While in Paris, we popped into the hotel Le Meurice to shelter from the rain, use its facilities and enjoy an afternoon cup of tea. The hotel is a Brunei-owned five-star luxury hotel in the 1st arrondissement of Paris opposite the Tuileries Garden, between Place de la Concorde and the Musée du Louvre on the Rue de Rivoli.The hotel received the “Palace” distinction from the French government in 2011. Le Meurice is owned and operated by the Dorchester Collection, a luxury hotel operator based in London.
How it all began
Rue de Rivoli was constructed in 1806 and a few years later, in 1811, elegant arcades were built lining the street facing the glorious Tuileries Garden. These grand buildings were designed by esteemed architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine. Property developer François Corbie then acquired a stretch of the arcades in order to build what would become Le Meurice.
In mid-18th century, the French postmaster, Charles-Augustin Meurice understood that English tourists wanted to enjoy all the comforts and conveniences of home while be on the continent. In 1771, Meurice opened a coach inn on Rue Edmond Roche in Calais, the Hôtel Meurice de Calais.
In 1815, he opened the Hôtel Meurice in Paris, originally located at 223 Rue Saint-Honoré. Le Meurice offered everything to make life easier for the traveller; apartments of various sizes, areas set aside where travellers could sit and talk, specialty laundry soap, English-speaking staff, and currency exchange, among other amenities. The hotel advertised:
For an English traveller, no hotel in Paris offers more benefits than Le Meurice.
In 1835, Le Meurice moved from Rue Saint Honore to its current location on the Rue de Rivoli, into a new luxurious building, and its wealthy clientele followed.
In the latter half of 19th century, was the hotel’s Henri-Joseph Scheurich new proprietor and, in 1865, he is documented as managing the hotel under the London and Paris Hotel Company. He is mentioned again in 1867, at which time the hotel offered large and small apartments, or single bedrooms; and featured a reading room and smoking room. In 1891, the hotel had electric lights, new plumbing, and accommodated 200 guests; Scheurich was still the proprietor.
Over the years, Le Meurice has often been referred to as ‘Hotel des Rois’ (Hotel of Kings), due to its many royal guests. In 1855, HM Queen Victoria stayed there on her official state visit to Paris and in her honour the hotel renovated the entire first floor.
In 1889, Le Meurice became the first hotel in Paris to have a telephone. Scheurich was fascinated by technology and believed this would attract more high-profile guests.
In early 20th century, one of the shareholders of the new company was Arthur Millon, owner of Café de la Paix and restaurants Weber and Ledoyen. To compete with the Ritz, which opened in 1902, Millon turned to a great Swiss hotelier, Frédéric Schwenter. Under these two men, Le Meurice was enlarged by the addition of the Metropole Hotel, located on Rue de Castiglione. Then, with the exception of the façade, the hotel was rebuilt under the guidance of the architect Henri Paul Nénot, winner of the Grand Prix de Rome.
For interior decoration, especially for rooms on the ground floor, the Louis XVI style prevailed. The rooms were equipped with modern, tiled bathrooms, telephones, and electric butler bells. Public rooms were relocated and reinforced concrete was added for privacy, and the elevator was a copy of the sedan chair used by Marie Antoinette. Other additions included the grand salon Pompadour with white trimmings, a restaurant with marble pilasters and gilded bronzes as a living tribute to the Peace of Versailles, and the wrought iron canopy over the lobby.
During the renovation project, the builders took in a stray greyhound dog which was adopted by the hotel staff and went on to become the hotel’s mascot and emblem.
During WWI, the hotel closed while it served as a hospital for wounded soldiers.
The hotel opened its first bar in 1936, next to where its current bar is today. It featured an amazing mural which has been carefully preserved and is now on display in the hotel’s Salon Jeu de Paume event space.
Between September 1940 and August 1944, the hotel was requisitioned (quelle surprise!) by the German occupation authorities. In August 1944, the Meurice became the headquarters of General Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, who famously (and thankfully) disobeyed Hitler’s commands to level the city. Hitler’s reported question screamed to von Choltitz over a Hotel Meurice telephone:
Is Paris burning?
later served as the title of a best-selling book about the liberation of Paris, and the 1966 film which was shot partly at the Meurice.
The Meurice underwent another round of extensive renovation and restoration between 1998 and 2000. In 2007, Le Meurice was one of the first hotels to work with esteemed designer Philippe Starck. His new interior design elements were inspired by the creativity and playfulness of artist Salvador Dali who famously made Le Meurice his second home.
