

And this one, of course!

 

14) I was just starting to record my own cassette tapes back then (the cool new media!) so promptly dubbed a copy of the soundtrack onto a “G-Tape” a cheap, recordable cassette that was very popular. The copy was for my own use, so I could play the album away from the turntable. Still plays to this day, in spite of dire warnings about tape decay. I cut and pasted a newspaper ad for the movie as the cover. Talk about Close Encounters of the Nerd kind!

 

15) Album Notes (From Item 13) Double sided, these notes provided copious insight into John William’s methodology.

 

16) Paperback novelisation. Star Wars by George Lucas. 1977. Sphere. Printed In Australia by the Dominion Press. 190 pages. Cover price: $2.50 Australian. Every fan had to have this one! Take home your very own genuine relic of Alderaan.....buy the book, the record, the Wookie grooming comb.....

 

I started re-reading this just before "The Force Awakens" came out, and realised that I hadn't opened the still crisply feeling novel in three decades.

 

Thing is, here in Australia at least, the novelization came out well before the film! What a tease....I can remember tentatively reading a chapter or two, trying not to go too far. Spoilers in the Seventies!

 

“It's all just a bunch of simple tricks and nonsense."

 

It is immediately apparent to anyone familiar with author Alan Dean Foster’s original fiction and many movie and television novelisations that he ghost-wrote this book for George Lucas. The style, vocabulary and other aspects were highly suggestive and it was hardly a surprise when it was finally revealed that he was the co-author. My favourite Foster novel remains Cachelot, a story set on a world of sentient cetaceans and humans. His novelisations of Alien, Aliens, Dark Star, The Thing and the Star Trek Animated Scripts should serve as models for all such screen-to-print adaptations. I was quite startled that the publishers included a bunch of colour stills in the centre of the book, along with some film notes. Wicked! Oh, and the cover was another John Berkey picture.

 

17) 12 inch Vinyl Record Album. Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk by MECO and the 1977. Millennium Records DXL1 3043. RAC Victor. Manufactured in Australia by RAC Limited. The original disco remix version of all your fave Star Wars themes! The album went platinum in the US, and the single was a chart topper too. The “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” single was the biggest selling instrumental single in recorded music history, being the only certified platinum (2 million units sold) instrumental single ever. Although for the life of me I don’t think the disco version of the Cantina Band is all that radically different from the film version!

 

The single bore a similar symbiotic pop culture relationship to the movie as David Bowie’s Space Oddity had with 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Carpenters Calling Occupants had with C.E.3.K.

 

Meco was Domenico Monardo, born in 1939 in Pennsylvania, USA. Whilst the cover is fun in itself with its Robert Rodriguez (not the filmmaker!) illustration featuring Flash Gordon retro-rockets and bopping Spacers it’s Meco’s lively remixes with its funky signature disco beat That You Could Boogy To that made this album a killer. It had some damn fine sound effects, warbling wookies, whistling R2s and more amidst all that synth and orchestral music . Meco kept producing ‘meco-ised’ movie and telly tunes into the 1980s, not forgetting the ...memorably awful.... Christmas In The Stars- Star Wars Christmas Album. He retired from music in the mid 80s and worked as a commodities broker in Florida.

 

The “B’ Side is completely undistinguished apart from the odd fact that the three tracks are listed as 1. Other, 2. Galactic., 3. Funk. Well, at least the cover notes list the intergalactic session players from the CorMar Galaxy, including (Live from the Planet Fooyea courtesy of the Nomel Tribunal) Thur-M76 and Thassu-L46, amongst others!

 

18) The cover of Item 13.

 

“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”

 

19) 9 cm Plastic Action Figures. Stormtrooper and Boba Fett. 1977 and 1979. I never got into Star Wars toys at all, these came from a mixed bag of no longer loved toys I found at a school fete. (A Fett worse than Darth?) They do make lovely ‘trophies’ for my Predator figures to drag around when tied together by their feet. Curiously, given my armour and costuming fetish, I never ‘got into’ Stormy armour either. In fact, I’ve always seen these bumbling goons as silly comic relief characters. To this day I can’t listen to Ben Kenobi point at the blaster marks on the wrecked Jawa Sandcrawler and say “Only Imperial Stormtoopers are this precise” without cracking up. Marksmen enuff to hit the broadside of a Sandcrawler maybe...! But nothing smaller. C'mon, a legion of crack Troopers taken out by...teddy bears? Sheesh.

 

Just when I thought ‘Troops were inept along came Boba Fett to set a new low water mark for armoured incompetency. Although his dad was rather cool in Attack Of The Clones it was pretty clear Jango was no tactical genius either, since his idea of combat smarts involved jumping into an arena full of light sabre wielding Jedi Knights to take them on hand-to-hand! Anyway, I included the Fett figure; cos I have few other Star Wars toys. Weird though, this one has a quite neat little missile in its backpack that’s spring loaded to fire straight up. Would’ve thought that somewhat dangerous for the younglings back in the day!

 

“You're braver then I thought!”

 

They didn’t crank up the production lines after the unexpected success of the film in 1977 in time to get major toys into the shops by Christmas. I bet you could hear a vast disturbance in the Force that year as the licence holders cried out!

 

20) 12 inch Vinyl Record Album. Star Wars And Other Space Themes by Geoff Love & His Orchestra. 1978. EMI AXIS 6340. Geoff Love (who also released albums under the pseudonym of Manuel And His Music Of The Mountains) was born in 1917 in Yorkshire and died in 1991 in London. His Music For Pleasure covers of movie and television themes sold many an album in the 1970s.

 

The cover themes on this album range from good to indifferent, with some, like Star Wars, being fairly straight forwards with a quite “Big Band’ feel to them. There’s a very cool arrangement of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme that I particularly like. A lot of the tracks slope off into extra disco riffs that are mostly harmless. Some television show title music was halfway onto the dance floor anyway, including Gerry Anderson’s UFO and Space 1999. Beware the magically flat Star Trek theme cover though!

 

The sleeve artwork plays fast and loose with familiar subjects. The Enterprise is barely recognisable under numerous add ons, the 2001 space station has three wheels, and Princess Leia has a war chest that would swell the coffers of the entire Rebellion...

 

21) Paperback Original Novel. Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster. 1978. Sphere. Printed in London. 222 pages. Cover Price: $2.75 Australian. 85 p U.K. This was the first of the Star Wars original fiction spin-off novels and it was a beaut! Fresh from his ghost-writing of the movie novelisation Foster locked his S-Foils into attack position and zoomed into this action packed adventure on the swamp world of Mimban. This novel may have been intended as the template for a low budget sequel to Star Wars if the movie had proved less successful than it was. Intriguingly it contains stray story elements that fell by the wayside in early versions of the first film’s script, and also a fair amount of sexual tension between Leia and Luke. (Aw, c’mon, let me have just one restrospective snigger!)

 

22) Home-made Audio Cassette Tape. The Making Of Star Wars documentary. Broadcast GTV-9, Melbourne, Wednesday 7.30 pm. March 8th 1978. In the days before VCRs all I was able to do to preserve fleeting moments of television was to make audio tapes so I could listen to them over. Hello, ubergeek, remember?

 

23) Commercial Audio Cassette Tape. A Stereo Space Odyssey- Music From Star Wars by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. 1986. Tee Vee 5. London. Side A covers Star Wars themes and the B Side is a seriously grand planetary suite cobbled together from pieces by Strauss, Wilfred Holcombe and Tchaikovsky. This is the best B-Side for a Star Wars knockoff album that I’ve ever heard, and for my money, was more than a match for the A-Side.

 

Well now, there you go, it’s been a nostalgic flight down the old thermal exhaust shaft. Congratulations if you made it this far far away, as these notes take as long to scroll by as all the six film titles rolled together!

 

And, since he didn’t get a bloody medal at the awards ceremony on Yavin I’ll let Chewy get the last word...again!

 

“Waraggghhh!”

        

French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1088. Presented by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Studio Vallois.

 

French actress Emmanuelle Riva (1927) is best known for her roles in the films Hiroshima mon amour (1959), Léon Morin, Priest (1961), and Amour (2012). This year, Riva received the BAFTA Award and the César for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in Amour (2012, Michael Haneke. Last night at the Oscar ceremonies, Amour (2012) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Inspired by Angelina Jolie's 2012 attendance at the 84th Academy Awards Ceremony - The year of that leg

 

Contest Info - harper-ganesvoort.com/2017/01/08/ofpc-8-announcement/

  

harper-ganesvoort.com/2017/01/08/ofpc-8-announcement/

 

Wearing

Dress by Dirty Princess - Beautiful Society Princess Mesh Gown

Hair by Catwa - Stella

Shoes By Moda

Body by Belleza - Isis

Head by Genesis - Angie Emotions

CORRECTION: This show was not directed by Zhang Yimou. Sorry for the misinformation.

 

Elite production team:

Director MeiShuai yuan, founder of the Chinese

landscape subject-live performance. Works include:

"impression, sanjie liu", "shaolin temple, music

ceremony", "the Jinggang mountains", "Great Song

Dynasty", ", Genghis khan "

music art director: Tan dun, the world's most influential

Chinese composer, a Grammy and Oscar award

winner.

 

Sura Ark

Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor) is an Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot. It is 30 metres (98 ft) tall, not including its 8-metre (26 ft) pedestal, and its arms stretch 28 metres (92 ft) wide.

 

The statue weighs 635 metric tons (625 long, 700 short tons), and is located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city of Rio. As a symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1922 and 1931.

 

The idea of building a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid-1850s, when Vincentian priest, Pedro Maria Boss, suggested placing a Christian monument on Mount Corcovado to honour Princess Isabel, princess regent of Brazil and the daughter of Emperor Pedro II, although the project was never approved. In 1889, the country became a republic and, with the official separation of state and church, the idea was dismissed.

 

The second proposal for a landmark statue on the mountain was made in 1920, by the Catholic Circle of Rio. The group organized an event called Semana do Monumento ("Monument Week") to attract donations and collect signatures to support the building of the statue. What motivated the organization was what they perceived as 'Godlessness' in the society at the time. The donations came mostly from Brazilian Catholics. The designs considered for the "Statue of the Christ" included a representation of the Christian cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in his hands, and a pedestal symbolizing the world.[8] The statue of Christ the Redeemer with open arms, a symbol of peace, was chosen.

