Well-heeled regulars at the Paris Ritz bid au revoir to a dear Old Lady on Wednesday as the historic luxury hotel shut for a two-year facelift to give a tough break to the new competition from Asia.
The hotel of choice of Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway, the Ritz is also infamous as the place where Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed dined before their fatal car crash in 1997. But the luxury hotel has not had a refit since 1979, when it was revamped by its new owner, Al Fayed’s father Mohamed, and even its fans admit it was starting to show its age.
“The Ritz is an Old Lady and as such sometimes needs some tender attention,” said Marc Hubert D'je, a Frenchman based in the United States. “But the structure is sound so I don’t think it will really change with the renovations.”
Two new Asian luxury hotels, the Shangri-La and the Mandarin Oriental, opened in Paris in 2010, raising the stakes for historic players like the Ritz. Founded in 1898 by Cesar Ritz and the chef Auguste Escoffier, the hotel is home to L’Espadon restaurant, holder of two Michelin stars, and the Ritz-Escoffier cooking school.
The two-year 140-million-euro (170-million-dollar) refurbishment came after Ritz failed to win the coveted palace designation.
Improvements will include a garden restaurant and high-tech features for its 160 rooms, but the same style and colours: pink, almond green, yellow and sky blue will be kept intact.