Almost nothing makes a Parisien or Parisienne happier than whiling away a couple of sunny summer hours on a strategically located café terrace with great people-watching. That’s why this season’s sexiest place to perch will doubtless be the gorgeous glass-canopied veranda of the new 200-room Peninsula Paris hotel when it opens on August 1.
But wait — isn’t Paris empty in August? Well, oui et non. For a couple of years now, the new snobbery has been to love the city big time when everyone else is at the beach or in the country. After all, it’s so much better to go to the Côte d’Azur, Greece, Italy, or almost anywhere else after the crowds have come home, and as everyone knows, the weather in the Med is usually pretty gorgeous in September just at the same time that low-season rates kick in.
Besides, Paris in August can actually be sort of a good time as long as you know where to go and where to avoid — tourist-choked Saint-Germain-des-Prés, for example. To be sure, the Café de Flore is still wonderful, but in August you’re much more likely to be chatting with your newly discovered neighbors from New York than you are to be seething about Sartre with a Gitane-smoking Sorbonne professor, because almost no one actually lives in Saint-Germain-des-Prés anymore.
This — if you're up for a splurge — is where the Peninsula Paris comes in. Years in the making, the Hong Kong-based hotel chain will be cutting the ribbon on its Paris address after its major east Asian rivals — Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La — but in this case last is certainly not least. Far from it, in fact, since this new address will be pulling out all of the stops, from a fleet of Rolls-Royce limos to a 20,000 square foot ESPA spa with gym and a pool with underwater mood lighting. The bone-deep makeover of the former Hotel Majestic, where George Gershwin wrote “An American in Paris” and Henry Kissinger signed the treaty that ended the Vietnam War, is actually a stunning act of historical preservation, since the original poplar paneling has been renovated and a team of 20 has renewed its ormolu. But what’s most interesting about this new address is that it may tip the scales of chic away from the Left Bank in a directional “who knew?” moment once and for all. Maybe the tree-lined avenues of the formerly dissed 8th and 16th Arrondissements will finally get the love they deserve, but one way or another, who isn’t gunning for a late-night al fresco supper of Sichuan style abalone and scallop salad, pan-fried bean curd stuffed with minced shrimp and pork in chicken broth, and sweet-and-sour pork in Pat Chun vinegar from the Peninsula’s new Chinese restaurant LiLi with a great bottle of rose on a balmy August night?
19 Avenue Kléber, 16th Arrondissement, Tel. (33) 01-58-12-28-88.