< FRANCE | PARIS: InterContinental Paris Le Grand
Built for welcoming the visitors of 1867 Paris Universal Exhibition, Le Grand Hotel opened its door to clients on June 4th, 1862. On May 5th 1862, it was inaugurated by Empress Eugénia de Montijo, spouse of Napoleon the IIIrd, who came up with the charming statement after a complete tour of the building: «It looks to me exactly like home. I thought I was back in Fontainebleau.»
Emperor Napoleon III was at the origin of this project, which was financed by the main bankers at the
time, Isaac and Emile Pereire. The greatest names of sculpture, painting and decoration took part in the
building of this gigantic and magnificent hotel. Parisians were very interested in the construction of
the "largest in the world hotel", set in the entirely new district of the Opera House.
On 4 floors for guests and 1 floor for servants, the hotel offered 800 guestrooms and suites, a "Table d'hôte" restaurant, the Café de la Paix, a tea-room (Café-Divan), and many salons for Princes, Press, Lecture, Correspondence, Ladies, Balls, Concert-dinners, Billiards, very important cellars, and storages for wine of every French wine regions. There was also a studio of photography.
Each hotel room and suite had a fireplace. Only the most luxurious suites had a bathroom, but guests could have a Bath service giving many hydrotherapic cares, bathes, showers, frictions... The decor of rooms was in the Second Empire style. Some parts of the actual hotel kept their original decor: the Salon Opéra, former Ballroom, the ceilings, columns and wall paintings of Café de la Paix, the ceiling of the Imperial Suite...
From its opening, the hotel welcomed the most famous celebrities from all over the world; emperors and empresses, kings and queens, princes and princesses, maharajas, sultans, artists... King Edward VII of England, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the Shah of Iran, Emperor and Empress of Brazil, Tsar and Tsarin of Russia, Maharadjah of Bengali, Empress Carlotta of Mexico, count De Lesseps, Stanley, Gambetta, Sarah Bernhardt, Jacques Offenbach, Maupassant, Massenet, Caruso, Oscar Wilde, Diaghilev, Clemenceau...
The hotel become a hub for artists, actors and creative movements. Victor Hugo gave a splendid banquet in the grand ballroom (today, Opera ballroom) and Emile Zola had his decadent and tragic heroine, Nana, die in a flowered room at the fourth floor. In 1869, this is in the hotel’s Imperial suite where James Gordon Bennett, founder of the International Herald Tribune, met with Henry W. Stanley to convince him to venture in search of Dr Livingstone in Africa.
During the first World War, Le Grand Hôtel was partially transformed in a military hospital. From the Thirties, its clientele changed, with many American people came by air plane, bringing with them whiskey, jazz and cocktails. Between the two wars hotel welcomed guests such as Josephine Baker who sang at the nearby Olympia Music Hall and Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich, who were regular guests.
For the World War II the hotel was requisitioned by the German forces, and then became a Club for Alliees officers. After that the life recommenced for the hotel with its international clientele: Orson Welles, Foujita, Yves Montand, Maurice Chevalier, Henri Salvador, Salvador Dali, President Harry Truman.
More recent visitors have included James Cameron, Buzz Aldrin, Timothy Hutton, Jean Reno, Roman Polanski, Patricia Cornwell, Christian Lacroix, Marilyn Manson, Lou Reed, John Travolta, Juanès, the Black Eyed Peas, John Galliano and the Corrs... Roman Polanski used Le Grand Hotel Paris as a location in his taut thriller "Frantic" (1988), while the fashionable heritage of the hotel made it the ideal setting for much of Robert Altman’s "Prêt-à-Porter" (1994). Hotel was used and in the 1983's movie "Prénom Carmen".
The Opéra Salon is the most renowned ballroom in all of Paris. With its opulent statues and gilding, its 14-metre high ceilings, monumental chandelier and circle of mirrors, it evokes the splendour of its illustrious neighbour - the Garnier Opera House. Able to receive up to 450 guests for a gala dinner, host a conference for 600 people, and put on a cocktail party for 700, this classified monument is one of the most reputed places in Paris for prestigious evening events, product launches and fashion shows.
Le Grand Hôtel is a home for legendary Café de la Paix, often called "the favourite meeting-place of Parisians since 1862". It is seen as a symbol of Paris throughout the world. Following lavish redecoration in the initial Second Empire style in 2003 and a return to culinary excellence with talented chefs, the historic institution has been restored to its former glory in recent years, providing fine dining in the French capital once more. On the corner of Place de l’Opéra, Café de la Paix continues to be the place where people come to see and be seen and where Parisians, visitors, celebrities and the less famous are happy to rub shoulders. The ceilings of the Café de la Paix are protected by the Historical Monuments de France.
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