 

Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue; it was sculpted by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski.[9]

 

The face of the statue was created by Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida, who was born in Galati, Romania, in 1893. He studied sculpture at the Fine Arts Conservatory in Bucharest, then, after three more years' study in Italy, he won a prize for the sculpture Reveil ("Awakening"). After that he moved to Paris, where his work, Le Diable ("The Devil"), was awarded the Grand Prix. Becoming famous in France as portraitist, he was included by Paul Landowski in the team that started working on Christ the Redeemer in 1922. Gheorghe Leonida contributed by portraying Jesus Christ's face on the statue, which made him famous.[10][better source needed]

 

A group of engineers and technicians studied Landowski's submissions and the decision was made to build the structure out of reinforced concrete (designed by Albert Caquot) instead of steel, more suitable for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers are soapstone, chosen for its enduring qualities and ease of use. Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931 and cost the equivalent of US$250,000 ($3,300,000 in 2015). The monument was opened on October 12, 1931. During the opening ceremony, the statue was lit by a battery of floodlights turned on remotely by shortwave radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, stationed 5,700 miles (9,200 km) away in Rome.

 

In October 2006, on the 75th anniversary of the statue's completion, Archbishop of Rio, Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid, consecrated a chapel, named after Brazil's patron saint—Our Lady of the Apparition, under the statue. This allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.[5]

 

The statue was struck by lightning during a violent thunderstorm on February 10, 2008, and suffered some damage to the fingers, head and eyebrows. A restoration effort was put in place by the Rio de Janeiro state government to replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods installed on the statue. It was damaged by lightning again, on January 17, 2014, where a finger on the right hand was dislodged.[11][12][13][14]

 

In 2010, a massive restoration of the statue was undertaken. The statue was washed, the mortar and soapstone that cover the statue were replaced, the internal structure of iron was restored, and the monument was made waterproof. The statue was vandalized during renovation, wherein paint was sprayed along the arm. Mayor Eduardo Paes called the act "a crime against the nation". The culprits later apologised and presented themselves to the police.

 

Restoration

In 1990, restoration work was conducted through an agreement among several organizations, including the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, media company Rede Globo, oil company Shell do Brasil, environmental regulator IBAMA, National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage, and the city government of Rio de Janeiro.

 

More work on the statue and its environs was conducted in 2003 and early 2010. In 2003, a set of escalators, walkways, and elevators were installed to facilitate access to the platform surrounding the statue. The four-month restoration in 2010[18] focused on the statue itself. The statue's internal structure was renovated and its soapstone mosaic covering was restored by removing a crust of fungi and other microorganisms and repairing small cracks. The lightning rods located in the statue’s head and arms were also repaired, and new lighting fixtures were installed at the foot of the statue.[19]

 

The restoration involved one hundred people and used more than 60,000 pieces of stone taken from the same quarry as the original statue.[18] During the unveiling of the restored statue, it was illuminated with green-and-yellow lighting in support of the Brazil national football team playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[18]

 

Maintenance work needs to be conducted periodically due to the strong winds and erosion to which the statue is exposed, as well as lightning strikes.[20] The original pale stone is no longer available in sufficient quantities, and replacement stones are increasingly darker in hue.

videohive.net/item/awards-golden-show/18946398?ref=rgba_d...

 

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I posted two different magnolias today. Different cultivars on different days. As the season for these beauties is so short, I couldn't bear to make a choice between the two....so here they are!

Please forgive me for my inconsistent commenting and posting....it is taking me a little while to get back on track with my schedule.

Happy Oscar viewing! Steve and I watched 'The Hurt Locker' last night in preparation for the award ceremony. A little too intense for me, but very deserving of the nomination.

French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 265. Photo: Paramount.

 

With her round apple-face, big eyes and charm, French-born Hollywood star Claudette Colbert (1903-1996) was the epitome of chic sophistication. Her comedies It Happened One Night (1934) - for which she won the Oscar, Midnight (1939) and The Palm Beach Story (1942) are among Hollywood's greatest ever. After more than 60 films, she returned with great success to the theatre, and was 84 years old when she won a Golden Globe for the TV mini-series The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987).

 

Claudette Colbert was born Emilie ‘Lily’ Claudette Chauchoin in 1903 in Saint-Mandé, an eastern suburb of Paris, where her father owned a bakery. Her parents were Georges Claude Chauchoin and Jeanne Marie née Loew. In 1906 her family emigrated to New York. Though she did some acting in college, her primary interest was fashion design. She studied fashion when she met the writer Anne Morrison at a party who offered the 20-year-old student a small role in her play The Wild Westcotts (1923) on Broadway. She started to use the stage name Claudette Colbert. After signing a five-year contract with the producer Al Woods, Colbert played ingénue roles on Broadway from 1925 through 1929. British actor Leslie Howard, with whom she had a brief relationship in 1924, encouraged her and persuaded his friend the producer Al Woods to put her under contract but, despite personally good notices, she did not get into a major hit until The Barker (1927) with Walter Huston and Norman Foster. In The Barker she played a duplicitous snake charmer. She and Foster, later a Hollywood actor and director, were married the following year during the play's London run. Their marriage remained a secret for many years while they lived in separate homes. In Los Angeles, Colbert shared a home with her mother Jeanne Chauchoin, but her domineering mother disliked Foster and did not allow him into their home. Colbert and Foster divorced in 1935 in Mexico. Colbert's first film, For the Love of Mike (Frank Capra, 1927), was made during The Barker's Broadway run. The silent film is now believed to be lost. She was concerned that silent cinema failed to utilise her melodious voice, one of her greatest assets. The advent of talkies changed her attitude, and in 1929 she signed a Paramount contract. Only two of her first 15 films - The Big Pond (Hobart Henley, 1930) and The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch, 1931), both co-starring Maurice Chevalier - were better than mediocre. Then Cecil B. De Mille asked her to play Nero (Charles Laughton)'s unscrupulous wife Poppaea in the Biblical epic The Sign of the Cross (1932). Her performance was acclaimed, while her bath in asses' milk received immense publicity and has become a famous scene in Hollywood history. Columbia offered her the role of a spoiled heiress in It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934). Colbert was initially reluctant to appear in the screwball comedy and demanded to be paid $50,000 - twice her usual pay - and that filming was to be completed within four weeks to allow her to take a planned vacation. Tom Valance at The Independent: “the role gave her the chance to work with Clark Gable, who had been forced by his studio, MGM, to do the film. Neither star initially expected much of the low-budget comedy which won five Oscars. Colbert was in fact boarding a train for New York on the night of the ceremony when she was stopped and rushed back to accept her Best Actress award from Shirley Temple.” The madcap comedy was a mega-hit all across the country. Two more big hits consolidated her status. She played the title role in the lavish but inaccurate Cleopatra (Cecil B. De Mille, 1934), then starred in Imitation of Life (John Stahl, 1934), a trenchant study of racial intolerance. It was based on Fannie Hurst's novel about a young widow who becomes a millionairess marketing the pancake recipe of her black friend (Louise Beavers). While the widow and her daughter move into society, the friend insists on keeping in the background, and when her light-skinned daughter, who faces exclusion and prejudice where her counterpart has privilege and opportunity, tries to pass for white and disowns her mother tragedy follows.

 

In 1935, Claudette Colbert was named one of the top 10 money-making stars, a position she was to hold again in 1936 and 1947. Fred MacMurray had his first major role in her next film, The Gilded Lily (Wesley Ruggles, 1935), and the two would go on to co-star in six more films. Charles Boyer, co-star of Colbert's next film, Private Worlds (Gregory La Cava, 1935), and not yet fully conversant with the English language, would also acknowledge the support he received from the actress, who won a second Oscar nomination for her performance as a psychiatrist in this grim story of mental illness. Wikipedia: “Colbert was a stickler for perfection regarding the way she appeared on screen. She believed that her face was difficult to light and photograph, and was obsessed with not showing the right side of her face to the camera, because of a small bump resulting from a childhood broken nose. She often refused to be filmed from the right side of her face, and this sometimes necessitated redesigning movie sets.” Colbert's first marriage ended in 1935 while she was making She Married Her Boss (Gregory La Cava, 1935). The same year she married Joel Pressman, a throat specialist and surgeon at UCLA, who remained her husband until his death in 1968. Colbert's role in Under Two Flags (Frank Lloyd, 1936), based on Ouida's tale of the Foreign Legion, was an unusual one for her, that of the tempestuous camp-follower "Cigarette" who sacrifices herself for love of a soldier (Ronald Colman). For the same director she starred in Maid of Salem (Frank Lloyd, 1937), an account of the 1692 witch-hunts in Massachusetts. Colbert never seemed entirely comfortable in period pieces, and both audiences and critics were happy when she returned to modern comedy with I Met Him In Paris (Wesley Ruggles, 1937) and Tovarich (Anatole Litvak, 1937), in which she and Charles Boyer were impoverished Russian nobility working as maid and butler in a Parisian household. Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (Ernst Lubitsch, 1938), with a screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, based on a 1923 Gloria Swanson silent film, was a disappointment. After a promising start in which Colbert meets Gary Cooper in a Riviera store where she is trying to buy pyjama bottoms while he is trying to purchase just the tops, it becomes contrived and frantic rather than funny. Zaza (George Cukor, 1939), in which Colbert sang several songs as a French music-hall star, was another failure. Then followed one of her greatest films, the Cinderella-inspired screwball comedy Midnight (1939), directed by Mitchell Leisen and brilliantly written by Brackett and Wilder. Colbert next appeared with Henry Fonda in the Western Drums Along the Mohawk (John Ford, 1939), her first film in colour, as a farmer's wife coping with rugged conditions and hostile Indians. Boom Town (Jack Conway, 1940) was one of her most popular films, due to its star-power of Gable, Colbert, Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr.

