What is the true sign of a great hotel? I find longevity quite the accurate indicator and a separator of the merely good from the truly great. How many years of serving guests does it take to prove greatness in the luxury hotel industry, 20? 50? 100? The best hotel I’ve ever experienced has been providing that supreme level of luxury for 243 years. Located between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre, Le Meurice (228 rue de Rivoli, in the 1st) is, without a doubt, one of the world’s greatest luxury hotels. I just returned from a magical trip to Paris and spent three nights in an amazing suite overlooking the beautiful panorama that is this truly special city.
A history of luxury
Perhaps my favorite aspect to Le Meurice is the long history the hotel has of providing a royal level of service to its sometimes royal guests. The first Hotel Meurice was opened by a Mr. Charles-Augustin Meurice back in 1771 when he realized visiting British royalty needed a luxury hotel providing the standards they were used to. He first opened his hotel in Calais, the French port where most English visitors then arrived in France. The hotel opened in Paris in 1815, providing not only luxury but key (and unique for the time) things like an English-speaking staff and currency exchange. Le Meurice moved to its current location in 1835 and has been making guests happy ever since.
My beautiful one-bedroom suite, along the rue de Rivoli, faced the lush green patchwork quilt that is the Tulieries Gardens. At the far left side of my 180 degree view of the city, I had the Louvre, in all its regal glory. The hotel was purposely situated across from the Louvre as before it was a museum it was a royal palace and Le Meurice was the preferred home for foreign royalty visiting the French court. Beyond and behind the Louvre, the twin towers of Notre-Dame cathedral can be seen. Scanning the view to the right, after the Louvre, we see the Musee d’Orsay, the city’s fabulous art museum housed in a former train station. The view continues to the right with the gold dome of Les Invalides, the tomb of Napoleon. Paris’ most special tower, the one built by Gustave Eiffel is next, making a great centerpiece to my hundreds of photos from the balcony. Turning further to the right, the next monument is the Grand Palais, also a museum, followed by a partial view of the Arc de Triomph and even the towers of La Defense in the distance. To enjoy this view of Paris, whether morning, noon or night, with a glass of champagne, was one of the great travel experiences of my life.
The suite itself was a more of a luxury Paris apartment, and I immediately felt at home. Like sell all my stuff, I’m never coming back at home. The front door led to a long foyer and entry hall, decorated, as the rest of the suite was, with classic, yet stylish furniture and historic prints. The walls are paneled, with ornate ceilings and historic moldings in the traditional French style. The entry hall leads down to an intersection, where another hall leads to the bedroom and bath area. The entry hall continues into the luxurious living room, complete with fireplace and two sets of ten-foot-tall double French doors leading to the balcony. The large living room was something I could imagine in an private Paris townhouse, supremely elegant, yet comfortable and livable.
The bedroom was huge, with beautiful French classical furniture. With doors closed, it became a wonderful private space, even with someone else in the suite. A large, comfortable bed was the focus, complete with luxurious bedding and another set of French doors leading to the long balcony running the length of the suite. The doors were fronted by a small sitting area with a table and chairs. In front of the bed, there was a large, ornate bureau with a marble top and a matching desk and dressing table, all executed in glorious 18th century French style.
The bathroom, seemingly almost completely hewn from Italian marble, was also spectacular. The enormous tub was perfect for recreating the death of Marat, and it was accompanied by a shower large enough to fit a group of friends. The marble shower had the requisite rainshower head and also a series of jets up and down the walls allowing for a thorough body wash. The toilet and bidet were closed off in another area. The twin sinks and vanities were just beautiful to look at and use, The hallway leading to the bathroom was a huge closet and dressing area, with enough closet space for a full season’s wardrobe. Clothing, watch and jewelry drawers were provided and I was pleasantly surprised to see a John Loeb shoe care kit in one of the drawers. The end of the hallway contained a large mini-bar and refrigerator.
I really can’t say enough about the thorough, personal service at Le Meurice, except that it’s the best I’ve ever experienced, anywhere, ever. Little touches like a daily prepared guest update of museum openings, exhibitions, concerts and other cultural and social activities were wonderful additions to my experience. The level of service can be wonderfully overwhelming, like when during the tour of my suite upon arrival, I was told simply to call the front desk and tell them if I wanted it warmer or cooler as they could control the temperature remotely. No need to mess with the thermostat myself. To further enhance the guest experience, the hotel has special programs for and welcomes both kids and pets.
The hotel is a part of the Dorchester Collection and I find each of their properties shares this commitment to perfection and total guest satisfaction. Nothing less than perfection is acceptable, whether looking at the room design and furnishings, housekeeping, food service or amenities. I find this higher level of service with more consistency at Dorchester Collection properties than the other large luxury hotel chains.
When talking about the food at Le Meurice, I must first point out the delicious room service breakfasts I enjoyed each morning, each done just perfectly. Nothing fancy, just waffles, croissants, fruit, orange juice and hot chocolate, but every item was just fresh and perfect. I would have the table set up by the window, open the balcony doors and enjoy my breakfast overlooking the city. I do a lot of things and activities on my adventures but it’s those little moments like my Le Meurice breakfast each morning that I really remember and treasure.
The hotel features Restaurant Le Dali, named for the iconic artist who spent one month per year at Le Meurice for over 30 years. The menu, conceived by the great Alain Ducasse, features a range of innovative, local and fresh ingredients. While in Paris, I went to a tasting lunch at Le Dali with Chef Ducasse introducing his new Summer menu, which featured salmon. The salmon, like other products used in the menu, is sourced from a single artisinal provider, Hansen & Lydersen in London, who do everything by hand. Restaurant Le Meurice, also overseen by Alain Ducasse, is the hotel’s fine dining gastronomic restaurant and is just a beautiful space to be in, let alone eat in. Bar 228 is the hotel’s bar with cocktails, music and food as well.
Paris is a city of excesses and indulgences. If anytime, a visit is a great time to indulge oneself and experience the level of service and luxury normally reserved for members of royal families. In a city filled with luxury options for discerning travelers, Le Meurice is able to stand above the competition by delivering what they have for the past 243 years, total and complete guest satisfaction.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog luxuryfred.com. You can follow him on Twitter -@luxuryfred and check out his travel photos on Instagram – @luxuryfred.
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