This is the first Shangri-La in Europe, a magnificent melding of two great cultures in one palatial mansion. Liu Weifeng reports from Paris.
IIt used to be the palace of Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s grandnephew. This is a royal mansion in the 16th arrondissement of Paris nestled by the banks of the River Seine, within hailing distance of the Eiffel Tower. It is now the new landmark of style and luxury in the fashioncapital, a place where chinoiserie influences make an eager come back.
The 117-year-old mansion has seen countless changes of ownership, and it has finally found a place as an icon where Chinese hospitality, art and culture meet and merge with the gracious art of living, the French way.
The marriage occurred in 2010, when the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Group opened its first luxury hotel in Europe here, in a chic Parisian enclave of antiquity and art, where museums like Guimet Museum, Palais Galliera, Marmottan Monet Museum among others are all within walking distance.
“This part of town is the center of the world,” says Alain Borgers, general manager since renovations started five years ago. He was a part of the pre-opening pioneer team and will hand over duties to a new general manager soon.
“We kept making new discoveries while renovating this princely estate. For instance, we uncovered an inner courtyard beneath where the Murano glass chandelier hangs from the ceiling in the La Bauhinia restaurant,” he says, adding that the Shangri-La team had to invest time, patience and a lot of respect for the property’s history during the face lift.
It’s hard to imagine what this princely estate looked like before, battered as it was by time and men. But the Shangri-La team was determined to help it regain its former glory, and each and every member of the hotel’s 300-member staff can tell its story.