Paris glitterati holds breath over Ritz renovation

Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:47am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Enter the Ritz Paris and a well-heeled hush envelopes the senses.

But the calm will soon give way to the sound of construction, as the five-star hotel undergoes a two year renovation designed to refresh the gem on the Place Vendome known as one of the most elegant addresses in Paris.

The former home of fashion designer Coco Chanel and author Marcel Proust - and a favorite drinking hole of Ernest Hemingway - the Ritz Paris was last renovated over a decade beginning in 1979 after its purchase by billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed.

In ensuing years, the hotel maintained its cachet as the elite stomping ground for heads of state, Parisian society and the international jet-set despite tragedy, as it was here where Princess Diana spent her last night in 1997 before the car crash that killed her.

Now hotel officials say it's time to upgrade many things invisible to the eye, such as air conditioning, heating and plumbing. That will help keep the Ritz competitive with a slate of Paris luxury hotels that have recently opened or renovated, from the Shangri-La, to the Bristol and Royal Monceau.

The Hotel de Crillon on the stunning Place de la Concorde - one of the venues where the Allied victors of World War I negotiated the carving up of Europe - is also closing for a two-year renovation beginning in the fall.

Staff at the Ritz - most of whom will lose their jobs due to the 27-month closure - are busy reassuring clients that the upcoming renovation won't change the essence of the classic.

"It's not going to change. All our clients have called us saying, 'Please don't change anything,'" explained Matthieu Goffard, press attache for the Ritz Paris. "The idea is to keep the very French Ritz spirit of Parisian luxury."   Continued...