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The Hyatt Paris Madeleine: 
Aglow in the City of Light

 

 

From some of the rooms on the upper floors of the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine you can see across the rooftops of Paris to the basilica of the Sacre Coeur in the northeast and the Eiffel Tower in the southwest. Our room was on the second floor and overlooked the Boulevard Malesherbes -- a less dramatic view to be sure. But to step out of its French doors onto a small balcony rimmed with wrought iron in an Art Nouveau design was to experience the romance of Paris just as well. The cobblestone boulevard is lined with platanes, plane trees pruned to grow deep and wide instead of tall. Branches opposite our balconies were close enough to reach; their leaves cast dappled patterns onto the rug of our room all through the day.

Cutting a diagonal swath across the eighth arrondisement, the stylish Boulevard Malesherbes is a broad financial and residential byway that leads to a warren of narrow side streets which we explored through days where the sun shone intermittently, and an umbrella had to be carried to insure it wouldn’t rain. But what matter?  In the neighborhood that surrounds the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine, we passed cluttered antique shops that took up the ground floor of beaux arts buildings and corner flower shops where pots of geraniums and bouquets of peonies and roses spilled out onto the sidewalk; a curious toy store adjacent to a boutique featuring the crisp white organza of Anne Fontaine blouses and a shoe store selling high quality French and Italian shoes that doubles as a busy cobbler’s shop; faded menus in clouded windows advertising a diversity of cuisines: Chinese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, even kosher pizza, and in Paris even kosher pizza can be divine.  

Three blocks from the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine, the Boulevard Malesherbes ends at the Place de la Madeleine where the eighteenth century Madeleine church enclosed by a colonnade of Corinthian columns like an ancient Greek temple looks down the Rue Royale to its conclusion at the Place de la Concorde. The haute couture shops along the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore, the formal gardens of the Tuileries, the masterpieces of the Louvre, the stately Avenue des Champs Elysees, even the left bank Musee D’Orsay with its Manets and Monets are but blocks away as are the Place Vendome, the Opera House, the famed department stores – Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. It would seem the little Hyatt Paris-Madeleine is at the very heart of Paris.

The Boulevard Malesherbes ends at La Madeleine, the eighteenth century church that looks like a Greek temple
The Boulevard Malesherbes ends at La Madeleine, the eighteenth century church that looks like a Greek temple

This is Hyatt’s first hotel in Paris, and its ambiance is intimate and residential. It is possible to pass by the graceful turn of the last century building without realizing that on the other side of a gleaming revolving door is a 21st century hotel. For many years, the property had been the Royal Malesherbes Hotel, and the letters R and M emblazoned on the original door are muted reminders of this earlier life. 

Both l’Opera and la Place de la Concorde are a short, lovely walk from the Hyatt Paris Madeleine
Both l’Opera and la Place de la Concorde are a short, lovely walk from the Hyatt Paris Madeleine

The sky-lit roof evokes an Eiffel Tower-Industrial Age aesthetic
The sky-lit roof evokes an Eiffel Tower-Industrial Age aesthetic

A more striking holdover is a huge skylight of iron-framed glass panels which evokes an Eiffel Tower-Industrial Age aesthetic and serves today as the ceiling for La Chinoiserie, one of the two hotel’s restaurants.

The rest of the building’s interior was transformed into eighty-six luxurious and technically up to date accommodations that combine the décor of 1950’s modernism with a French flair, four conference rooms, two restaurants, a fully equipped fitness and skin care center, and a small entry lobby whose sense of space is enhanced by mirrored walls and shining expanses of granite, chrome, and blonde wood.

The look is cool and contemporary, but the environment is warm and welcoming, characteristics that define the bevy of sweet young things who comprise the Hyatt staff. Attired in Parisian chic - mademoiselles in slim camel-colored skirts and jackets accessorized by a single strand of pearls, young gentlemen dapper in black suits – they are always “at your service.” As the ballet and opera were sold out the one evening we were free, one of the delightful demoiselles arranged for us to attend a concert at La  Sainte Chapelle across the way from Notre Dame.

Happily it took place during a rare spell of uninterrupted sunshine allowing us the unforgettable pleasure of listening to a small chamber orchestra perform Mozart serenades while light streamed through the spectacular stained glass windows of the 13th century chapel. One of the sweet young things behind the registration desk
One of the sweet young things behind the registration desk

Hailing from Bali, Vietnam, Germany, England, Spain, Russia, Lithunania as well as France, sixteen nationalities in all, staff members after three months on the job are invited to spend a night at the hotel, have dinner and use the facilities.

“We want them to experience the hotel as guests so as to understand the perspective of guests,” said general manager Christophe Lorvo of his innovation, one of a number he has initiated in his 18 months on the job.

