THE LUTETIA hotel in Paris, favoured by famous brands Hemingway and Picasso, reopens after four years of costly renovations that it hopes will win it the “palace” label reserved for probably the most opulent of French lodgings.
Steeped ever sold, from its occupation by Nazi intelligence agents to its years as a hangout for celebrity intellectuals in the 1950s, the Lutetia hasn’t changed much externally at the very least.
The new-look hotel in the chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood has retained its imposing art deco facade, lined with elegant wrought iron balconies overhung with carved stone grapevines.
But the 200-million-euro (Bt7.8 billion) makeover has allowed the hotel to liven up its original frescos and stucco work, decking out the 184 suites and rooms in understated luxury.
Bartenders stand behind the bar of the newlyrefurbished Lutetia Hotel.
Hotel manager Jean-Luc Cousty says the target was to “develop a contemporary hotel by enhancing precisely what was historic”.
“The Lutetia have not lost its soul, and something of the big triumphs of architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte is that day light has been earned throughout,” he explains.
The first guests were because of walk through its corridors – lined with dark eucalyptus wood – thursday on.
There is really a lit 17-metre pool softly, as the rooms feature discreet art-deco chandeliers and lots of white marble: the baths were carved out of a 1.9 tonne block.
While the brasserie won’t reopen until autumn, guests can sip a cocktail in the Josephine bar, whose frescos, forgotten under layers of wallpaper and paint previously, have already been restored after 17,000 hours of painstaking work.
Opened in 1910, the Lutetia owes its existence to its neighbour Bon Marche, among the first shops in the global world.
Marguerite Boucicaut, its owner, had the hotel created to provide accommodation on her behalf wealthy customers travelling around Paris from the provinces for shopping trips.
Situated at the heart of the Left Bank, the center of the French intellectual scene, it became a hub of philosophical and artistic debate quickly.
During the Nazi occupation of Paris, the hotel was requisitioned by German forces and used to host and entertain troops.
Upon the liberation, wartime leader General Charles de Gaulle – who himself had honeymooned at the Lutetia – ordered the hotel to take a large number of refugees.
Post-war it swiftly regained its reputation as a accepted spot to see and become seen, with artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse haunting its hallways.
James Joyce wrote section of &ldquo famously;Ulysees” there – by using editing suggestions from Ernest Hemingway – and the dancer Josephine Baker was a normal also.
a four-star hotel
Currently, the Lutetia has requested a fifth – the next phase before obtaining the “palace” label, that is currently held by 10 top Parisian hotels like the Peninsula and Bristol.
The Lutetia “offers different things, it wouldn’t do any injury to another palaces because its clientele differs,” says Christian Mantei, head of national tourism development agency Atout France.
Cousty says the Lutetia attracted the ultra-rich &ldquo hardly;Middle Eastern and Russian customers who would rather stay static in the ‘Golden Triangle’”, an certain area close to the Champs-Elysees boulevard on the far side of the river.
While still out of grab all however the wealthiest, he said is Lutetia was targeting “more accessible” pricing than those rivals on the proper Bank, “having an average price of 800 euros”.
Bought this year 2010 by Israeli group Alrov, the Lutetia is wanting to double its turnover – which stood at 30 million euros prior to the renovation works – within 3 or 4 years of reopening.
At least the timing is good: after 2 yrs where Paris was scarred by terror attacks, tourists returned to the French capital in record numbers in 2017, with 33.8 million resort rooms booked.