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A Bit Of Asia To Grace Europe

East meets west when Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts enter Paris

Ted Macauley, eTN  Apr 27, 2011

(eTN) - Shangri la Hotels and Resorts is one of the most respected hotel groups in the world based in Asia and known for its dedicated commitment to service with a Southeast Asian touch. The hotel group boasts some of the best five-star hotels in Asia and is now embarking on expanding into North America and Europe.

When Robert Kuok, the famed Malaysian owner of Shangri-La, traveled to Paris in search of locations and properties, he stumbled across what could best be described as a Parisian townhouse. It also happened to be the former residence of Roland Bonaparte, grandson of Lucien Bonaparte (the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, making Roland the grandnephew of the French Emperor). Although Kuok was looking at larger edifices, the elegant and stately mansion was a case of love at first sight. Through a combination of Kuok’s fortune and foresight he was able to buy a chunk of Parisian history for Shangri-la’s first European venture.

Shangri-la is known throughout Asia for its commitment to the environment; now Shangri-la is showing its commitment to preserving a piece of French heritage and has embarked on a painstaking restoration of the building. A four-year project to renovate and restore under the expert guidance of the famed Parisian architect Roland Martinet, coupled with Pierre-Yves Rochon the well-respected interior designer, assured Shangri-la that the integrity of the original house would be protected and restored to perfection.

Testing the waters and spending time at the hotel is a step back into history, without compromising on service or well-being. The welcome is genuinely Asian, coupled with a French flair for everything that is “parfait” or perfect. The rooms, or at least the ones I was able to see (the hotel was full and apparently has been since the opening), have a casually elegant feel to them. Pierre-Yves Rochon likes to categorize them as either empire or “luxury minimalist” and are all very individual in their own styles.

One of the most difficult challenges for Shangri-la in Europe is instilling its unique Asian brand of service on an industry, which in Europe and particularly in France has been around longer then most Asian countries. According to Alain Borgers, the general manager, who himself is Belgian but with a long-standing career in Asia, the key to success was the hiring and training of a motivated team to form the corps elite.

If location is a factor, then it doesn't get much better for Shangri-la Paris. Many of its rooms have views of the Eiffel Tower, which is within walking distance. The Arc de Triomphe is just up the road, and the area has one of the highest concentrations of museums within walking distance.

After the cultural infusion comes culinary needs, and one need not leave the premises. Most accessible and easily visible from the lobby is La Brouhinia restaurant and lounge offering continual service from 6:30 am till 11:00 pm. To enjoy breakfast there is not only a gastronomical pleasure but a visually stimulating one as well, as one is sitting under a magnificent 1930s Eiffel-inspired, steel-and-glass cupola. Additionally, there is a gourmet restaurant aptly named L’abeille (the bee) and Shang Palace, (Shangri-la’s signature Cantonese restaurant) is slated to open this year. Just another bit of Asia to grace the European continent.

East meets west when Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts enter Paris
Photo from Ted Macauley

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