To highlight the hotel’s great love and appreciation of art it proudly launched our Meurice Prize for contemporary art, which ran for ten years and supported a series of emerging artists. The ‘kiss’ statue in the lobby is the work of its first winner, Zoulikha Bouabdellah.
Multiple Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse took on the role of overseeing all dining at Le Meurice in 2013 and following executive pastry chef Cédric Grolet winning the title of ‘World’s Best Restaurant Pastry Chef’ in 2018, it opened its own pastry shop called La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet.
During its long existence, Le Meurice has experienced several transfers of ownership the latest being in April 1997 when the Aga Khan sold the hotel to the Sultan of Brunei’s Brunei Investment Agency, who made it part of the company’s Dorchester Collection.
I’ve kicked off 2023 with a series of my favourite cover songs. It’s quite amazing how many artists cover one another’s songs. Often we don’t even realise that the song we love is a cover.
Plenty of artists have covered this number Girls Just Want to Have Fun written by Robert Hazard, but none come close to the iconic version by Cyndi Lauper, which exploded on radio and MTV in 1983.
The song was written, recorded and performed by American musician Robert Hazard, who released it as a single in 1979. It is best known for the version of American singer Cyndi Lauper, who covered the song in 1983. It was the first major single released by Lauper as a solo artist and the lead single from her debut studio album, She’s So Unusual (1983). Lauper’s version gained recognition as a feminist anthem and was promoted by a Grammy-winning music video. It has been covered, either as a studio recording or in a live performance, by over 30 other artists.
The single was Lauper’s breakthrough hit, reaching number two on the US Billboard Hot 100chart and becoming a worldwide hit throughout late 1983 and early 1984. It is considered one of Lauper’s signature songs and was a widely popular song during the 1980s. In 2013, the song was remixed by Yolanda Be Cool, taken from the 30th anniversary reissue of She’s So Unusual.
Which version do you prefer? Let me know below.
To conclude my series of posts on French run hotels, I have a single, third generation, family-run hotel, rather than another luxury group.
NUAGE is located in the heart of the city, in the upscale 8th arrondissement, near the Champs-Elysées and the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the Parc Monceau and the Grand Palais. Importantly, the hotel is close to the Franklin Roosevelt and Saint-Philippe-du-Roule metro stations and is nestled on a quiet street, away from the hustle and bustle of Paris, with a gentle decor designed to relax both the body and the mind.
How it all began
Its story began with Georges Breuil, a man from Correze who, with just three pennies in his pocket, left to conquer Deauville and the heart of his future wife Madeleine. In 1950s the business-savvy couple took over the 3* Élysées Mermoz located in Paris 200 metres from the Champs-Elysées, then passed on the business to their son Gérard then to their grandson Olivier.
There are those who instinctively continue the family business and others who prefer to venture elsewhere, away from a legacy with which they don’t identify. Olivier Breuil, managing director of the NUAGE Hotel, is one of these. Or so he thought. His thirties were an eye-opener for this engineering graduate. In search of freedom and independence, he left behind his career in Oslo to build a new life in Paris combining his love of art and his family hotel, the former Élysées Mermoz.
A new era was ushered in under his leadership. He engaged architect Jordane Arrivetz to rethink the entire building. In a break with the consumerist hustle and bustle of the Champs-Élysées district, Arrivetz chose a myriad of tactile materials for 30 rue Jean Mermoz, from Botticino marble to light oak and a thick carpet that makes you want to kick your shoes off. These mediums are accompanied by a palette of sometimes soft and sometimes warm colours, organic shapes and textures to create an effortlessly light and harmonious environment.
In a city like Paris, where the scope of activities and possibilities are nearly endless, many hotels offer little more than the rooms they rent out. Olivier Breuil, with a will to swim against the tide, wanted the new incarnation of his family-run hotel to be an urban refuge, a haven of peace for tired guests amid the hustle and bustle of the busy capital. The new concept revolves around “slow luxury” and “slow living,” with guest wellness at its heart.
The embodiment of Parisian chic and authentic luxury, NUAGE has 27 rooms and suites, all with a singular and relaxing decor, ideal for shopping or visiting the city. On each floor, a spacious suite offers a new experience in relaxation. The décor is designed for complete well-being. Desks have been replaced by daybeds perfect for reading, dreaming, sharing a drink or enjoying a starlit dinner. This relaxing atmosphere served as inspiration for the establishment’s new name: NUAGE, French for “cloud.”