The Parisian-born Lorvo came to the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine from the Hyatt Charles de Gaulle located near the airport. Before that he had worked in Guam, Damascus, Brazil, Senegal, San Diego, London, and Malaga accumulating a range and depth of experience that belies his youthful appearance. “Since I was 7 or 8, I knew I wanted to work in something connected with food because my mother was such a good cook,” the charismatic hotelier told us. “I did my hotel school in Paris and dreamed of working in one of the city’s great hotels. But when I did, I discovered the concierge was in one department, the maitre d’ in the other, and they wouldn’t work together. To get anything done you had to ask somebody to ask somebody.”

The example Christophe Lorvo sets at the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine stands in sharp contrast. Instead of the guarding of one’s turf, this boutique hotel projects a sense of easy-going cooperation, a spirit confirmed by the food and beverage manager. “Because the hotel is so small, the staff gets to know the clients, and all of us can handle things directly,” he said. “We hang out together, go out together after work. There is great team work here.”

A friendly environment combined with a tone of elegant informality makes the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine as much a gathering place for people who live and work in the Boulevard Malesherbes area as for the largely American business and leisure hotel clientele. Lunch and dinner at its excellent restaurants draw sizeable local crowds. Neighborhood people stop by for afternoon tea and the popular six o’clock Champagne Bar-- another innovation of Christophe Lorvo’s -- where a glass of champagne can be had as easily as a Bloody Mary.

General Manager Christophe Lorvo enjoying a glass of pink champagne
General Manager Christophe Lorvo enjoying a glass of pink champagne
“At the hotel’s opening, we offered a selection of champagnes which guests could have by the glass,” Christophe told us as he stood before an array of champagne bottles resting in ice buckets on a long glass covered table. “People liked it so much we decided to continue the practice. It is something relatively new and very festive.”

For the first time in many a year, we each had a glass of fizzy pink champagne – pink champagne seemed to be the rule in Paris this spring -  and it was a festive prelude to dinner at La Chinoiserie, the square and open space directly off the lobby whose sky-lit roof allows up to 50 diners the enchanting diversion of looking up several stories to an ever-changing sky and whose gas-fired fireplace creates an atmosphere of home-like coziness particularly when a sleeping dog lies before it (in Paris, dogs often accompany their owners to restaurants). 

The effect is of a luxurious yet comfortable living room with tables of varying sizes casually arranged before arm chairs, banquettes, and ottomans in shades of red and rust, persimmon and gold.

Both La Chinoiserie and Café M, which seats 66 and is of more traditional design, focus on contemporary French cuisine that makes use of seasonal produce and incorporates some Asian and Middle Eastern touches. 

La Chinoiserie set for breakfast
La Chinoiserie set for breakfast

Joined by an American couple celebrating a special anniversary, we sampled both the standard: delectable goose liver paste with leeks and a very light truffle juice as well as the new: succulent lobster from Brittany roasted and served out of the shell on a pancake of taboule.

Soup was not on the menu. Still the chef – who will always arrange special dishes on request -- prepared a delicate and aromatic fish broth. Risotto came with fresh grass-green and barely steamed asparagus tips; rare tuna steak with spring vegetables that had been stir fried in a wok. The medallion of veal and French fillet of beef were prepared to diners’ specifications, the former accented in Mediterranean fashion with oven dried tomatoes, the latter with onions and a plump and crusty roasted potato cut into wedges and lightly topped with béarnaise sauce. 

Although the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine’s has a substantial list of Burgundies and Bordeaux, Christophe had suggested we try a wine from the Cotes de Provence. Chateau Real Martin 1997 made in limited production of grenache and syrah grapes was a lively fruity wine characterized by a lovely red color and pleasant finish.

“In response to the high volume of wines coming from places like Chile, Australia, New Zealand, the question has become why not Provence and other regions that have traditionally focused on table wines instead of quality vintages,” Christophe said. “A niche has opened up; there’s a concerted effort to improve the quality of French wines from such areas, and at the Hyatt, we made the decision to offer them to our guests.”

That decision seemed far easier than choosing from among La Chinoiserie’s tantalizing dessert options.  Joined by Christophe, looking very Parisian in a black turtleneck sweater, and Hyatt’s director of communications in Paris, the effervescent Maguelone Destang, we settled on luscious warm chocolate cake with almond milk ice cream and Italian pannoacotta with crushed strawberries. La Chinoiserie’s range of teas and infusions led us to forego coffee in favor of some oriental brew.

Christophe Lorvo looking very Parisian in a black turtleneck sweater
Christophe Lorvo looking very Parisian in a black turtleneck sweater
Director of Communications, the effervescent Maguelone Destang
Director of Communications, the effervescent Maguelone Destang
A antique tapestry depicting a Japanese nobleman faces its opposite across La Chinoiserie
A antique tapestry depicting a Japanese nobleman faces its opposite across La Chinoiserie
The Asian influence in La Chinoiserie (which means Chinese curio) appears not only on the menu but in the art and accessories that decorate the room, in particular a pair of enormous antique tapestries each depicting a Japanese nobleman who faces his opposite across the room. In every Hyatt we’ve been in, both in the United States and abroad, we’ve been impressed by the range and quality of art in public rooms, and the boutique Hyatt Paris-Madeleine was no exception.

