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Upon hearing that you’ll be overnighting in the former home of a relative of Napoleon Bonaparte, you may, as I did, feel an initial dash of malaise. However, this feeling of unease — wondering what despotic events may have transpired here — will quickly deflate when you learn that Prince Roland Bonaparte was the former resident in question.
The grandnephew of the famous French emperor, Roland’s role in history is perhaps perfectly contrasted with that of Napoleon: understated, peaceful, scholarly. The prince was president of the Societe de Geographie (Geographical Society) for nearly 15 years, as well as president of the Societe Astronomique de France (French Astronomical Society) for two years. He was an explorer and interested in anthropology and herbology.
It seemed, after all, that I would be among a kindred spirit.
However unassuming Roland’s nature may have been, though, his former dwellings are anything but. Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, located in the city’s 16th arrondissement near the Trocadero, epitomizes luxury and refinement. From the exquisite decor and impeccable service to the Michelin-star dining options and stately guestrooms and suites, the five-star hotel is among the best accommodations in Paris. After all, how could it not be, with classical French architecture, gleaming marble, gold-leaf mosaics and winding, wrought-iron staircases — and that’s just in the lobby.
A stroll through reception and into the on-site La Bauhinia restaurant feels like an induction into French aristocracy. A Murano chandelier hangs from a glass cupola above the bright and airy French-Asian eatery, which serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea and dinner. A pianist serenades diners throughout the day in the two-level, atrium-like restaurant.
The one-Michelin-starred Shang Palace steps up the gastronomical game, with creations from chef Samuel Lee Sum inspired by traditional Chinese dishes. But while Shangri-La Hotel, Paris honors the brand’s Asian roots, it reflects the culinary history of Paris with L’Abeille, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by executive chef Christophe Moret.
Here, Moret encapsulates the true meaning of “fine dining” with a seasonal, seven-course degustation menu. Some of the delicate, artistic dishes include sea urchin with gold caviar and spider crab in a coral “sabayon” sauce, as well as heartier French favorites such as duck foie gras terrine, twice-cooked venison and lobster from the Chausey islands off the coast of Normandy.
While the venue is undoubtedly sophisticated and the cuisine caters to more refined palates, there is no haughtiness among the staff nor snobbery from the chef. They kindly accommodated my lactose allergy and one of my dining partner’s vegetarian diet with dishes just as imaginative, intricate and delectable as those on the regular menu.
Oenophiles will melt over L'Abeille’s robust wine selection, but Le Bar Botaniste should not be overlooked for further libations. The on-site bar pays homage to its former princely resident — who once assembled the world’s largest private plant collection — serving up a comprehensive, nature-inspired menu of cocktails and liquors with the ambiance of a gentleman’s club.
This is, of course, the City of Lights, and the creme de la creme of a stay at Shangri-La Hotel, Paris is the postcard-perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. Savoring a glass of Sancerre from a suite balcony as the famous monument sparkles through the night is sure to cure even the most jaded traveler’s ennui.
While my Premier room did not come with a balcony, it did offer so-close-I-can-almost-touch-it views of the iconic structure, the Seine River and the city beyond. It was hard to resist multiple soaks in the large bathtub — a feature of the elegant marble bathroom along with a separate shower, heated floors and a flat-screen television — but the exceptional scene outside my window beckoned louder. I constantly flung open the large windows for a clearer view — chilly winter air be damned, I was determined to give myself over to Paris’ enrapturing sights.
One-hundred and one guestrooms, including 36 suites, comprise the hotel, offering guests plenty of accommodation categories while also maintaining an intimate, exclusive atmosphere. Travelers can choose from five room and seven suite categories, including those with terraces and full or partial views of the Eiffel Tower. For the more discriminating client, there’s the ornate, nearly 3,000-square-foot La Suite Imperiale, originally Prince Roland’s private apartment, along with La Suite Chaillot and La Suite Shangri-La.
In truth, though, it doesn’t matter where you end up laying your head at Shangri-La Hotel, Paris — because you enter a dream the moment you set foot in the luxury property.
La Bauhinia, the property’s French-Asian fusion restaurant, also doubles as the breakfast venue.Credit: 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Le Bar Botaniste serves up rare botanical spirits in honor of the favorite pastime of Prince Roland Bonaparte, the property’s original resident. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Clients can sip a libation or leaf through a book in the handsome lounge. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Deluxe Rooms feature natural wood furniture and marquetry. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
The hotel has nine 645-square-foot Deluxe Suites. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
Two-thirds of the palatial meeting and event spaces are registered under the protection of French Historical Monuments. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
According to Shangri-La Hotel, Paris, La Suite Imperiale — originally Roland Bonaparte’s private apartment — is the “creme de la creme of Parisian suites.” // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
The large pool, designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, features a 1,011-square-foot private outdoor terrace. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
At Shang Palace, which was awarded one Michelin star in 2012, guests can sample authentic Chinese cuisine from chef Samuel Lee. // © 2017 Shangri-La Hotel, Paris