 

Claudette Colbert cited as her own favourite film Arise My Love (Mitchell Leisen, 1940), set just after the Spanish Civil War. Tom Valance in The Independent: “it has some splendidly romantic, dramatic and comic moments as Colbert, playing a reporter, pretends to be the wife of a condemned soldier of fortune (Ray Milland) to save him from a Spanish firing squad, then inevitably falls in love with him. Brackett and Wilder's screenplay tried to keep pace with changing events in Europe (the story ends after the invasion of France) which resulted in some uneasy shifts of mood in an otherwise impressive work.” Better still was Henry King's warmly charming piece of Americana Remember The Day (Henry King, 1941), in which Colbert gave a glowing performance as a school teacher who while visiting a now-famous former pupil recalls the past and her sweetheart who was killed in the First World War. Preston Sturges' The Palm Beach Story (1942) is one of the screen's greatest screwball comedies and contains the sequence Colbert later cited as her favourite comic scene. Having left her husband to find a millionaire to finance his inventions, she is climbing into a train's upper berth when she steps on the face and glasses of a rich passenger (Rudy Vallee). During the Second World War Colbert's husband, Joel Pressman, became a navy lieutenant and she spent much time selling war bonds and working for the war effort. Two of her major films were effective wartime propaganda: So Proudly We Hail (Mark Sandrich, 1943), a tribute to the nurses in Bataan and Since You Went Away (John Cromwell, 1944), producer David O. Selznick's ambitious three-hour tribute to the families at home. Colbert considered hard before taking the role of the mother to two teenage girls, but it became one of her finest, most deeply felt performances, representing the women left to raise families while their husbands are at war. In one remarkably touching scene Colbert, who has taken a job at a munitions factory, converses with a refugee, now a naturalised American (Alla Nazimova). For the part, she received her third Academy Award nomination, but lost to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight. She appeared in such mild comedies as Practically Yours (Mitchell Leisen, 1944), and tepid dramas as Tomorrow is Forever (Irving Pichel, 1946) with Orson Welles. Colbert and Fred MacMurray had an enormous box-office hit with The Egg and I (Chester Erskine, 1947) as a city couple trying to run a farm, but the slapstick (lots of falling about in the mud) was far from the sophistication Colbert purveyed so expertly. Three Came Home (Jean Negulesco, 1950) gave her a strong dramatic role as Agnes Newton Keith, a true-life American authoress captured when the Japanese invaded Borneo in 1941. Her scenes with Sessue Hayakawa (as the cultured prison camp commander) were memorable in a gripping film which was too grim to be a major hit. Colbert had appeared on radio regularly throughout her career, and in 1951 she made her television debut on The Jack Benny Show. Other appearances included The Royal Family of Broadway (1954), The Guardsman (1955) and Blithe Spirit (1956), with Noel Coward and Lauren Bacall. In 1951 she also returned to the stage, with a tour of Noel Coward's Island Fling (later known as South Sea Bubble). She went to Britain to star with Jack Hawkins in The Planter's Wife (Ken Annakin, 1952) based on the native terrorism being faced by rubber planters. The film was a hit in Britain. The following year Colbert went to France to play a mistress of Louis XIV in Sacha Guitry's lavish Si Versailles m'etait conte/Royal Affairs in Versailles (1953). She returned to Broadway in 1955, replacing Margaret Sullavan in Janus, then in 1958 starred in a new play, Leslie Stevens's The Marriage- Go-Round. The play was a hit and Colbert won a Tony nomination. Her last film was Parrish (Delmer Daves, 1961), a soap opera in which Colbert played the mother of Troy Donahue. She continued to make Broadway appearances, among them The Irregular Verb To Love (1963), The Kingfisher (1978) and A Talent For Murder (1981), and she returned to the London stage in Frederick Lonsdale's Aren't We All? (1984) opposite Rex Harrison. For her television work in the mini-series The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (John Erman, 1987) she received a Golden Globe and a nomination for an Emmy Award. Claudette Colbert spent much of her time at the 200-year-old plantation house she and her husband had bought long ago in Barbados, and she also had a flat in Paris and an apartment on the East Side of New York. After three strokes, she died in Barbados in 1996 at the age of 92.

 

Tom Vallance in The Independent: “It is no accident, surely, that she flourished at that most European of studios, Paramount, home of Lubitsch and Chevalier, Mamoulian, Von Sternberg and Wilder. Her distinctive high-cheekboned beauty and the throaty individuality of her voice were complemented by superb comic timing and fine technical skill honed by an extensive apprenticeship in the theatre. She could be warmly compassionate in romantic drama but was unsurpassable in sophisticated comedy.”

 

Sources: Tom Vallance (The Independent), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Denny Jackson (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Actor/director Mel Gibson attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

© 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

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Julie Andrews speaks onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The 6th Annual Vendy Awards were held on September 25, 2010 on Governor's Island. Called "the Oscars of food for the real New York" by Chef Mario Batali, the Vendy Awards are New York City's annual competition for the title of Best Street Food Vendor, and a fundraiser to support the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center. The Vendy Awards are given out in three categories at festival which doubles as an all-day cook-off between the best sidewalk chefs in the City.

 

A panel of judges awards one of five finalists the Vendy Cup and title of Vendy Award Winner, an honor that went to the King of Falafel and Shawarma. Vendy attendees vote to choose the People's Taste Award winner from the finalists, an honor that also went to the King of Falafel and Shawarma. Audience vote also determines the winners in the Dessert Category, an honor that went to Kelvin Natural Slush Co, and in the Rookie Category, which went to Souvlaki GR.

Three Kings Day in Spain, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and some other Latin American countries Epiphany day is called El Día de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings). The day when a group of Kings or Magi of the Bible arrived to worship and bring three gifts to the baby Jesus after following a star in the heavens. This day is sometimes known as the Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (The day of the Three Royal Magi) or La Pascua de los Negros (Holy Day of the Blackmen) in Chile, although the latter is rarely heard. In Spanish tradition, on the day of January 6th, three of the Kings: Melchor, Caspar, and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia, and Africa, arrived on horse, camel and elephant, bringing respectively gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. In Spain, Argentina, and Uruguay, children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings’ presents before they go to bed on 5 January. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Argentina they live water and grass for the camels.

 

Hollywood and Highland is a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment district on the world's most famous boulevard featuring over 60 shops, restaurants, and popular night spots.

 

The Hollywood & Highland Center is an entertainment complex at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in the Hollywood district in Los Angeles. The 387,000-square-foot (36,000 m2) center also includes Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. The historic site was once the home of the famed Hollywood Hotel. Located in the heart of Hollywood, along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it is among the most visited tourist destinations in Los Angeles.

 

Formerly the site of the legendary Hollywood Hotel which, built in 1903, was torn down in 1956, it is now a huge, sprawling shopping mall that also houses the Kodak Theatre, Oscar's first permanent home. A lot of money has gone into this controversial project, whose design might not be to everyone's liking. However, it is nevertheless an indicator of Hollywood's comeback as it encouraged other investors that Hollywood Boulevard has ceased to be the scruffy dive it had been for so many years. As a reference to Hollywood's rich and irretrievably lost past, the architecture includes replicas of D.W. Griffith's Babylonian set for his film Intolerance, which was shot just two miles east on the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. This fact, however, may be lost on the casual visitor who, unless they are familiar with Griffith's epochal film, are more likely to be startled by the fake elephants and references to ancient Egypt.

 

Hollywood. California.

French postcard, no. 222.

 

Versatile French actress Isabelle Huppert (1953) appeared in more than 90 film and television productions since 1971. With 14 nominations for the César, she is the most nominated actress ever. However, the cool, innocent-looking Huppert won the French Oscar only once, for La Cérémonie (1996). Last night at the Oscar ceremonies, Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012) with Huppert in a supporting role won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Singer Lady Gaga performs onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

- Please view large -

" The classic stars - particularly the glamorous ladies- of the motion pictures of Hollywood's Golden Age have been an enduring passion of mine since my early teens in the late1970s; and lead to much biographical research and inspiration for both my paintings and cartoon tributes.

 

This is the latest of several group cartoon tributes (many to be viewed on this site) that I have created; over several months - and through much research.

 

Here, on the sun-kissed contours of Mount Lee, crowned with the famous Hollywood Sign, high above Hollywood, California, USA, I have gathered together an eclectic group of actresses (most prominently active in Hollywood from the 1930s-1960s)- a vibrant mixture of well-known stars, from famous feature films and lesser-known players from B-movies (or second features).

 

Through extensive research I have depicted them - a group that undoubtably were never photographed together-as they appeared in various years during the 1970s - a decade that I remember with much affection. As with most of my cartoon tributes, the illustration features such details as my passion for birds. There follows some biographical trivia about each lady: I hope thay you enjoy viewing as much as I enjoyed creating..."

 

BARBARA NICHOLS (American, 1928-1976): in films from 1953-1975; including Sweet Smell of Success (US 1957) & Where The Boys Are (US 1960)- a blonde bombshell with talent- the actress was last on screen for less than a minute, reclining as Victure Mature's gangster moll in the all-star comedy Won Ton Ton The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (US 1975). She never married and died of a liver disease at 47.

 

AVA GARDNER (American, 1922-1990): in films from 1941-1986 - including The Barefoot Contessa (US 1954) & The Night of The Iguana (US 1964) - this star was named 'The world's most beautiful animal' by the publicity machine in the 1950s; and ended her days living quietly in Kensington, London, UK. The cartoon portrait was inspired by Ms Gardner's role in Earthquake (US 1974); in which she played a hard drinker - as she was in real life.

 

NATALIE WOOD (American/French/Russian, 1938-1981): in films from 1943-1981, driven by a stage-mother, this sensitive beauty made the successful transition from child star to adult star roles - Rebel Without A Cause (US 1954) , West Side Story (US 1961)- and ominously (considering her tragic death) played a woman who is saved from drowning in The Memory of Eva Ryker (US- TV, 1980). Her two daughters were the focus of her heart.

 

JEAN SEBERG (American/Swedish 1938-1979); In films from 1957-1976, this enigmatic beauty spent the last 20 years of her life living in Paris, France; the city in which she starred in A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (FR 1959) - and for which she is most remembered; while her depth of talent especially shone in Lilith (US 1964). It was her heartfelt devotion to the welfare of people and animals and subsequent involvement in left-wing activism that led to the decline of her mental health and ultimate tragic death - which is shrouded in as much mystery as that of MARILYN MONROE (American, 1926-1962). Her son, Diego (1962-), by French author Romain Gary lives today in Spain.

 

EVE ARDEN (American, 1908-1990): In films from 1929-1982, this wonderful character actress played with great ease the wise-cracking dame with a heart of gold in such classics as Ziegfeld Girl (US 1941) & Mildred Pierce (US 1945); and later appeared in both Grease (US 1978) and Grease 2 (US 1982).

 

JOAN CRAWFORD (American, 1906-1977): In films from 1929-1970, a top box office star over nearly five decades- in which she shimmered in such diverse films as Mildred Pierce (US 1945)- for which she won an Academy Award- and later, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane ?(US 1964). The cartoon portrait was inspired by the star's last public appearance at a tribute evening to actress ROSALIND RUSSELL (1907-1976).

 

MARLENE DIETRICH (German, 1901-1992). In Films from 1928-1978; including Der Blaue Engel(The Blue Angel)(GER 1930) and A Foreign Affair (US 1948). This legendary actress and singer lived her last years in Paris, France, in seclusion; and while she rejected all enquiries from the press, she always answered her fan mail.

 

RITA HAYWORTH (American/Spanish, 1918-1987). In films from 1934-1972, this glorious (but privately shy) beauty lit up the screen in such features as Gilda (US 1946) and Miss Sadie Thompson (US 1954); and it was in the mid-1970s that she sadly began her decline into the tragic mists of Alzeimer's Disease - firstly mistaken as alcoholism- which claimed her life.

