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The Paris Ritz

Dreaming of The Ritz Mia Ziervogel

 

Some people have life long dreams of a white wedding or becoming a CEO. My life long dream was to stay at the Ritz in Paris. I was blessed that my mom took me for lunch at the Ritz when I was in my early 20’s and we made a promise to each other that one day- we do not know how – we will walk in with Louis Vuitton luggage and a Hermès scarf and stay at the Ritz.

After lunch we both got a Hermès scarf as first step to making this dream come true.

A few months ago, I booked into the Ritz with my old Samsonite luggage, but I had the Vuitton hand bag and the scarf my mom bought me around my neck. Only my mom was not there, she was watching this all from heaven where she now resides.

I am sure her room in heaven looks just like Coco Chanel’s suite that she lived in at the Ritz. I sat in the same table for lunch, only three decades had passed.

I remember my mom and I on our lunch trip, even just lingering in the bathroom taking in all the splendor. And that was just the toilet and we were in heaven!

So, arriving in my room, early in the morning, I was both proud and terribly sad and sending my telepathic messages to my darling mom- LOOK! We did it!

In my room, a breakfast was already waiting for me (the flight lands so early in the morning), the butler ever so charming welcomed me as if I was someone special. This is what I experienced the whole stay, everyone treats you as if you were a queen. Dreaming of the Ritz

These words are often said, oh but when it really happens, when you are really treated like a queen, it is very humbling and very charming. You become a better version of yourself.

Most of the staff have been with the hotel for many years, even though other temporary jobs were organized whilst the hotel had a complete renovation for four years, they retuned, the find the hotel exactly as it was. Only fresher. How beautiful is that? It was so precious and lovely that no detail was changed, only miraculously made new.

I did something that not many do, not often when in a big city that you adore anyway- I walked outside only once or twice- and returned to the hotel to sit in every spot available. All around the corner, far from the entrance I found a corner that no one used, sat on the green couch, and just listened to the music.

They only play music from an era I cannot even place, 1920? 1930’s? The music is played all over the hotel, even in the courtyard. Its still nippy outside, but I slept with my window open just enough to sleep hearing these beautiful love songs. I have never slept better.

The music is in fact mixed made by French Music Royalty, Raphaël Hamburger, the son of Michel Burger and France Gall and grandson of French physicist, essayist and surgeon Jean Hamburger. His film music credits include Grace of Monaco, Desierto and about 25 other popular French movies.

He remixed classics from the 20’s to the 60’s – film scores for the lobby area, jazzier for the Bar Vêndome, classic at the restaurant and pop/funk for the Ritz Bar.

It is attention to details as such, that makes one linger. Never wanting to leave.

The Ritz has a mini mall, a passage offering the most beautiful brands, but their own shop is amazing. They have gifts and clothing for the Ritz Bebe – teddies and tiny golden baby shoes (instantly broody) and a range from Inés de la Fressange, the quintessential Parisian. Known in the 80’s as France’s top model, she now designs bags, accessories and more – with a typical French savior faire.

The hotel offers the service of world famous hairdresser David Mallet as part of their spa treatments which is obviously all Chanel products. One can now book Coco Chanel’s suite to stay in. It feels surreal to stand in the room she slept and lived in.

The surreal feeling does not go away; each time I go through the swing door at the entrance my mind plays the footage of Diana entering the hotel for her last meal. The Hemingway bar – was in fact not a bar when the hotel opened but when Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and other expats fled prohibition in America, they made this their home and turned it into the Ritz Bar. At the time no ladies were allowed. César Ritz’s daughter in law made a change to that by joining the men and from 1926 they opened a second bar across the hallway for ladies, called the “Petit Bar” but it was renamed the Hemingway in 1994. The aura of all these greats still linger, whether its just my imagination or not does not matter – it tickles one’s mind to think of all the greats that have sat there discussing I am sure with much animation the issues of the day.

Mostly I roam the hotel, from place to place, taking in the beautiful smells, and staring at the stunning flower arrangements, which is impossible to be real but is. I checked.

The Salon Proust is where teatime is served in the afternoon. “At the Ritz, nobody pushes you”, said Marcel Proust. Hence the space was named after him, where indeed you can daydream in plush chairs, surrounded by books.  Proust, made the Ritz a second home too, like so many others, and gleaned secrets about the elite which he then used in his books. The Ritz have their own brand of teas, for sale at the shop. The pastry chef, François Perret, uses moderate sugar but ample flavours, the plays with flavours and colours making the tea experience the height of refinement. (All Ritz products are for sale on their website)

The Ritz bar is Art Deco, and one can begin the day there with breakfast and end the night at 2am drinks.

In summer, the courtyard outside is turned into an extension to the bar.

The restaurant at the Ritz, L’Espadon, morphs into three different spaces – Les Matins (morning)de L’Espadon for breakfast, lunchtime it becomes the Les Jardins (garden) de L’Espadon and at night La Table de L’Espandon. I was treated to the afternoon- arriving at 12.00 and finally leaving floating on air at 4.30.

Charles Ritz and Hemingway were both keen fishermen, so the name was a nod to the two of them- L’Espadon meaning swordfish.

The Chef Nicolas Sale is a two star Michelin winner, turns each dish into a story, which he tells with the freshest ingredients twisting and turning them into culinary experiences.

My Maître-d welcomes me with a Sawubona and hoe gaan dit. As I am dining alone, he comes to the table with anecdotes and jokes – completely friendly and open. Not one member of the staff is stuffy.

The chef worked 8 months on getting the bread just right, with just the most perfect butter. And just as I took a nice big bite, the GM of the hotel came to say hello. Talk about perfection, tall and handsome, gosh! We have a nice chat about Cape Town and I might have had crumbs everywhere but for such a good looking man he was terribly friendly and kind. He did not seem to notice.

Each chapter of my meal got paired with a wine, and at the end the dessert came with sake. I tried to resist the dessert after the cheese trolley came my way, which one could write an article on in itself, stories from Napoleon to methods of making each cheese. But I was told the dessert was a must.

The cooking school is still in full swing – The École Ritz Escoffier- with training offered to Professionals – and for anyone else pastry making, to French cuisine. Even classes for kids. The Master Class is a 19 week course- can only be incredible.

I leave after two days, fait accompli, done what I set out to do. To enjoy every corner of the hotel, talking in every detail and for 48 hours I was somebody special- a guest of the Ritz Paris.

 

15 place Vendôme 75001 Paris
T +33 1 43 16 30 50

 

 

 

 

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