I had been keeping an anxious eye out for the completion of the luxury 5-star Hotel Lutetia renovation (at 45, Blvd Raspail 75006 Paris), which is now a member of the Set Hotel group (other Set hotel members are in London and Amsterdam). The renovation project had been extended and was now on 4 years and counting!
The exterior banner announced it was opening in late Spring but that season had walked away and Paris was in Summer sale mode, even entering into their 2nd markdowns!
I decided to head to the Bon Marche (24, Rue de Sevres, 75006 Paris) for the sales (‘LES SOLDES’).A photo shoot was taking place so there was some extra action just in front of Bon Marche, which is the only Left Bank Grand Dame Department Store. By the way, this is a good time to mention that the owners of Bon Marche also owned the Hotel Lutetia at one time.
I think the photo shoot had to do with their up and coming Southern California theme throughout the store.
After spending a bit of time shopping, I realized I had never walked through the Square Boucicaut that separated Bon Marche and the Hotel Lutetia. Too many times to count, I had overseen (literally looked down upon) the park’s action from one of my favorite view points: a window seat at Primo Piano, an Italian restaurant located in the department store.
Finally, I was going to get a surface view and I wasn’t disappointed. As said, it is an actively used park for such things as children’s play or Parisians utilizing it for their lunch break. Yet one photo here shows no one on the benches and that was due to a very HOT day. The first photo here shows the Hotel Lutetia in the background.
This is a usual look in Paris–manicured, well-kept gardens.
And, as said, the sunny benches not occupied, yet some shady ones were.
Then there it was–all dressed up after a spotless facade clean! Although there was still some construction action at sidewalk level (the Brasserie and top floor suites are not yet completed), I realized I was seeing what resembled doormen at the front entrance. And sure enough, they were holding the doors OPEN for their guests!
One of the things that makes the Hotel Lutetia so special is its bittersweet history. As the Financial Times article below states an exterior plaque announces:
“From April to August 1945, this hotel, which had become a reception centre, received the greater part of the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, glad to have regained their liberty and their loved ones from whom they had been snatched. Their joy cannot efface the anguish and the pain of the families of the thousands of disappeared who waited in vain for their own in this place.”
The Daily Beast article also mentions a plaque in place that states: “Headquarters of German intelligence services before, welcoming in 1945, the survivors of the camps.”
As I entered, I immediately noted the exquisite detail–a combination of old and new–Art Nouveau and contemporary’s simpler statements. Neither overdone, allowing the detail to breathe with negative space between.
Sculptural pieces adding some interest and smiles such as L’Ernestine (2nd photo below) but also a reference to a ship as is somewhat discretely a theme in various chosen spots throughout the hotel.
I was escorted and decided to agree to a seat at the Bar Josephine, offered a newspaper of my choice, followed by my order of a glass of organic white wine that I understood was wine produced for the hotel, hence donning a hotel label. I found it to be delicious and well-priced for the setting it was being offered. The air-conditioned temperature soon proved to be a relief from the heat outdoors and I settled in to have a bite to eat, giving my eyes time to explore my surroundings.
A salmon rillette with lime to squeeze on it to give it a little zing! Yet, there were many options on the menu for a ‘tapas style’ of eating, as I discovered over several trips later with various friends.
I’m not exactly sure what it is about this space that instantly endeared me, but I know the 100 year old restored frescoes contrasted with the contemporary elements had a lot to do with it. There is no doubt though its bittersweet history played a part in it too.
With the hotel’s opening just two weeks previous, there was enthusiasm and excitement in the air brought about by the staff. Every visit, and I have to admit I had 5 (!!) in one month!, felt friendly, welcoming, cozy, unpretentious.
One of the reasons the hotel’s opening was so delayed was due to the discovery of the frescoes depicted below and their needed restoration. Knowing that, I was in full appreciation of the time that was taken to meticulously care for this part of the history of this Left Bank Grand Dame.
I started meeting friends in the early evening, and my excitement always prevailed. My friends and I planted ourselves, often for two or three hours and we weren’t the only ones that lingered–individuals, couples, small groups included. The flow of music by the piano player, who sometimes accompanied a singer, added a soothing, relaxing tone but also an uplifting one with an almost ‘out of your seat dancing’ temptation depending on the song being played. All of this helped to lend a respite from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside and added cheerfulness to my day.
I did arrange a tour for several of us. There are amenities–a spa, including an exercise room and lap pool; a library-styled breakfast room where they plan to offer brunch to the public soon; the stunningly colorful ceilinged main restaurant with an outdoor courtyard dining area too, seemingly, not in full operation as yet.
The hallways to the rooms and suites are walled with vertical wood made to look like panels off a meticulously cared-for ship. And the window designs were exquisite.
I have to admit, the classic/deluxe rooms we saw were smaller than I would have expected (even though they had decreased the number of rooms with the renovation), and a bit subdued in color and style, yet approachable and tranquil. The bathtubs were made out of one slab of marble, pointed out to us by our in-house tour guide.
But as already made clear, you don’t have to book a room reservation to enjoy the pleasures of the hotel. From the years of the hotel prior to the renovation, there has definitely been some name-dropping visitors but I am, obviously, not one of them, yet I was still greeted with respect, kindness, and warmth. As you may be able to discern, the hotel’s effect on me was palpable.
Here are a few articles for you to read that will expose you to its ‘different from the usual’ over the years Left Bank Paris history. Also some lovely photos included:
The Financial Times article: https://www.ft.com/content/da03178e-94b2-11e8-b67b-b8205561c3fe
The Daily Beast article: https://www.thedailybeast.com/paris-hotel-home-to-hemingway-and-holocaust-survivors-reopens