 

THE GABOR SISTERS (Hungarian: ZSA ZSA , 1917-; MAGDA, 1915-1997 & EVA, 1919-1995). Frivolously glamorous trio most remembered for their sparkling appearances in public and witty contributions to talk shows. Although Magda entertained on stage with her sisters, she never appeared in motion pictures; and went on to live many years after suffering a stroke in the late 1960s. Eva is most well-known for her star role in the US TV series Green Acres (1965-1970), than for any of her film roles. Feisty Zsa Zsa appeared in the most films- including Moulin Rouge (US 1952) & Queen of Outer Space (US 1958)- and lives today in Bel Air, CA, USA with her 8th husband. She was the only Gabor to deny ever having a face-lift.

 

VALDA HANSEN (American 1932-1993). In low budget films from 1958- 1975. Blonde beauty known in cult circles for her starring role in Edward D Wood Jr's Night of The Ghouls (US 1958); a film not released - & then on video tape- until 1981; as the broken film director could not afford to pay the laboratory develpoment bill. Ms Hansen went on to play in largely unseen B-movies. A deeply spiritual lady, she lost a battle with cancer and was afforded a Hindu ceremony.

 

ESTHER WILLIAMS (American, 1921-). In films from 1946-1963, including Million Dollar Mermaid (US 1952) & Dangerous When Wet (US 1953), this swimming star retired to become a successful business woman, aptly lending her name to swim wear and swimming pools. In 1974, she was arrested on the Hollywood Freeway for drink-driving; and 20 years later made a surprise screen comeback talking about her career in the celebration of MGM, That's Entertainment.

 

BETTY GRABLE (American, 1916-1973). In films from 1930-1955; including The Dolly Sisters (US 1945) & How To Marry A Millionaire (US 1953). A heavy smoker all her life she lost a battle with lung cancer at 56; and the cartoon portrait was inspired by her last public appearance in Hollywood, CA, USA.

 

LANA TURNER (American, 1921-1995). In films from 1937-1978; the archetypal 'movie star' - the epitome of Hollywood beauty and glamour - Ms Turner was inaccurately underrated as an actress; but her talent in such melodramas as The Postman Always Rings Twice (US 1946), Peyton Place (US 1957)- for which she was Oscar nominated as Best Actress- and Madame X (US 1966) proved otherwise. Married 8 times to 7 husbands, she had a turbulent private life, took to drink; before abstaining in 1980 and declaring her deep faith in God.

 

HEDY LAMARR (Austrian, 1914-2000). In films from 1933-1957; including Ziegfeld Girl (US 1941) & Samson & Delilah (US 1949). Aside from her raven-haired beauty, she was highly intelligent; and was credited with the invention of a radio guiding system for torpedoes which was used in World War II. In the cartoon portrait she takes the pose she held on stage in the film Ziegfeld Girl.

 

KARIN DOR (German, 1936-). In films from 1953-2006 , and most internationally known as the beautiful but deadly Helga Brandt in the James Bond classic, You Only Live Twice (UK 1967). She was married to the late Hollywood stuntman George Robotham , living in Los Angeles, USA until his death; and is still active in the theatre in Germany.

 

VIRGINIA MAYO (American, 1920-2005). In films from 1943-1990; including The secret Life of Walter Mitty (US 1947) and White Heat (US 1949). In the late1940s her blonde 'peaches and cream' beauty was described by the Sultan of Morocco as 'tangible proof for the existence of God'.

 

LORETTA KING (American, 1917-2007). In films from 1940-1976, this actress of beauty and talent worked mostly on stage and in television in the 1950s; before achieving cult fame as the lead in Edward D Wood Jr's low budget classic, Bride of The Monster (US 1955). She then retired from acting in 1960; before making a comeback in two 1970s films, including Johnny Tough (US 1973); which inspired this cartoon tribute.

 

DOLORES FULLER (American, 1923-) In films from 1934-2000, this actress appeared in minor roles during the 1950s; but by the 1980s achieved fame as the one time lover of cult film director, Edward D Wood Jr (1924-1978), when the director achieved postumous attention. She starred in his autobiographical film Glen or Glenda (US 1953); and in Ron Ormond's B-classic Mesa of Lost Women (US 1952). This was ironic, as her real talent lay in song writing - and she went on to write hit songs for Elvis Presley films; and to manage such singers as Tanya Tucker.

 

Ink & coloured pencil on paper, 11 x 17in

www.stephenbwhatley.com

   

Following the ceremonies, Laura Blake faded from public view. Obsessed with finding her daughter, she became a recluse who could be glimpsed occasionally in the pages of tabloid newspapers. The fairytale had ended and she was soon forgotten.

 

To be continued.

 

Drawing by Ron Lightburn. Colored pencils on Canson paper. Copyright 1989.

 

"Laura Blake - The Untold Story" text by Ron Lightburn. Copyright 1989.

 

www.thelightburns.com

 

The drawings for this series were exhibited at the Fran Willis North Park Gallery, Victoria, BC, Canada in October of 1989. The model for Laura Blake was Nicole Taylor.

  

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Deserts by Wolfgang Punk are displayed before the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Hope everyone is having a good day/night: Thank you for your visits:-)

 

Perched atop a rocky bluff, Point Atkinson Lighthouse winks its watchful eye letting cruise ships and mariners know they have left ‘the city’ and are finally now ‘at sea.’

Point Atkinson was named by Captain Vancouver, for a “particular friend” on July 4, 1792, when Vancouver sailed past the rocky peninsula aboard the Discovery’s yawl. Today, Lighthouse Park encompasses the point at the entrance of Burrard Inlet and sixty-five hectare (185 acres) of virgin forest, which were set aside in 1881 to serve as a dark backdrop to the lighthouse.

  

Original Point Atkinson Lighthouse

Vancouver’s first lighthouse was built there in the spring of 1874 by Arthur Finney of Naniamo with a budget of 4,250 CAD. The lighthouse would have gone into service that year, but Stone-Chance of Birmingham sent the wrong light, and it took almost a year to receive a replacement. Edwin Woodward lit the light for the first time on March 17, 1875. The original lighthouse was a wooden tower with attached keeper’s dwelling, and its beacon, shone from a height of ninety-five feet above sea, was visible for fourteen miles.

 

The isolation was too much for Ann Woodward, and five years later, after having given birth to her third child and West Vancouver’s first white child, the family moved to a farm in Ontario. The second keeper, R.G. Wellwood stayed less than a year.

 

The third keeper, Walter Erwin came to the station in 1880 and stayed a bit longer, three decades. Erwin, one of the original homesteaders of West Vancouver, owned a large tract of land near the lighthouse, now an affluent neighbourhood known as Cypress Park.

 

When fog shrouded Point Atkinson, ship captains would sound three rapid blasts of their ship’s horn, prompting the lightkeeper to pump away at a hand horn until the ship signaled it was okay to stop. This changed in 1889, when Canadian Pacific Steamships requested that a fog alarm be added to the station at Point Atkinson. This greatly increased the keeper’s workload, as the foghorn, located in a structure west of the lighthouse, now had to operate any time there was fog or smoke within four miles of the station. In 1896, Erwin logged 1450 hours manning the signal. The first horn, a “Scotch Horn,” was a steam pressure affair which spun a rotating drum, similar in design to a kazoo. In 1902, this horn was replaced by a diaphone fog alarm.

 

Erwin was given a raise of $300 to hire an assistant to help run the fog signal, but the cheapest help he could find cost $600 a year, so Erwin’s salary of just $700 was nearly cut in half.

 

In 1905, Erwin, who suffered from arthritis, a common malady of lighthouse keepers, fell down the tower ladder, injuring his leg. His doctor recommended a soak in Harrison Hot Springs, but when this didn’t provide relief, specialists removed a portion of “diseased bone” from his leg. Forced to hire a second assistant to run the station during his fourteen-month recovery, Erwin found himself greatly in debt. He appealed to his superiors for financial assistance, feeling it was merited due to his twenty-six years of service and the fact that the injury occurred on the job. His plea was rejected as the Department of Marine and Fisheries feared setting precedence, and Erwin finally resigned in 1909, after hobbling about his duties for a few more years. In 1911, the mayor of Vancouver awarded Erwin the Imperial Service Medal on behalf of King George V in a ceremony help on the steps of City Hall.

  

Present Point Atkinson Lighthouse with duplex

Thomas Grafton, who had served for twenty-one years as Erwin’s assistant, succeeded him as keeper on April 1, 1910. During his tenure, the entire station was transformed. A new hexagonal tower, ringed with six rib-like buttresses and designed by Colonel William Anderson, was erected in 1912, along with a new keeper’s duplex and a fog alarm building, which housed internal combustion engines, air compressors, and diaphones. The tower, still in operation today, is 18 m (60 ft) tall with a focal plane of 33 m (108 ft), and has a signature of two white flashes every five seconds. The 1912 lighthouse was originally equipped with a third-order Fresnel lens.

 

Grafton loved to fish the area, and one of his secret weapons for collecting bait fish was dynamite. After setting off an explosion, he would row over and scoop up the startled herring. The log for October 6, 1933, written by his son Lawrence reads:

 

started calm with light haze in bay. Pt Grey showing all morning dimly. Lightkeeper was killed instantly sometime before 6:00 a.m. from a dynamite blast which exploded accidently in his hand. The body was recovered at 7:15 a.m. by his younger son, drifting in the submerged boat about 200 yards off the point. Light W. wind during the day. Then calm with light fog drifting out of bay from 9:30 p.m. till midnight. S. shore lights in sight till midnight. Partly cloudy.

Lawrence applied to replace his father, having assisted at the station for many years, but instead the position was awarded to Ernie Dawe, a keeper at Ballenas Island.

 

1935 brought new technology to the station, when on September 28th a radio beacon was installed. Vessels with receivers could now pick up the signal from Point Atkinson beyond the range of its lights and horns.

 

Change also came to Lighthouse Park during World War II, when searchlights and gun emplacements were installed at Point Atkinson, Stanley Park, Narrows North and Point Grey. A road was cleared to the point, greatly improving access to the outside world for the keepers, and eighty conscripts (drafted soldiers), known as McKenzie’s Commandos, were housed in a cedar bunkhouse in the forest behind Point Atkinson. Today, the bunkhouse is known as the Sk’iwitsu House, which is available for community use, and a former dining hall serves as the Phyl Munday Nature House.

 

The only time during the war that Point Atkinson came under fire was when an instructor at Narrows North accidentally fired a twelve pound shell past the lighthouse.

