< FRANCE | EVIAN-LES-BAINS: Hôtel Royal
In 1905, the Evian Mineral Water Company (SAEME) commissioned the construction of a luxury hotel. A name was needed that would reflect the prestige of its future guests including King Edward VII who had promised to be one of the first to stay at the new hotel. And so it was that the Hôtel Royal opened on 16 June 1909. The King died in 1910 without having visited the suite set aside for him. The name “Royal” remained.
Designed by the architect Jean-Albert Hébrard, who was also project manager at the Casino and at the former pump room at the Cachat spring, the Hotel Royal is like a huge white steam
ship anchored in the hills of Lake Geneva. Its silhouette can be likened to a fan, a feature that enables it to blend perfectly into its setting at the heart of magnificent 47-acre
Its clean lines blend Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The vaults and rotunda of the communal areas are brightened with rustic frescos in water colours by Gustave Jaulmes. This large ship is inspired by Baroque traditions evident in the vaulted ceilings, domes and rotundas. Semicircular balconies and detailed framework by workers from Tyrol contrast with the simplicity of the façade. Splendour and abundance are the golden rules of this edifice.
While it remained open for its regular clientele during World War I, times were difficult for the Royal. During World War II, it was transformed into a resthome for Italian and German officers and later for convalescing Americans. What remains a surprise, considering this troubled era, is the inventory list put together by German and allied forces which enabled the hotel’s furniture to remain intact at the end of the conflict.
Deceased in 1910, the British sovereign never had a chance to visit it. But members of the aristocracy were to follow. Having grown up not far from here, in the chateau built by her father, the Prince of Brancovan, Anna de Noailles met Marcel Proust here, who wrote several chapters of In Search of Lost Time within its walls.
The Sultan of Zanzibar met the Maharaja of Kapurthala and Queen Amélie of Portugal. The Shah of Persia visited before King Faisal I, Sovereign of Iraq. It was the garden of global powers, almost a court.
In 1925 Sacha Guitry conducted his affair with Yvonne Printemps here; eight years later, he returned with Jacqueline Delubac. The most prominent personalities of their era forged a legend of an enchanting holiday spot; History was a guest. In 1949, the “divine” Greta Garbo arrived from Hollywood. Maurice Chevalier came from Cannes: “It’s fun here!” A great lover of the place, the Aga Khan reserved an honorary apartment. July 1956 saw Mr 100,000 Volts, Gilbert Bécaud. Two years later, François Mitterand, then a young minister, signed the guestbook; in August 1958, Errol Flynn and Ludmila Tcherina witnessed the fire that ravaged the upper floors.
For almost a century, many international encounters have taken place in this setting conducive to entente, and the leading heads of state and government from around the world have stayed here. In June 2003, the year of the French presidency, Evian hosted the G8 summit, and the heads of delegation were greeted by Jacques Chirac on the terrace of the Hôtel Royal where they were staying.
In 2015, the Hôtel Royal re-opened its doors following 24 months of historic refurbishment entrusted to interior designer, François Champsaur, and Head Architect of Historic Monuments, François Chatillon. The Hôtel Royal now combines charm of the French Belle Epoque with the elegance of contemporary design.
The ground floor areas have undergone a stylish, harmonious re-design. The hotel’s 150 rooms and suites have been restored and modernised. On the 6th and top floor, hitherto reserved for conventions, 7 luxurious private suites have been created with terraces that afford panoramic views of the lake and Alps that reach new heights. On the garden level, a discreetly integrated convention centre has been opened, it too enjoying wonderful views of Lake Geneva.
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