But this hotel taken the art connection to a new level in forging a link with the Galerie National du Jeu de Paume. Before the Musee d-Orsay opened in 1996, the Jeu de Paume, located in the Tuileries Gardens near the Place de la Concorde, had housed Paris’ major Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection. Today it showcases contemporary art. Guests at the Hyatt Paris Madeleine who have opted for its “Art, Shopping, and Culture” package get free passes to the Galerie National and the opportunity to attend openings. Plans are afoot  to host champagne receptions at the hotel for guests of future openings.

“The Art, Shopping, and Culture package” is just one of several we offer,” Christophe Lorvo said. “The ‘Suite 706’ package includes staying in the Presidential Suite which overlooks all of Paris from the Sacre Couer to the Opera House, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower. Then there are the ‘Leisure and Beauty Break’ and ‘Honeymoon Package’, which include free access to our fitness center that has a steam room, sauna, and all kinds of cardio equipment.

“I should add that every room at the Hyatt Madeleine is equipped with high speed internet access, but if you don’t have a lap top with you, our business center is open 24 hours a day so that you can get to your e-mail.”

He smiled at his own exuberance. “It’s been a lot of passion working in this industry, passion of travel, passion of culture, passion of people. I bring them all together to this job.”

This is but another innovation that Christophe Lorvo has initiated in his brief tenure at the helm of the Hyatt Paris-Madeleine. “It’s been a lot of passion working in this industry,” he told us, “passion of travel, passion of culture, passion of people. I bring them all together to this job.”

“The Hyatt goes out of its way to make people feel at ease, to treat them like family so they’ll come back - which they do – a 50% return rate, we are told,” said John Merwin, a Scotsman who speaks the king’s English, has a background as chequered and intriguing as a character in a John LeCarre novel, and who for the past seven years has worked as driver for the Executive Car Company.  John took us on a day’s tour to Giverny, the Normandy home and gardens of artist Claude Monet, and as he expertly maneuvered his way through Parisian traffic and out into the beautiful countryside where we followed the Seine through small villages, he warmed to his theme.

“Hyatt always treats their guests with a great deal of VIP organization. Normally when we’re coming into town, we’ll call when we’re 20 minutes away so people don’t have to hang around once they arrive. They’ll be welcomed at the door; the baggage will be taken care of, all very personalized service. It’s the only hotel that goes to all that trouble, really.

“In the old days, it was if they like you okay, and if they don’t, tough luck,” John added. “Now everyone’s VIP. This is the Hyatt touch, an American conception that is very successful.”

Having experienced the Hyatt touch, this pair of Americans in Paris felt ready to vouch for John’s assessment. The American conception in the City of Light works very well indeed.

Hyatt Paris Madeleine
24, Boulevard Malesherbes
75008, Paris

Phone:  (33) (0) 1 55 27 12 07
Web: http://www.Paris.Hyatt.com

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Hyatt Regency Paris-Madeleine Packages

Available through December 31, 2002

Rates include tax and services, are based on a minimum stay of two nights, and include private limousine transfer upon arrival to the hotel

CULTURE & SHOPPING PACKAGE

  • Continental Breakfast in La Chinoiserie lounge

  • Invitation to current exhibition at the Jeu de Paume Gallery

  • Invitation for a spectacular multimedia show about Paris.

  • VIP Treatment at Printemps Department Store (includes a personalized

  • Welcome to the newly opened luxury brands first floor, coffee break, and a personal shopper with 10% discount card and purchases transported back to the hotel.

  • Complimentary access to the fitness center 380 Euros per night Classic room

  • 470 Euros per night Deluxe room

LEISURE & BEAUTY BREAK

  • Accommodation in a luxurious room

  • Energy breakfast in room

  • Beauty treatment Vitazen anti-jet lag 1h15 face; 1h00 body

  • Free access to fitness center

  • 400 Euros per night Classic room

  • 490 Euros per night Deluxe room

HONEYMOON PACKAGE

  • Accommodation in a luxurious room with direct upgrade to Junior Suite

  • Continental breakfast at La Chinoiserie lounge

  • One bottle of champagne upon arrival

  • Free access to fitness center

  • 580 Euros per night Junior Suite, with upgrade to Executive Suite

 "CD SUITE 706" PACKAGE

  • Accommodation in a luxurious suite

  • Glass of champagne at La Chinoiserie lounge upon arrival

  • Complimentary CD "Suite 706"

  • One invitation for 2 to jazz club "Le Duc des Lombards" or famous night club "Les Bains Douches"

  • 2,100 Euros per night Presidential Suite

  • 840 Euros per night Executive Suite

  • 540 Euros per night Junior Suite

Photos by Harvey Frommer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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