 

Keeper Dawe left the station in 1961 and was succeeded by Gordon Odlum (1961 – 1974), James Barr (1975), and Oscar Edwards (1977 – 1980). The keepers duplex was replaced in 1966 by two separate dwellings, an upper one and a lower one.

 

In 1980, Gerald Watson was made principal keeper and Donald Graham assistant keeper. Graham, a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan with a master’s degree in history, had moved his family to Victoria, British Columbia on the first leg of a journey to join an agricultural co-operative in Belize. While in Victoria, he answered an ad for a lightkeeper job and remained in British Columbia. His assignments included assisting at Point Atkinson, then Lucy Island and Bonilla Island. He was transferred back to Point Atkinson in 1980 and remained as keeper until 1996, when the station was automated. He and his wife stayed on at Lighthouse Park as groundskeepers.

 

During his time at Point Atkinson, he wrote two books, Keepers of the Light (1985) and Lights of the Inside Passage (1986) chronicling the British Columbia lighthouses and the lives of their keepers. The lighthouse community is deeply indebted to him for his substantial work. Mr. Graham passed away on October 8, 2003 of pancreatic cancer. His wife, Elaine, is currently head of the West Vancouver Historical Society’s Point Atkinson Light Station subcommittee and is working diligently to restore the structures at the station.

 

Point Atkinson was designated a National Historic Site in 1994. This virtual museum contains a lot of interesting Point Atkinson photographs and stories.

 

Keepers: Edward Woodward (1874 – 18769), R. G. Wellwood (1879 – 1880), Walter Erwin (1880 – 1910), Thomas David Grafton (1910 – 1933), Lawrence Walter Grafton (1933 – 1935), Ernest Charles Dawe (1935 – 1961), Gordon Odlum (1961 – 1974), James Barr (1975), Oscar Edwards (1977 – 1980), Gerald D. Watson (1980 – 1996), Donald Graham (1980 – 1996).

www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=1606

  

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Host Neil Patrick Harris performs onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Quoting Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

 

Boeing's B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

 

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

 

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

 

Manufacturer:

Boeing Aircraft Co.

Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

 

Date:

1945

 

Country of Origin:

United States of America

 

Dimensions:

Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

 

Materials:

Polished overall aluminum finish

 

Physical Description:

Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Host Neil Patrick Harris speaks onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

 

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy | Nakajima J1N1-S Gekko (Moonlight) IRVING:

 

Originally designed as a three-seat, daylight escort fighter plane by the Nakajima Aeroplane Company, Ltd., and flown in 1941, the IRVING was modified as a night fighter in May of 1943 and shot down two American B-17 bombers to prove its capability. The Gekko (meaning moonlight) was redesigned to hold only two crewmen so that an upward firing gun could be mounted where the observer once sat. Nearly five hundred J1N1 aircraft, including prototypes, escort, reconnaissance, and night fighters were built during World War II. A sizeable number were also used as Kamikaze aircraft in the Pacific. The few that survived the war were scrapped by the Allies.

 

This J1N1 is the last remaining in the world. It was transported from Japan to the U.S. where it was flight tested by the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1946. The Gekko then flew to storage at Park Ridge, IL, and was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. The restoration of this aircraft, completed in 1983, took more than four years and 17,000 man-hours to accomplish.

 

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

 

Manufacturer:

Nakajima Hikoki K. K.

 

Date:

1942

 

Country of Origin:

Japan

 

Dimensions:

Overall: 15ft 1 1/8in. x 41ft 11 15/16in., 10670.3lb., 55ft 9 5/16in. (460 x 1280cm, 4840kg, 1700cm)

 

Materials:

All-metal, monocoque construction airplane

 

Physical Description:

Twin-engine, conventional layout with tailwheel-type landing gear.

Armament: (2) 20 mm fixed upward firing cannon

Engines: (2) Nakajima Sakae 21 (NK1F, Ha35- 21) 14- cylinder air-cooled radial 1,130 horsepower (metric)

 

• • • • •

 

See more photos of this, and the Wikipedia article.

 

Details, quoting from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy | Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay":

 

Boeing's B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

 

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Bockscar (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Enola Gay flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, The Great Artiste, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

 

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

 

Manufacturer:

Boeing Aircraft Co.

Martin Co., Omaha, Nebr.

 

Date:

1945

 

Country of Origin:

United States of America

 

Dimensions:

Overall: 900 x 3020cm, 32580kg, 4300cm (29ft 6 5/16in. x 99ft 1in., 71825.9lb., 141ft 15/16in.)

 

Materials:

Polished overall aluminum finish

 

Physical Description:

Four-engine heavy bomber with semi-monoqoque fuselage and high-aspect ratio wings. Polished aluminum finish overall, standard late-World War II Army Air Forces insignia on wings and aft fuselage and serial number on vertical fin; 509th Composite Group markings painted in black; "Enola Gay" in black, block letters on lower left nose.

One of the most celebrated and respected directors of the last quarter century, Danny Boyle has been rightly heaped with kudos and awards for his work in film, television, stage, and even the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games in London in 2012. From getting exactly what he wants from actors, to great cinematography to the use of music in his always-excellent soundtracks, Danny Boyle is the complete package. Boyle did solid TV work in the early '90s (including a couple of great "Inspector Morse" episodes). Then he-along with Ewan McGregor-planted a flag with 1994's fantastic "Shallow Grave". 2 years later, they burst into worldwide consciousness, teaming up again for the film version of Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting". 2002's "28 Days Later" reinvigorated the entire zombie genre, 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire" was showered with love and Oscars, and Roger Ebert called Boyle's "127 Hours" 'compulsively watchable'. The New York Times called "Steve Jobs" 'a powerful challenge to the lazy conventions of Hollywood storytelling'. Yet despite that resume, he proved himself to be utterly normal, approachable, generous, and quite funny when he and I spent 15 minutes taking English football- specifically his beloved Bury FC and the painful flailings of my Arsenal-while I made this portrait

Yes, I know this is a long caption. It was put up in batches, and needs a good "once over" by a sympathetic editor. One of these days I will cut it in half. Until then, here you go...

  

GEISHA. Also correctly called "GEISHA GIRLS", "GEIKO" [down in Kyoto], and "SINGING GIRLS". GEIGI is another form, but I don't personally know anyone who uses this more obscure tag, and have not seen it used in the standard old references from the Meiji and Taisho eras. In any case, the generic term that covers all the variations is GEISHA.

 

MAIKO. In the old photo captions, Geisha-to-be understudies, were commonly called "DANCING GIRLS" (a close English translation of MAIKO). However, in Japanese speech and writing, they were often referred to as HANGYOKU (reference to costing half-as-much as a Geisha to hire for your party), and OSAHKU (the one who pours drinks). Of the three terms, one early Japanese writer on the world of the Geisha personally used the word OSHAKU more than he did MAIKO.

 

The post-WW2 squabble over the use of the term "GEISHA GIRLS" (as opposed to just plain "GEISHA") is discussed at the bottom of this flickr caption.

 

*

 

*

  

WHAT FOLLOWS IS SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT THE GEISHA, and include short sections on relevant topics such as MIZUAGE; why some people confuse Geisha with PROSTITUTES; a look at SEXUAL MORES and the LOVE LIFE of the Geisha; and her job as an ENTERTAINER in a wide variety of venues from WILD PARTIES HELD ON BOATS to DINNER SHOWS held in the BROTHEL DISTRICTS. And of course, the reason she is here on Flickr in the first place --- the Geisha's job as a PHOTOGRAPHER'S MODEL.

 

The life and labors of a GEISHA in old Meiji-era Japan was a far cry from the anachronistic, though still pretty and talented Geisha of the 21st Century. Way back during the Meiji-era time of these photos, she was truly an integral part of Japanese society who was called upon for numerous social functions and odd "media" related jobs that sometimes took her far from the "Geisha House" we usually associate her with. The Geisha were very busy girls !

 

First, a few words about the above photo, and then we'll get right to the REAL DEAL concerning these iconic symbols of "classic" old Japan.

 

THE ABOVE PHOTO is one of 260 hand-tinted, real albumen photographs tipped into the best editions of the 10-volume JAPAN -- DESCRIBED AND ILLUSTRATED BY THE JAPANESE (Published in Boston, USA in1897).

 

It was probably taken ca.1890-96 by K. OGAWA in his Tokyo studio.

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/3340015545/in/set-7215...

 

Although there were plenty of other Geisha photos in this publication, the above image was chosen by the Japanese themselves to illustrate the only short but important statement in the book that specifically defined what a Geisha really did with her professional time. (The full statement is transcribed further below in this caption). I have amplified those comments with confirming descriptions from other sources.

 

There is quite a bit about the Geisha already on-line. Some of it is very good. The below is just my particular take on it. Some of what I say below will jive with what you see elsewhere, and other statements I make might be at odds with what you know. Some discrepancies might be due to my focus on the realities of Geisha life 100 years ago, whereas you might be thinking strictly of Geisha who inhabit 21st Century Japan. There is lots of overlap between the two worlds, but there are also differences.

 

No doubt, my life in Japan, and former profession as a photographer there had something to to with driving me to make this Geisha statement on my photostream. I hope that something in both the content and links will be of some value to you.

 

*

 

*

  

THE WORD GEISHA = GEI SHA 芸 者

 

[GEIKO is a Kyoto term for a GEISHA. Same thing. Six of one, Half a dozen of another]

 

The first character GEI 芸 is usually translated into English as Art, or the Arts.

 

The second character SHA 者 simply means Person, or Person who does.

 

Together they mean A person of the Arts. Therefore......ARTIST, or PERFORMING ARTIST.

 

Some translations say "ACCOMPLISHED PERSON"

 

That's simple enough.

 

BUT....

 

SCULPTORS, PAINTERS, AND POTTERS ARE ALSO "PEOPLE OF THE ARTS".... MAY WE CALL THEM "GEISHA", AS WELL ?

 

NO.

 

The two Chinese characters for GEISHA are specifically reserved for the women in this so-named Geisha profession who have been trained from childhood in the Performing Arts such as Music, Dance, Speaking, or Singing for the purpose of entertaining others in venues clearly defined for them.

 

ENTERTAINERS is probably a better translation of the word, but that, too, is far from sufficient, and is more likely to conjure up images of Stand-up comedians or Lounge Singers in a Las Vegas Night Club act. Besides, there is already a general Japanese word for TV Personalities and "entertainers" in this category : 芸 能 人 GEI NOH JIN. (Notice that the first part of that word also uses the same 芸 GEI character used in GEISHA).