While guests at Nuage are encouraged to enjoy the comfort of their rooms to the fullest, they can also get a taste of Paris’ culture scene without leaving the hotel. Owner Olivier Breuil, an art-lover and connoisseur, has scattered dozens of works throughout the common spaces and the rooms.
He’s also created a private cinema screening a fine selection of films d’auteur, great classics, as well as the latest animated releases for children’s entertainment. The concept extends even beyond the walls of the hotel with its “slow concierge” services, offering guests unique Parisian experiences far from the madding crowd and tourist traps.
NUAGE has an eco-responsible vision of the hotel industry. It favours the best local artisans and suppliers and limits energy consumption as much as possible.
NUAGE is an invitation to take a deep breath, press the “pause” button on daily life and fully enjoy the travel experience. It is a place to decompress where you can live la vie at your own pace, escape reality in seconds, take advantage of all the cultural inspiration around you, dream, meditate and experience Paris without any rush.
All images courtesy of NUAGE
In this Moroccan chickpea tagine, a base of onions and tomatoes is layered with the contrasting flavours and textures of sweet raisins, carrots, nutty chickpeas (garbanzo) and briny olives. Aromatic saffron and a homemade ras el hanout spice blend tie together all of these luscious flavours. The tagine is vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free and gluten-free, so suitable for all diets. It can be as spicy as you want it to be, and the sweet raisins and carrots make the stew popular with children as well.
1.Add olive oil to a casserole or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions with half a tsp salt and sauté for around 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and begin to caramelise.
2. Add crushed garlic to the pot and continue to saute for another minute. Stir in the carrots and saute for a couple of minutes, followed by the raisins. Add the tomato puree and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes to the pot and mixing well. Stir in the chickpeas, the ras el hanout, paprika and saffron to the pot and mix well. Stir in the coriander and/or parsley.
3. Add a cup of water and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, cover the tagine with a tight lid, lower the heat, and let the tagine simmer for 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. The tagine should be thick but if you want more sauce you can add more water or vegetable stock.
4. Finally stir in the olives and mix well. Check seasoning and add more as needed. Turn off heat and serve with some couscous.
5. Place leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to four days. The stew tastes even better the next day, when the flavours have had time to meld, so this is a great recipe to make ahead. Freeze the chickpea tagine in a freezer-safe container for up to three months.
1. To make the tagine in a slow cooker add the oil followed by all the ingredients to the slow cooker. Mix well, add two cups of water, and cook for three hours on the high setting. Stir a few times during cooking. You can also make the tagine oil-free by skipping the oil.
2. To make an Instant Pot chickpea tagine saute all ingredients on the “saute” setting. Once you’ve added the water to the tagine, place the lid on the IP and cook on manual pressure for 10 minutes. Let the IP stand 10 minutes, then force-release and stir in the cilantro and olives. Add salt as needed.
3. If you don’t have any ras el hanout, in a bowl mix ½ teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne with a tablespoon of ground coriander and ¼ teaspoon each of ground fennel or star anise, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger and paprika.
4. To make this more of a chickpea and vegetable tagine you can add potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, cauliflower, aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini) and mushrooms. Just remember to adjust the seasoning.
Whenever I photograph a door or gate I wonder about its provenance, who and what has happened across said door or gate. I thought I might pick one from #Thursdaydoors and tell you a bit more about it or……maybe even weave a story about it.
This rather plain ecclesiastical door belongs to the Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque Catholic church located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, in the Sorbonne quarter, at 17 rue des Carmes not far from the Sainte-Barbe door that featured in an earlier post.
The building dates from 18th century and is set back from the street behind wrought-iron gates. The portal of the chapel imitates that of the Saint-André du Quirinal church by Le Bernin which is a Roman Catholic church in Rome, Italy, built for the Jesuit seminary on the Quirinal Hill (pictured below).
The current building is the third chapel to be built on the site. The first was built around 1334 when André Ghini, bishop of Arras, transformed his Parisian hôtel into a college for Italian students, the College of the Lombards. This college was bought in 1677 by two Irish priests who transformed it into an Irish one. Around 1685 they built a second chapel.
The current chapel was completed in 1738 by the architect Pierre Boscry. It ceased its religious activities in 1825. It was finally bought by the town hall of Paris which in 1925 gave it to the Syriac Catholic Mission in France. Syriac Christianity is an ancient near Eastern Christian group represented by denominations primarily in the Middle East and in Kerala, India, which is still part of the Catholic Church.
