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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

 

DOWNLOAD HERE

 

Mostafa Hamad

مصطفى حمد

Camera:Canon IXUS 110 IS

  

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© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Use without permission is illegal.

  

~ 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."

 

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

Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 26, 2017. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM Academy Awards 2017 february 26

Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 26, 2017. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM Academy Awards 2017 february 26

Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 26, 2017. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM Academy Awards 2017 february 26

Download Romantic Slideshow After Effects Template >>

videohive.net/item/romantic-slideshow/20317780?ref=rgba_d...

 

Bright romantic slideshow project with elegant bokeh lights, perfect for: stunning wedding film, stylish wedding movie, elegant love story video, romantic greeting & can also be used for beautiful photo/video slideshow, special occasion, movie opener, spectacular ceremony, nomination, awards, fashion show, presentation, anniversary celebration, holiday, bright moments, birthday and any other special events!

 

AE CS5 or above

FullHD (1920×1080), 30fps

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PDF tutorial is included

Music is not included

 

#motiondesign #film #animated #youtube #tv #movie #aftereffects #aftereffect #ae #slideshow #titles #opener #intro #fashion #wedding #celebration #special #event #party #show #occasion #award #ceremony #bright #white #nomination #oscar #romantic #bokeh #marriage #videography

  

Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 26, 2017. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM Academy Awards 2017 february 26

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

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..........."

   

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.

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)

© 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

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

Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 26, 2017. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM Academy Awards 2017 february 26

© 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

© 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

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.

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!"

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

Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 89th Academy Awards (Oscars) ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA, USA, February 26, 2017. Photo by Lionel Hahn/ABACAPRESS.COM Academy Awards 2017 february 26

*“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!”

        

The snowcapped Techappi Mts. from the Angeles National Forest during the Academy Awards Ceremony 43 miles away.

Selfie( I am not trying to beat Obama's record)

  

A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr. They are often casual, and are typically taken either with a camera held at arm's length or in a mirror.

  

The term "selfie" was discussed by photographer Jim Krause in 2005, although photos in the selfie genre predate the widespread use of the term. In the early 2000s, before Facebook became the dominant online social network, self-taken photographs were particularly common on MySpace. However, writer Kate Losse recounts that between 2006 and 2009 (when Facebook became more popular than MySpace), the "MySpace pic" (typically "an amateurish, flash-blinded self-portrait, often taken in front of a bathroom mirror") became an indication of bad taste for users of the newer Facebook social network. Early Facebook portraits, in contrast, were usually well-focused and more formal, taken by others from distance. In 2009 in the image hosting and video hosting website Flickr, Flickr users used 'selfies' to describe seemingly endless self-portraits posted by teenage girls. According to Losse, improvements in design—especially the front-facing camera copied by the iPhone 4 (2010) from Korean and Japanese mobile phones, mobile photo apps such as Instagram, and selfie sites such as ItisMee—led to the resurgence of selfies in the early 2010s.

  

Initially popular with young people, selfies gained wider popularity over time. By the end of 2012, Time magazine considered selfie one of the "top 10 buzzwords" of that year; although selfies had existed long before, it was in 2012 that the term "really hit the big time".According to a 2013 survey, two-thirds of Australian women age 18–35 take selfies—the most common purpose for which is posting on Facebook. A poll commissioned by smartphone and camera maker Samsung found that selfies make up 30% of the photos taken by people aged 18–24.

By 2013, the word "selfie" had become commonplace enough to be monitored for inclusion in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. In November 2013, the word "selfie" was announced as being the "word of the year" by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gave the word itself an Australian origin.

Selfies have also taken beyond the earth. A space selfie is a selfie that is taken in space. This include selfies taken by astronauts, machines and by an indirect method to have self-portrait photograph on earth retaken in space.

In January 2014, during the Sochi Winter Olympics, a "Selfie Olympics" meme was popular on Twitter, where users took self-portraits in unusual situations. The spread of the meme took place with the usage of the hashtags,#selfiegame, and #selfieolympics.

A selfie orchestrated by 86th Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres during the 2 March 2014 broadcast is the most retweeted image ever. DeGeneres said she wanted to homage Meryl Streep's record 18 Oscar nominations by setting a new record with her, and invited other Oscar celebrities to join them. The resulting photo of twelve celebrities broke the previous retweet record within forty minutes, and was retweeted over 1.8 million times in the first hour. By the end of the ceremony it had been retweeted over 2 million times, less than 24 hours later, it had been retweeted over 2.8 million times. As of 18 March 2014, it has been retweeted 3,400,395 times. It beat the previous record, 778,801, which was held by Barack Obama, following his victory in the 2012 presidential election.

In April 2014, the advertising agency iStrategyLabs produced a two-way mirror capable of automatically posting selfies to Twitter, using facial recognition software.

  

Please do note fave my photos without commenting ( what do people do with thousands of faves, look at them every morning ?)

  

More London here

www.flickr.com/photos/23502939@N02/sets/72157629381724431/

  

More candids here

  

www.flickr.com/photos/23502939@N02/sets/72157622769131641/

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

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.

 

★★★★★

 

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.

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.

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

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)

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.

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

© 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 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.

An Academy Award, also known as the Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers. The formal ceremony at which the awards are presented is one of the most prominent award ceremonies in the world, and is televised live in more than 200 countries annually. It is also the oldest award ceremony in the media; its equivalents, the Grammy Awards (for music), Emmy Awards (for television), and Tony Awards (for theatre) are modeled after the Academy.

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.

 

- 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

   

© 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 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)

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.

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.

  

© 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

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.