Despite its ultra-chic address, staying at the Hotel California feels like going home.
But it’s not in the United States and, Eagles smash hit notwithstanding, the Hotel California Paris, is in fact, Champs-Elysees central.
Hotel California Champs Elysees. Old World glamour in the heart of Paris.
A recent stay with female members in my extended family made my decision to revisit the historic establishment effortless.
With a celebrated guest list including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Clark Gable and regulars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the California has old-school glamour written all over it. Part of French hotel collection – Les Hotels du Roy, the Princess of Polignac, no less, purchased the hotel site in 1923, which was developed by luxury hotel pioneer Pierre Bermond (of Royal Hotel Monceau fame).
The rest, as they say, is history.
In the exclusive 8th arrondisement on rue de Berri, the four-star California is a sidestep from the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, with its unmistakable Arc de Triomphe backdrop, surfeit of designer temples and tourists en masse.
Strolling everywhere is de rigueur: to the Grand and Petit Palais, le Jardin des Tuileries, and along Rue St Georges to the majestic Seine, with its eyeful of the Eiffel Tower.
On my initial visit in September last year, my sister and I shared an adjoining twin room with our mother and sister-in-law. All rooms, which are spacious, charming and comfortable, overlook the atrium courtyard.
Old world glamour with modern flourishes.
This time, in July, my husband, son and I scored a freshly renovated deluxe family room, with plush dark carpet, oversized king bed, rollaway single for our son, dining setting in front of draped french windows and stunning new bathroom with deep bathtub and separate shower. Heavenly!
There is also cable TV in multiple languages, including BBC, French, German and Russian news and lifestyle channels. A guest password allows access to complimentary wifi on your electronic device.
Old-school elegance, charm and warmth characterise the inviting lobby, with plush sofas and settees, ivory silk drapes and original artworks. It’s easy to while away an hour or so with piped music in the air, aromatic candles flickering and a range of international newspapers and magazines to peruse. The light-filled atrium, featuring vibrant stained-glass artworks for sale, leads to the breakfast restaurant, with leather-backed chairs, eye-catching pendant lighting and the warmest welcome.
Buffet breakfast at the Hotel California Champs Elysees is plentiful, impressive and regularly replenished. On offer daily is freshly cut fruit, whole fruits and compote, yogurts; salad, charcuterie meats, cheeses, bacon, sausages, eggs to order, toasting breads and spreads, pastries, cereals, juices, chilled water and hot beverages. What a mouthful!
The understated maitre d’ charmingly referred to my son as “Mr Ibrahimovic” when Jude happened to wear the No.10 Paris St Germain top to breakfast one morning. Such sparkling service leaves a sweet aftertaste, even months later.
The atrium courtyard is appealing, with tables and chairs in dark wicker and market umbrellas surrounding a beautiful, mosaic-tiled fountain. We dined al fresco one idyllic summer’s evening on grilled sea bass, scalloped potatoes and ratatouille. I reclined afterwards, sipping a Bordeaux Pinot, wondering how I got to be so lucky.
There are always favourite cast members in the theatrical setting and ensemble that comprise the most reputable establishments. At the California, it is the avuncular Algerian concierge, ever smiling and on hand to snap family photos, or his fingers for a nearby taxi. This impression of feeling at home yet feted like royalty is no doubt what drew Liz Taylor and other luminaries to the California in its 1950s heyday.
It’s a legacy that continues to inspire return visits.
Hotel California. The wrap
The good: In house, we love the bonbons on our bedside table; miniature bowls of popcorn served with drinks in the bar and restaurant, which features excellent house-made pasta dishes and an ever-changing menu of plats du jour, served with a flourish.
The less good: To some, voices carrying late at night from the downstairs atrium, is atmospheric to others (such as moi).
The overall: A slice of old-world glam, featuring impeccable service and the warmest welcome, in the heart of Paris.
Value for money: 9/10
More on Paris. Read our post on the gentrified yet still ‘edgy’ Canal Saint Martin precinct.