The liturgy celebrated in this church is that of Jerusalem-Antioch, fixed at the beginning of 6th century in the Aramaic-Syriac language. On the walls of the nave, a series of icons present the main saints of the Syriac Church, monks, nuns and martyrs of the first centuries.
Saint Ephrem the Syriac (306-373) was born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia. Ordained a deacon, he was a professor at the University of Nisibis when his city was offered to the Persians in 353. He emigrated to Edessa with his fellow citizens. There he founded a School-University where he taught until his death. Ascetic, servant of the poor and theologian, he is the initiator of Syriac sacred music. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1920.
My mother was blessed with very green fingers, sadly I am not. Buy me flowers or indeed a potted plant and no bookie would give you odds on how long it’ll last…..we’re talking days rather than weeks.
However, I absolutely adore trees, plants and flowers in situ and that’s what I’m going to be featuring over the next few months or so.
Here are a few more doors from my most recent trip to Paris where, TBH, I could photograph pretty much every door I walk past. Some of you probably think I’ve done that but no…….
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Dan’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).
Before we lunched at the LVMH-owned Le Cheval Blanc we investigated what was going on at another LVMH building opposite.
Over its 160-year history, the Louis Vuitton monogram has adorned everything from dumbbells and bikes, to coffee cups and popcorn boxes. But it’s only in recent years that the iconic logo has crossed over into the food world, emblazoning cakes, pastries and restaurant façades at LV-branded food outposts in Osaka, Tokyo, Chengdu, China – and now, for the first time, Paris.
Opened in December 2022 in the centre of the city, adjacent to LV’s global headquarters and across from the La Samaritaine department store, the Maxime Frédéric at Louis Vuitton café – named after its head pastry chef – was developed as part of the “LV Dream” experience, a free exhibit that traces the brand’s history.
It’s a cleverly designed finale that bookends an experience meant to endear visitors to the house of LV. Visitors learn about the brand’s modest beginnings, when a scrappy teenager named Louis Vuitton left his village in eastern France and arrived on foot in Paris at the age of 16, and the evolution of the brand’s heritage creating trunks for Paris’ 19th century traveling elite, and its growth into a luxury fashion empire.
LV Dream is the latest all-in-one retail, cultural and gastronomic space designed to foster brand loyalty with exhibits that explore the companies’ heritage and legacy, as well as celebrity chef-signed gourmet treats aimed at enticing visitors to stay as long as possible, and spend more money.
Back at LV Dream, it’s a Saturday morning in January, and a steady stream of visitors who have just finished the exhibit follow one another and take the stairs to the second floor café and gift shop, very few opt to turn to their right, towards the venue exit.
The theme repeats itself on a long marble display table, where the LV iconography—flower blossom, four point star, Damier Ebène checkerboard motif—is deconstructed into chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut entremets and lemon meringue cakes with exacting detail, each one presented under protective glass cloche domes.
Frédéric is also the executive pastry chef at the Cheval Blanc hotel across the street (LVMH’s first luxury hotel in Paris), made his first priority to meet the people behind the brand by visiting the company’s studio and former family residence in Asnières northwest of the city. He met with the artisans and craftspeople where the trunks are made by hand. Consequently, he saw a lot of similarities between his work in patisseries and the work of the artisans there, whether it’s a woodworker or a locksmith for the trunks. It’s about handcrafted workmanship, and that’s completely in line with the work of artisan pastry chefs, bakers and chocolatiers.
At the café, attention to detail extends not only to the replica cakes and the chocolate bonbons and bars at the chocolate boutique next to the café, but also to the marble display table which, upon closer inspection, has also been carved out with the LV symbols.
The decor is decidedly sober by LV’s luxury standards, with dozens of tropical plants bringing life to the concrete floors and exposed ductwork in the former department store, La Belle Jardinière (despite its name which translates to ‘beautiful planter’ the store sold pret-a-porter fashion).
Frédéric together with his older sister, are fifth-generation farmers who’ve taken over the family spread in Normandy where he spends his weekends “recharging” by collecting the freshly laid eggs and cracking the hazelnuts, both of which are used to make the café’s cakes and pastries. The farm also makes the hazelnut spread sold at the chocolate boutique, on-site. It’s perhaps for this intimate personal connection that Frédéric’s name is given equal honors alongside Louis Vuitton in the café name.