 

Actually, there is no good English equivalent for 芸 者, as the Geisha is purely a Japanese phenomena. Not even their neighbors, Korea and China came up with the exact same thing. Thus, it is simply better to use the word Geisha, and simply know what the word entails when you are talking about her.

 

IMPORTANT QUESTION : Returning to something already touched on above, if "Geisha" literally means "Artist" (or "A Person of the Arts"), then what words(s) do the Japanese use for other "Artists" like painters, sculptors, potters, engravers, and etc ?

 

EASY ANSWER : There are many other words in Japanese to describe the various artistic disciplines and art related subjects (some that use the same written character GEI 芸 of GEISHA as a part of the word or words, and others that do not include GEI). This goes for the different Japanese words used for Artists who are painters, potters, engravers, sculptors, and etc.

 

Even in English, we know that a RECORDING ARTIST is not the same as an artist like PICASSO or MICHELANGELO. The Japanese language is the same, and they have everybody covered with the right words and titles for whatever the heck they do.

  

NOTE : FOR AN IMPORTANT DEFENSE OF THE TERM "GEISHA GIRLS" AS AN ALTERNATE TO THE TERM "GEISHA", PLEASE SEE MY COMMENT APPENDED TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS CAPTION !

   

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

   

THE TRUE-LIFE JOB DESCRIPTION OF A MEIJI-ERA GEISHA

 

The GEISHA (along with their MAIKO understudies) were in a class of their own.

 

Beautiful, talented, intelligent, and quick-witted --- they were also, on occasion, full of passion for the men that pursued them.

 

Although it is understood that they were NOT prostitutes, what they did in the old days (and even what they do now) has always been a little bit fuzzier in most peoples minds. The most common [and partly accurate] perception is this :

 

The "Geisha Girl" sings and dances the night away while pouring drinks, serving endless plates of hors d'œuvres, lighting the customers tobacco, making witty small talk, raising eyebrows and heartbeats with coy looks and innuendo, and building the egos of the male clientele --- all at drunken dinner parties held in the secluded, private "restaurants" attached to the famous Geisha Houses of the larger towns and cities.

 

Yes. She did do that. But in most cases, the Geisha of Japan entertained men at TEA HOUSES (Ochaya) scattered all over the open country and in urban Geisha districts.

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2819980890/

 

In the larger cities, she was also called on to provide "pre-show" entertainment to guests in the "Yoshiwara" brothel districts, prior to the customer moving on to another room for his encounter with a chosen prostitute. (This is discussed farther down in the caption).

 

While being hired out to these various venues via strict protocol (and unless she was a free agent) she would live at an OKIYA --- a type of "boarding house" for Geisha and Maiko.

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okiya

 

But, there's more....

 

GEISHA ON PARADE

 

Geisha were also hired to "man the parade floats" and other stages set up for open-air, public performances during certain festivals. They would sing and dance, and also put on little skits and plays for the merry-making public crowds.

 

These exhibitions were held both in public park areas, as well as inside the walls of the "Yoshiwara" red-light districts.

 

And from the late-1870s to the early 1920s --- the time of the photographs found on this photostream --- there was also this very important aspect of a Geisha's employment....

 

GEISHA WERE MODELS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS --- Both IN and OUT of Character.

 

I have mentioned in some of my captions that the Geisha also served as models for the photographers, donning all sorts of garb to portray all classes of women in Japan. Some comments from flickr users expressed surprise (and doubt) that they were also "models", and wondered if that was really so.

 

Yes. Before the advent of Movie Stars, Takarazuka Girls, and "Professional Models", that was really so. From roughly the 1870s until the early-1920s, Geisha pretty much owned the world of fashion and character modeling throughout the photo studios of Japan. Please read this caption (and observe the photo) very carefully :

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/3329199977/

 

But again, there's more. Here's another living witness from the past......

 

ANCHORS AWAY !!!

 

Professional Photographer HERBERT PONTING, who spent many years in Japan during the last decade of the Meiji era, was highly enamored with the Geisha, and hired them to appear in many of his commercial photographs.

 

Ponting , who was well aware of how the west perceived the Geisha, wrote in both defense and praise of them in his 1910 book , LOTUS-LAND JAPAN. In addition to his extensive use of the Geisha as hired models, he was also careful to explain that not only were they the entertainers at the dinner parties and tea houses already mentioned above, but also in popular demand to.....

 

(1) accompany the DINNER BOATS as companions and entertainers as they plied the waterways of parks and rivers

 

www.flickr.com/search/?w=24443965@N08&q=Yakatabune&am...

 

and....

 

(2) take part in outdoor PICNIC events.

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2517606012/

  

Keeping the above in mind, we will now expand the duties of the Geisha even more ! Here is the interesting and concise "MANIFOLD DUTIES statement referred to at the beginning of this caption, written in 1897 by the Japanese themselves during the Meiji era, in order to clarify a few things for those foreigners who erroneously thought that "real Geisha only work in Geisha Houses" :

  

♥ ♥ ♥

 

THE GEISHA

 

"........A geisha receives from early childhood an elaborate training under severe discipline to fit her for the MANIFOLD DUTIES that await her. She is taught etiquette, grace, polite speech, playing on musical instruments, singing and dancing. She must learn GAMES, the SERVICE OF BANQUETS and WEDDINGS, and the art of dressing and making herself attractive. Her services are in demand at PUBLIC and PRIVATE ENTERTAINMENTS, and occasions of SOCIAL FESTIVITIES. She is purchased from her parents in early childhood under a contract by which for many years all she earns belongs to her employer........"

 

♥ ♥ ♥

  

".....MANIFOLD DUTIES...."

 

Note again that her "services were in demand". By arrangement with the many Geisha Houses, THIRD PARTY businesses and "event coordinators" could hire the Geisha Girls as greeters, companions, helpers, up-scale waitresses and servers, special receptionists, singers, dancers, and at festival times, leaders of the games and fun --- and yes, even as the popular and ubiquitous models for most of the photographic images portraying the various classes of Japanese women (from a Farmers wife to a mythical Goddess, if need be) in most of the classic photos from the Meiji era [1868-1912]. (See the above link to commentary that explains the increasing involvement of the Geisha as photographers models during the last half of the Meiji-era.)

 

Other books written later would further expand on the details of a Geisha's life, explaining in many ways how she was an indispensable part of Japanese life and culture, as interwoven with the flow of society as were the silken threads of her Kimono.

 

REVIEW :

 

The Geisha served.....

 

(1) .....the festival-going, picnicking, partying, and ceremony-attending PUBLIC --- both at indoor and outdoor venues at locations ranging from "RESTAURANT DINNER BOATS", to WEDDING RECEPTIONS, to staged events in the LOCAL PARKS.

 

(2) .....the rabble-rousing PRIVATE CUSTOMERS at parties held in banquet halls, tea houses, and the restaurants of the Geisha districts, and popular tourist locales.....

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2808600486/

 

(3) .....the PHOTOGRAPHERS who needed poised and pretty models who knew how to take direction as they posed in all manner of studio dress...and sometimes undress.

 

(4)....the looky-loo tourists who partied in the Yoshiwara Red-light districts, and the hordes of men who wanted some song and dance entertainment before hooking up with prostitutes ! The famous NECTARINE No.9 and the other ubiquitous brothels of Japan usually had contingents of Geisha under contract to do this non-sexual entertaining.

  

Unlike the largely "decorative, anachronistic" Geisha of today, the Geisha of the Meiji-era were an integral, broadly functioning part of the society that gave birth to their very existence.

  

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

 

WHY WERE GEISHA SO OFTEN CONFUSED WITH PROSTITUTES ?

 

This problem is often complained about, but rarely (or never) explained.

 

The Okinawa Soba answer to this question is an important one, so log it in your brain. I am also writing this to help instill a bit of patience in the hearts of Geisha-lovers who might be tempted to quickly pounce with disdain on those who, lacking a more intimate knowledge of the subject, continue to confuse Geisha with prostitutes.

 

Although everyone familiar with Geisha realities understands that they practiced their arts and entertainments in designated TEA HOUSES and GEISHA DISTRICTS, it has been generally forgotten that one of the other main entertainment venues for the GEISHA was in the YOSHIWARA [or "Red Light" Districts] found in the major cities scattered throughout Japan.

 

To say that a good portion of the hi-class "real world" Geisha of old Japan were inseparable from their non-sexual working association with Brothels might be hard to take for some modern "Geisha purists", but the fact remains that houses of prostitution is where fame and fortune awaited many of these talented women.

 

Even in Kyoto, there were some Geisha attached to Brothels whose talent and reputations exceeded that of the "Gion Girls" and their lively sisters along the banks of the Kamo River.

 

WHY WERE GEISHA WORKING AT BROTHELS AND "YOSHIWARA" DISTRICTS ?

 

Geisha were hired by Brothels to provide entertainment for waiting guests, as well as to be in attendance at various festivals and outdoor venues within the walls of the Yoshiwara. Geisha could be seen walking around, and riding in jinrikisha as they went to-and-fro about their business.

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2517606012/

 

Many visitors --- both the curious looky-loos and the real "Johns" --- sometimes made false assumptions about the women they saw, based on lack of knowledge about the broader female society that existed within the walls of these pleasure districts.

 

Both Japanese and foreign men who traveled from city and country-side to "get laid" would often partake of entertainment provided by Geisha --- usually some song and dance while eating dinner or a light snack --- prior to heading off to the rooms where the prostitutes awaited them.

 

Even the famous brothels --- usually seen in the old photos with prostitutes lining the balconies --- had large contingents of Geisha working for them to provide guest entertainment.

 

The fact that numerous Geisha worked inside these brothels in a non-sexual capacity, and were generally seen in their comings-and-goings throughout the Yoshiwara, would obviously lead to misunderstandings on the part of some guests --- especially the FOREIGN men --- who were not always clear about the distinctions of the various women they saw.

 

Over time, both writings and rumors proffered by some of these guests led to general confusion amongst the uninformed, who were not (and are still not) able to separate the two in their minds.

 

It might have greatly helped to quell the confusion if the Geisha held their dinners and other entertainments only outside of the Yoshiwara areas (prior to sending their customers on their way by 'rickshaw to the "other side of town"), but such was not the case; the "Red Light Districts" --- just like the dedicated "Geisha Districts" --- were filled with Geisha at all hours of the day and night.

 

Again, the hard-working Geisha inside the Yoshiwara districts --- many of whom the less-than-knowledgeable patrons could not tell apart from the working Prostitutes --- wound up getting lumped together in stories about Japan, told by transient tourists and sailors to anyone who would listen upon their return home.

