Bask in historic, surrealist splendour at the Le Meurice hotel in Paris, complete with a Valmont spa
The Grand Dame of Rue de Rivoli, Le Meurice is a five-star, 19th-century palace-turned-hotel imbued with artistic grandeur and glamour. Nestled between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, gliding through its revolving doors is akin to spinning back in time; a porthole to Belle Époque Paris.
The historic landmark counts Walter Lippmann, Rudyard Kipling and Edmond Rostand among its illustrious and artistic past habitués. Salvador Dalí, after whom the restaurant is named, famously holidayed at the hotel for three decades, and once requested both a horse and a herd of sheep to his room, the latter of which he shot with a pistol on arrival.
More recent patrons include Jay Z and Kanye West, who took over a floor for a week to shoot the video for 'N_____ in Paris' in 2011, while rumour has it that Jay Z and Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy was conceived in one of the hotel’s grand quarters.
On my visit, I make like Jay, Bey and Ye and take up residence in an opulent suite, characterised by regal bergère chairs a la Louis XVI, ornate chandeliers and gilt-trimmed furniture, washed in silky champagne hues. The pièce de résistance however is the view, overlooking Tuileries gardens and the city’s iconic skyline. It truly is one of the best in the city.
Historic grandeur is the order of the day at Le Meurice. The Alain Ducasse restaurant is ineffably beautiful, rich with Rococo paintings, glistening crystal chandeliers, gilt trimmings and old-world elegance.
There is also a distinct quirkiness to the former palace. The presence of Schiaparelli and her surrealist contemporaries lingers in the madcap sculptures, lobster telephones and glass vitrines hung with majestic oddities.
And of course, the aforementioned Dalí bar designed by Philippe Starck, characterised by an eclectic collection of sculptural chairs and a canvas-draped ceiling painted by daughter Ara Starck. Here, you can order luxurious comfort food including club sandwiches, croque monsieur and a Pop Art burger, so-called after former hotel guest Andy Warhol.
The greatest contrast to the historic fin-de-siècle style is the state-of-the-art Valmont spa, the only one of its kind in Paris. Hidden in the depths of the hotel, the warm sanctum couples serenity with style, swathed in signature Valmont celadon green.
Designed by Charles Jouffre, white curvilinear walls nod to the brand’s Swiss glacial sourcing, highlighted by a cascading ice sculpture centrepiece. The spa features two treatment rooms, a sauna, fitness centre, sun terrace and his-and-hers hammams, ideal for a little couple R&R.
The spa's facial technique is also truly like no other. It is listed as an exfoliation and massage, however this translates to an intense muscle work-out. My firm-fingered therapist pummels my skin in order to plump, perk and deeply moisturise, finished with a tingly collagen face mask. Tender facial this ain’t, but effective? Absolutely. My skin feels brighter, lighter, soft and utterly replenished.
Emerging from the spa, I look around at the top-hatted doorman and bustling, marble-clad entrance, and I am reminded of all of the artists, royalty and notable characters that have graced Le Meurice over the centuries, from Napoleon III and King Alfonso XIII of Spain, to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the latter of whom I am sure would have been quite partial to the couples hammam, had it been available.