Along with his own farm, Frédéric partnered with family-owned or heritage suppliers throughout France. For example, coffee is sourced by Cafe Verlet, one of the oldest coffee roasters and coffeehouses in Paris, which opened in 1880 just a few decades after Vuitton opened his first shop in Paris. Milk, butter and cream come from his friends who run a dairy farm in Normandy, and pears for the pear charlottes from a small producer in the Midi-Pyrénées.
The exception is the chocolate, which is sourced from small-scale cocoa farmers from Vietnam, Peru, Madagascar and Venezuela, and is overseen by master French chocolatier Nicolas Berger.
Throughout the exhibit, visitors understand that Frédéric is just one in a long line of notable designers and artists – Damien Hirst, Marc Newsom, Tracey Emin, Takashi Murakami, Frank Gehry, Karl Lagerfeld – who have been invited to collaborate with the brand and reinterpret the house’s classics over the years.
When I told someone I was going to the Fondation Louis Vuitton, they questioned why I was going again. I told them I was going to see a new exhibition!
We had booked tickets for opening and made use of the Fondation’s shuttle bus to get there and back from L’Etoile. This meant we had plenty of time to see the exhibitions before enjoying lunch in the Fondation’s Frank restaurant and an afternoon amble around the Jardin d’Acclimatation.
The exhibitions Monet–Mitchell and Joan Mitchell Retrospective are a veritable tour de force, creating a visual, artistic, sensorial and poetic dialogue between the works of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Joan Mitchell (1925-1992). Both artists left their mark not only on their epoch, but also on subsequent generations of painters.
Monet–Mitchell presents each artist’s unique response to a shared landscape in the French countryside northwest of Paris, which they interpret in a particularly immersive and sensual manner. The exhibition is complemented by a retrospective of Joan Mitchell’s work, the most significant Mitchell exhibition in Europe in almost 30 years, creating an opportunity to become engrossed in her work.
Joan Mitchell Retrospective was laid out chronologically, facilitating an exploration of the pivotal stages of her work: her first abstractions from 1950s New York; the canvases produced during the years she went back and forth between US and France; the early 1960s works in Paris; the large format from 1970s in Vétheuil; the unique links her art maintained with poetry, nature and music.
I have previously seen some of Joan Mitchell’s work at MoMa in the States but was eager to see how the two artists might be associated.
From different generations, Mitchell was born the year before Monet passed.Their paintings were initially brought together within the context of American Abstract Expressionism’s emergence in the 1950s. Hence Monet was rediscovered as a precursor to American modernism, and his later works revived after the critical acclaim in France in 1927 of the Water Lilies in the Orangerie. The association is further strengthened by Mitchell’s move to Vétheuil in 1968, into a house that overlooked where Monet lived from 1878 to 1881.
The exhibition retraces the approaches of both artists as they sought emotion from nature. Monet was committed to a landscape that he created (often endlessly) as a subject while Mitchell immersed herself in the landscape. Both artists seemed fascinated by water and its reflective qualities.
Their works also use a not dissimilar colour palette particularly colour in all its interactions with light but often with very different intensities. Both favoured large formats. The exhibition concludes with Monet’s Agapanthus, a triptych that played a pivotal role in his recognition in US, exhibited in Paris in its entirety for the first time and 10 paintings from Mitchell’s cycle La Grande Vallée. The colour palettes of both favour similar tones.
My beloved and I both agreed that we could see the connection between the two but that we also saw overtones of Van Gogh and Cézanne in Mitchell’s work.
We enjoyed a stroll around the gardens before heading to the St James’ for further refreshment.
I’ve started 2023 with a series of my favourite cover songs. It’s quite amazing how many artists cover one another’s songs. Sometimes they’re not artists you might expect, sometimes they are.
Both hailing from New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen co-wrote the song Because The Night with Patti Smith, and it would become a hit single from her 1978 album Easter. This version rose to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as No. 5 in the UK, and helped propel sales of Easter to mainstream success.
The Boss changed the lyrics for his version from what he described as just another love song into a coarse, introspective journey in search of truth. The fact that he actually co-wrote the track establishes it as one of the best cover songs out there.
The song has subsequently been covered by numerous artists, and at least two of these cover versions have been chart hits. A 1992 version of the song by Co.Ro was a hit in several countries in Europe and South America. It reached No. 1 in Spain and the Top 10 in Belgium, France, Greece and Italy. The following year, a live acoustic version was recorded by 10,000 Maniacs for MTV Unplugged. This recording reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the highest charting version of the song in the U.S.
Which version do you prefer? Let me know below.