 

So, now you know. Understanding this will help you "Geisha Lovers" (who bristle at the ignorance shown by those who think the Geisha are prostitutes) to summon up a bit of patience as you kindly correct and explain the difference between the two very different professions.

   

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

  

"MIZUAGE", SEX, and RELATED ISSUES

 

Depending on who you talk to, or what book you read, questions involving possible sexual aspects of graduating from Maiko to the rank of Geisha (or Geiko) --- a ceremony or rite-of-passage called mizuage --- cannot be avoided in any full discussion of the Geisha.

 

Some modern-day Geisha are adamant that the term mizuage, when applied to the world of the Geisha, is a non-sexual term of ceremony or graduation when a Maiko attains the rank of Geisha. Geisha taking this position today say that only the Oiran (high class prostitutes) used the term mizuage for the ritual deflowering --- that is, the auctioning off of a younger girl's virginity to the highest bidder --- when describing the initiation of their young Kamuro understudies into the actual business of prostitution.

 

Those who adamantly take this position are correct, but only as far as it applies to the world of Maiko and Geisha of today.

 

(NOTE: Oiran and Tayuu are still around today, but have been "de-fanged" of their prostitution activities, and exist only to parade around as "cultural shells" of a bye-gone era. However, taking away their true sexual purpose as prostitutes, while still calling them Oiran and Tayuu is about as nonsensical as calling a guy a SAMURAI when he's just posing in some old armor and swinging a plastic sword around.)

 

Keep in mind that, "Today" and "Yesterday" are two different worlds, and when reading the documentary narratives of the Meiji era of 100 years ago or more, one cannot escape the fact that Maiko attached to most (and possibly all) Geisha Houses during the pre-WW2 Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa eras did experience a sexual initiation into the rank and world of the Geisha.

 

AGAIN : The experts are right when they say that "Mizuage" as a sexual initiation (or rite-of-passage) for Maiko is no longer practiced. However, those who say "it never happened in the past except in the case of prostitutes" are completely wrong.

 

Although the old books and testimony of history are clear that many different ceremonies accompanied what was called Mizuage, they are also clear that sexual initiation was a part of it --- obviously this was true for the world of prostitution, but also held true in the world of the Geisha. Here is a modern comment derived from someone well-respected when discussing these matters :

 

".....During the Edo period, courtesans' [prostitutes] undergoing mizuage were sponsored by a patron who had the right of taking their virginity. This practice became illegal in 1959. All maikos had to go through this ceremony in order to become a full fledged geisha. Once the mizuage patron's function was served (of deflowering the young maiko) he was to have no further [sexual] relations with the girl.

 

Mizuage was not considered by geisha to be an act of prostitution. The ceremonial deflowering of the Geisha [-to-be] is not only a rite of passage, but a commercial transaction. The money acquired for a maiko’s mizuage was a great sum and it was used to promote her debut as a geisha......"

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha

 

Liza Dalby is quoted in more detail here : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizuage

 

Referring to comments already made concerning the sexual deflowering of a Maiko, it should be obvious that the phrase "no longer practiced" clearly says that it was practiced.

 

Further, concerning the use and understanding of the word mizuage, what might have been the exact customs of the Geiko working in the Gion or Pontocho districts of Kyoto, might not have been the custom of the Geisha in Tokyo, Yokohama, or elsewhere in Japan. This remains a gray area of study with both regional differences and pre-and-post WW2 differences not completely addressed.

 

Unfortunately, no matter how orderly the "mizuage at the time of graduation" might sound, there were Geisha House owners who allowed high-paying customers to "initiate" the Maiko almost as soon as they arrived (!), long before any graduation to the rank of Geisha. That's just the way is was.

 

Read this caption about the experience of the Geisha TERUHA --- who was sexually deflowered as a 13-year-old Maiko --- as a representative experience that must be considered in any discussion of mizuage, and the child-Maiko's initiation into the Willow World of adult male patrons.

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/4446588770/

 

By the way, the "Federal" age of consent in Japan remains as 13 even in the 21st Century. The "No, it's age 18" thing that Japan recently put up in the 1990s is actually a "misdirection law" or "facade regulation" to show Western countries that Japan is "civilized".... and which all 13 to 17 year old girls easily get around with enjo kosai dating, and any other number of maneuvers...none of which are pursued or prosecuted by the authorities.

 

About once a year, the Japanese police will arrest a 16 or 17 year old "Soap Land" prostitute to prove to Western nations that Japan is cracking down hard on vice...upon which they return to their normal duties of patrolling and protecting the red-light districts...including the protection of the girl they arrested who has also returned to her profession in the "Soap Land", Cabaret", "Ryokan" and etc.

  

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FROM MISTRESS TO MARRIAGE

 

To be a Maiko or Geisha meant you must be "single" --- that is to say, not legally married. But the Geisha were human beings, and their "sisterhood" reflected the world at large when it came to matters of love and romance. The difference was how the Geisha were allowed to handle these "affairs of the heart" while still working within the rules of their profession.

 

Amongst them were those who fell passionately in love with a customer or patron --- whether he be married or single --- and she would become his mistress or lover on the side. That some (or even many) Geisha entered into these "dedicated and monogamous sexual relationships" with "patrons" who provided certain remuneration to their Geisha mistresses or lovers seems beyond dispute.

 

NOTE : While the above paragraph seems to state the understood "ideal" of "honorable Geisha-hood", a pre-WW2 Japanese writer on the subject felt that truly monogamous Geisha were a rare thing, and that the "norm" for Geisha was to juggle a few good patrons at the same time --- at least as many as could be effectually alternated without them bumping into each other. Keep in mind that this was one writers opinion, and there are no personal anecdotes or "Geisha paramour statistics" to back up these suppositions. If such really was the norm, just how many of a Geisha's "personal harem" were for "Love", and how many were for "Money" is something I will leave up to your imagination. In any case, even if a Geisha was discretely rotating a few men at one time, she was still not considered a prostitute. If it was today, American teenagers would probably call her a slut.

 

No doubt there were gold-diggers, too, and lesbians as well. And who's not to say that many of them were just like many Japanese girls of today --- totally lacking a libido of any kind.

 

Perhaps (unfortunately) it is the stories of those Geisha who did enter into "private, sexual relationships" --- some developed while still teenagers --- that has led to confusion about mizuage in specific, and the generally persistent but entirely mistaken notion that the Geisha was some kind of prostitute.

 

Suffice it to say, the Geisha were not prostitutes --- either then, or now.

 

As just mentioned, the Geisha were all unmarried. However, they were also free to marry, though marriage brought an automatic end to their career as a Geisha. Like all human beings everywhere, some had happy marriages, some were only tolerable, and other ended in divorce. The famous Geisha TERUHA was married and divorced a few times, as well as having lived in a lesbian relationship for a while. She also had a daughter.

 

www.flickr.com/search/?q=Teruha&w=24443965@N08&m=...

 

Okinawa Soba has a friend who married a true Geisha. They are now happily married with a cute n' spunky little daughter who's a karate nut.

 

In any case, the Geishas everyday lives and the jobs they worked at were usually far from the romantic, and often highly-charged, sexualized images attached to them by romantic writers from the West.

 

In general, the Geisha were a hard-working lot who --- looking back on those times --- deserve far more respect for their contributions to Japan than most of the sleezy Politicians, Bankers, and Bureaucrats who formed a part of their regular customers and patrons.

 

Keep in mind that MOST of the female subjects depicted on the classic "UKIYOE" woodblock prints of old Japan were PROSTITUTES from the YOSHIWARA ("Red Light Districts"), and not Geisha.

   

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FREE AGENTS

 

There were independent Geisha --- usually from among the more famous or popular girls who had "paid their dues" --- who lived outside the dictates of a "Geisha House Mama", and plied their trade as "free lancers".

  

BABES AND BOOBS

 

Please note that many of the Geisha who appear half naked in my "BABES & BOOBS" set were the NEXT DAY probably busy at any number of venues --- attending a wedding (as servers, helpers, and entertainers), at a public festival (dancing, singing, escorting guests, or playing games with the visitors -- both young and old), or entertaining VIPs at a private banquet or ceremonial reception.

 

The occasional use of prostitutes by Yokohama photographers to appear as topless models in studio shots seems to have been during the first half of the Meiji-era. By the 1880s, the transition to using Geisha and Maiko as models had already begun in earnest, and most of the "nudes" seen today from the "Yokohama Albums" and the ubiquitous "penny postcards" are really Geisha, and not prostitutes.

  

www.flickr.com/search/?s=int&w=24443965@N08&q=Nud...

  

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THE GEISHA OF TODAY --- "EMPTY SHELLS" or "LIVING ENCYCLOPEDIAS" ?

 

I have often expressed an opinion of modern-day Geisha being nothing more than "empty shells" of days gone by. However, I having seen the error of my ways, I duly REPENT.....sort of.

 

While it is a FACT that the Geisha of 100 years ago and more were a "necessary", integral, ubiquitous working part of broad swaths of Japanese society --- and that the Geisha of today are NOT "integral --- it is only fair to acknowledge the value of modern-day Geisha as "living encyclopedias" of an age gone by.

 

The modern Geisha keep alive the songs, musical heritage, classic conversational banter, games, stunts, and especially the immaculate hair, makeup, and beautiful kimono kitsuke seen in the old Studio Photos of the Meiji era. Their dedication to preserving this once-ubiquitous part of Japan's social life clearly sets these modern-day girls and women apart.

 

And positive changes make the doing-it-by-choice 21st Century Geisha more appealing as a cultural institution than their original "sisters" who were sold into the business as children.

 

Stripped of need to draw on the sale of little girls to maintain their ranks, and of the custom of selling off the virginity of the 13-year-old Maiko to local bankers and bureaucrats, they are now above reproach in that regard, and their "decorative presence" for shutter-bugs and anachromaniacs has been nicely cleansed of such distasteful "culture".

 

On the other hand, their place in society no longer has the broad reach and involvement in the everyday life of Japan as it once did, and they have found themselves reduced in many ways to a niche, cultural decoration....not unlike the once-ubiquitous and socially functional Kimono that, for most of the young women across Japan, now comes out only on special occasions.

 

That being said, the Geisha must be recognized as "decorations with substance" --- a "cultural anachronism" that, even in their smaller numbers, still defines a large part of the world's romantic image of Japan.

 

Although the Geisha have now withdrawn behind the walls of the Okiya and Ochaya [Tea Houses] and specialized venues where the bulk of their entertaining now goes on, their talents in that smaller sphere --- provided for a smaller range of clientele --- are no less than what they were 100 years ago.

