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Wonderful. Let me use the epithet again: wonderful. It is the word which comes most readily to my mind when I think of the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris. Some hotels dazzle with their extravagance, some startle with their modernity and some seduce with their naughtiness. The Plaza Athénée exists in a realm above such frivolities, where there is no vulgar striving but one gentle harmony – where things are right and rightly done. It is a place for those who appreciate the fine things of life and need to be surrounded by elegance and service which is correct, attentive but never overbearing. Of course, the Plaza Athénée has one of the great hotel managers, Mr François Delahaye (pictured). This suave and impeccably dressed gentleman (once the butler to the Duke of Westminster) has presided over the establishment for over twenty years. He ensures that it is, without doubt, one of the best hotels in the world.
A great hotel needs a great manager. And the Park Hyatt Paris - Vendôme has one. Mr Claudio Ceccherelli (pictured, with your correspondent) is charming, affable and is always on-hand to ensure that his establishment continues to be one of the very best hotels in Paris. Opened in 2002, the Park Hyatt occupies five 19th century Haussmann-style buildings a few steps from the gorgeous Place Vendôme, in the very centre of the city. If you look at the hotel façade from a distance, you will probably admire the sense of unity in its appearance. This was achieved by physically raising one of the stone fronts by several inches – a remarkable feat of modern engineering. Clearly, no expense was spared to make the exterior right.
I like my grand restaurants to be grand. That is one of the reasons I love Le Cinq in Paris. It occupies one of the loftiest chambers in the marvellous Hotel George V. In the fashionable 8th arrondissement, surrounded by the most exclusive shops and within a short walk of the Champs Elysées, the white stone exterior of this 1928 Art Déco masterpiece is a joy to behold, particularly when it is floodlit at night. Looking from without, you sense immediately that the revolving doors lead to luxury, good taste and the infinite possibilities of unbridled pleasure. Small wonder, then, that I had made the effort to wear black tie for dinner.
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See also Dining in France