What It’s Like To Stay In The World’s Most Special Hotel
Imagine finding yourself in an America where no one speaks loudly, the staff never put their hand out for a tip and the President is a serious, studious statesman who thinks Twitter is beneath him.
It would be an experience only slightly less bizarre and bewildering than the one we stumbled into recently when we discovered a stately corner of Paris in which the people are not only lovely, friendly and welcoming of foreigners, but borderline obsequious.
After being treated to a fine range of Gallic sneers and having an espresso almost embedded in the our table at a nearby café, arriving at The Peninsula Hotel feels like you are entering another country. Or another dimension.
As the white-gloved doorman eases open the incessantly buffed glass door to the huge marble foyer, it’s like stepping onto the set of Cheers, minus the barflies and one-liners. Everyone knows your name and greets you genially in much the way you’d expect George Clooney, a regular visitor, might be welcomed (minus the swooning, obviously).
Unfortunately we had arrived at one of the world’s finest hotels jet-lagged and physically crushed by the cumulative effects of some Airbus-borne flu and total sleep deprivation and at the sight of our suite’s majestic, king-sized bed, couldn’t wait to curl up in a foetal position.
The helpful staff member, adamant on showing us to our room sensed our misery, provided a cursory circuit of the suite’s surprisingly high-tech features (portable touch-screen tablets on either side of the bed operate almost everything) then left us to it.
One side of the suite’s oak-panelled corridor had a generous writing desk, the other a large open wardrobe, the green-marbled bathroom at the end dominated by a deep, luxurious bath with spa jets, twin vanities gleaming with polished chrome on either side. The toilet seat was heated too, a most unexpected virtue.
The desperate need for some freshly laundered clothes required examination of the laundry prices. After picking ourselves up off the thick-piled carpet, we decided that cleanliness is overrated.
Discreet service is the Peninsula trademark. Items like dirty underthings are placed in a large valet cabinet beside the door, a summons button is pushed and presumably some elves whisk it away in the dead of night.
Dinner was in the high-backed chairs of the opulent lobby restaurant, the ceiling heavy with Baccarat crystal chandeliers and gilt-edged cornices while smartly dressed clientele sipped burgundy and conversed sotto voce. It was like finding yourself squatting up the back of a French period painting, underdressed and eating what could qualify as the world’s most expensive (but delicious) Pad Thai (tres French).
These opulent, stately walls are steeped in history. The German military high command made The Peninsula its headquarters during World War II and cigar-chewing Henry Kissinger signed the Paris Accord here to end the Vietnam War.
Completely refurbished at a cost of $587 million three years ago, The Peninsula has a magnificent spa, which could only be admired from a flu-filled distance, lobby stores where the price of a suit surpasses the GDP of many small African countries, and a rooftop restaurant and bar, the L’Oiseau Blanc, where the beautiful people gather.
Incongruously suspended just above our window was a full-sized biplane, complete with stuffed, goggled pilot. Curiosity piqued, we learned from the bedside tablet that this was a tribute to a French aircraft that went missing over the Atlantic in 1927.
While there were many remarkable aspects to The Peninsula, the one most appreciated was the suite’s tomb-like hush. No air-con hum, no slammed hallway doors, traffic racket or droning TV next door.
Nowhere in America is as quiet, nor as wonderful, as this.
Published 20 December, 2018