 

Just for fun, here's an example of the many odd "games" passed down by the Geisha from at least the 19th century (and probably earlier) this little maneuver done by two Geisha is illustrative of the discipline and care given to maintaining and passing on traditions. Please look at the OLD PHOTO first (and my goofy caption), and then click to see the 21st CENTURY VIDEO of the same eclectic moves : www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/4326647910/

 

Again, no matter how anachronistic these girls might be, they remain as pretty and talented as ever --- a favorite subject for never-ending hordes of camera-toting tourists and locals hoping to catch a glimpse of them, and fodder for any number of books that try to "explain them" to the world.

 

I seriously doubt that they will ever disappear from the varied landscape that makes Japan the unique place that it is...and in that sense, the Geisha will always be --- even more so now than in the past --- the Immortal Geisha of a dream inside a fantasy, all wrapped in a mystery...

  

* * * * * * * * * *

  

NOTE : While the TECHNICAL descendants of the Geisha continue to ply their trade in Kyoto and other cities large and small, the PRACTICAL descendants scattered throughout Japan are now called BAR GIRLS or HOSTESSES who work in what are generally called "Snack" and "Lounge" bars --- multi-story buildings and entire districts given over to their trade.

 

In one sense, you could call these Snack Bar Gals the "Poor Man's Geisha" because they are accessible to anybody with at least ¥2,000 to spare. At least that's what poor salarymen tell themselves, and then end up spending at least ¥10,000.... !

 

At the higher-class Lounges, Bar Girls in Kimono entertain Company Presidents, Gangsters, and Politicians (sometimes there is no difference between these three) and it is not uncommon for these customers to drop at least ¥50,000 a night to chat these women...hoping to score big-time, or gain a mistress along the way.

 

I have made a more light-hearted comment about these modern Bar Girls / Hostesses at this old photo of a couple of Geisha having a beer during their day off in a park :

 

www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2328678706/

    

I hope the above photo and straightforward caption was helpful.

   

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APPENDIX I : WHAT ABOUT "GEISHA GIRLS" ???

  

A Defense of the Compound Term "...GEISHA GIRLS..."

 

Several modern-day Websites and hard-copy sources that deal with (and attempt to correct) the eternally false perception that the GEISHA are a particular breed of Japanese prostitutes, usually say something like the following :

 

".....The term "Geisha Girl" or "Geisha Girls" should never be used in reference to the true Geisha --- either in the singular, or as a class description --- as that term carries a connotation of prostitution, and refers to the class of prostitutes who, during the American Occupation of Japan following WW2, dressed in varied approximations of the true Geisha (and even called themselves Geisha) in order to lure young servicemen who only had nominal and exotic expectations based pre-existing false perceptions passed down by the ignorant and misinformed...."

 

In fact, the Wikipedia has this to say :

 

"....."Geisha girls"

 

"Geisha girls" were Japanese women who worked as prostitutes during the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan. They almost exclusively serviced American GIs stationed in the country, who incorrectly referred to them as "Geesha girls." The term is a mispronunciation of the word geisha. The mispronunciation persists among some Westerners.

 

Adding to the confusion is the fact that these women dressed in kimono and imitated the look of geisha. Americans unfamiliar with the Japanese culture could not tell the difference between legitimate geisha and these costumed prostitutes. Shortly after their arrival in 1945, occupying American GIs are said to have congregated on the Ginza and shouted in unison, "We want geesha girls!"

 

Eventually, the term "geisha girl" became a general word for any female Japanese prostitute or worker in the mizu shobai ["water business"] and included bar hostesses and streetwalkers.

 

Geisha girls are speculated by researchers to be largely responsible for the continuing misconception in the West that all geisha engaged in prostitution....."

 

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha

 

To be honest, such pronouncements do sound very authoritative, and seem to settle the matter that the use of the term "Geisha Girls" --- when referring to actual Geisha --- is a complete no-no, such use simply reflecting the ignorance of the user.

 

Due to such indoctrination of today's lover of all things Geisha. Okinawa Soba understands that this is how the term is general regarded today, and due to this sensitivity, I respect those do not want themselves or others to use the term "Geisha Girls" when referring to modern-day Geisha.

 

However.....the WIKIPEDIA and all the rest who toe this line are more confused than the poor G.I.s they are writing about.

 

Okinawa_Soba now goes on public record to inform all who read this that the so-called "scholarship" that produced (and still does produce) such post-WW2 anecdotal folk histories and condemnation of the term "Geisha Girls" is --- generally speaking --- simply the result of these writers placing their trust in other post-WW2 writers on the subject who were also copying others like them ad infinitum --- none of whom ever took a serious look at (or gained an understanding of) the myriad pre-WW2 19th Century and early 20th Century uses of the term "Geisha Girls".

 

The sad result is that these amateur "scholars" and historical "spin doctors" have ruined the perfectly historical, valid, and acceptable use of the term GEISHA GIRLS.

 

First of all, the reason the American G.I.s used the term "Geisha Girls" was because that was a perfectly acceptable word for the true Geisha in the world they, their parents, and their grand-parents lived in. The fact that US Army Private Zeke from Battle Creek couldn't tell the difference between a real Geisha and a prostitute in a Kimono had nothing to do with the already well-established use of the term "Geisha Girls".

 

Similarly, in the days after WW2, the term "Geisha Girl" no more (and no less) carried the connotation of "Prostitute" than did the term "Geisha". Geisha Girl and Geisha were equally acceptable terms for an actual Geisha even after WW2 (just as they were before WW2), and both terms were equally afflicted with the general confusion and long-running misunderstanding of what a Geisha really was.

 

The artificial division between the two terms is a late Western construct devised by a few well-meaning souls who wanted to protect the realm of the true Geisha, though while doing so remained (1) in complete ignorance of the original equality of the terms, and (2) not understanding that the young men of the Occupation Forces generally labored under the old and false assumption handed down to them that the Geisha were some kind of prostitute.

 

During the 19th and early 20th Centuries --- the period of time during which the Geisha images on my photostream were taken, and during which time the Geisha were effusively written about and explained to the adoring world by both the Japanese, and foreigners in the know --- the terms "Geisha" and "Geisha Girls" were used interchangeably with respect and approval across all forms of media. Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Periodicals, Photo captions, Stereoview captions, Commercial Products from that time can all be found using the terms "Geisha Girl" or "Geisha Girls" when describing the true Geisha, and not prostitutes.

 

Even in the Japanese language, the root of "Geisha Girl" can be found in the earlier appellation of Onna Geisha (女芸者) --- "Woman Geisha" or "Girl Geisha", used to differentiate them from the male Geisha (or court entertainers).

 

Here is one example of thousands, and this by a Japanese writer also conversant in English : www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/3329199977/

 

If you are going to allow your modern-day use (or condemnation of) the historically-correct, bona fide term "Geisha Girls" to be dictated to you by a few lazy-assed American G.I.s and some prostitutes who wore Kimonos instead of skirts --- along with late-20th Century, high-sounding, copy-cat "scholars" who never cracked open a book older than 1945 --- then please go right ahead. Language and usage does change and Okinawa Soba will not stand in the way of it, even if the change is, regrettably, brought about by ignorance, as is the case here. You can't unscramble scrambled eggs.

 

In the meantime, and in temporary deference to those who have (unfortunately) adjusted to the uncalled-for change in English usage, I will not call the modern Geisha of Japan "Geisha Girls here in my Flickr captions.

 

However, as concerns the Geisha in the old photos I post on this photostream, Okinawa_Soba will continue my absolutely correct, historical, affectionate, occasional and respectful use of the term "Geisha Girls" to refer to true Geisha of the pre-WW2 Meiji and Taisho eras throughout my photo titles and captions. And not only that, you can, too !

 

Outside of flickr, I will continue to call the modern Geisha of Japan Geisha Girls if I want to, and am fully prepared to answer on the spot those impassioned souls who, in their own ignorance, wrongly accuse me of being ignorant for calling a Geisha a Geisha Girl !

 

NOTE: I still call a “Female Cabin Attendant” a Stewardess, and don't object when, in the 21st Century, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards the Oscar for Best Actress.

   

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Now,excuse me while I return to writing my normally wacky titles and goofy captions that spoof our oft-misguided perceptions of old Japan. www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2531017485/

 

Did you see these two girls at the Oscars ceremony this weekend. Debbi Harry won a lifetime achievement to music award while Goldie Hawn won prettiest actress ever award. Apparently both girls know how to party.

V88 T

  

Miyazaki's "Spirited Away"

 

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

 

With her parents transformed into pigs after straying into what seems to be an abandoned theme park, a spoilt ten year-old girl takes a job in a bathhouse belonging to a wizened old crone and vows to deliver her family from its plight.

 

We're all used to the Hollywood ballyhoo that accompanies the release of a new cartoon. But, for once, the fuss is entirely justified (and not a merchandising opportunity in sight), as Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece has already notched up the notable double of the Golden Bear at Berlin (which it shared with Bloody Sunday) and an Academy Award.

 

It has also broken all Japanese box office records, becoming the first film to open in the States having already racked up $200 million. For this UK release, subtitled and dubbed options are available, depending on the venue. Pixar's John Lasseter has handled dubbing duties with typical sensitivity and, thus, opened up this magical experience to young and old alike.

 

Owing as much to Eastern mythology as to the works of Lewis Carroll or Mervyn Peake, this is an epic with a decidedly personal touch. The plot is gloriously labyrinthine and, as in most Miyazaki films, the quest element is key. But it's subservient to the themes of self-discovery and the value of relationships and, consequently, the tone and scale of the action feels much closer to the little-seen My Neighbour Totoro than the overrated Princess Mononoke.

 

There are still numerous flights of fancy, however, as characters constantly shift shapes - Chihiro's parents turn into pigs, the evil Yubaba into a sinister bird, the timid No Face into a rampaging carnivore, Okutaresama the malodorous monster into a benign river spirit, and the kindly but mysterious Haku into a dragon. Then there's the spider-like boilerman, Kamaji, and his scurrying soot-ball assistants, who help Chihiro escape the forbidding bathhouse on a ghostly railway.

 

But what really fires the imagination is the beauty and ingenuity of the wonderland that lies at the end of a tunnel leading off from the quiet country road where Chihiro and her parents get lost. Moreover, the fact that Miyazaki and his team hand-draw the images before they're digitally coloured and animated gives them an artistry that has been woefully lacking from so many recent American features.

 

Despite a dip midway through, this is a captivating fantasy that sets a new benchmark for animation.

  

Academy Awards, USA 2003

Won

Oscar Best Animated Feature

Hayao Miyazaki

 

Hayao Miyazaki was not present at the awards ceremony. Presenter Cameron Diaz accepted the award on his behalf.

 

★★★★★

 

© 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