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Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal

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PARIS The change of season and the end of the yellow vest protests made Paris a perfect weekend prospect - especially when our stay was at the exclusive Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal.  Sat Bal

The hotel is more intimate than its name suggests: 57 rooms and 11 suites set in imposing 18th-century architecture. Apt too that the hotel is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group which itself features over 500 small, but perfectly formed, boutique venues around the world.

PURPOSE

A weekend of partying. Where better to disport ourselves than the Panoramic Suite? The most luxurious suite in this maison took up the strain with panache. Its versatility also makes it ideal for business stays and families.

LOCATION

Very Paris, but located away from the noisy bustle thanks to the hotel’s position by the neighbouring gardens of Palais Royal. Yet the Louvre, Place Vendôme and Palais Garner are an easy stroll away.

DESIGN

This elegant five-star hotel was designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon whose design portfolio includes the likes of the Four Seasons Hotel George V and the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris. The artwork is imposing on arrival into the lobby where Hellenistic sculptures add to the guest greeting. Hangings and fabrics come from the expertise of Pierre Frey with furnishings by Philippe Hurel and lighting by Delisle.

PANORAMIC SUITE

This is the best suite in the house, edging past the Royal Suite, and was the perfect venue for our party stay. Its exclusivity was made immediately obvious by our own private elevator which whisked us to the seventh floor.

The first real impression was made on the terrace outside the suite. With the Eiffel Tower clearly visible to the left of us and the Louvre and Palais Royal gardens in our sights, the Panoramic Suite certainly lived up to its name! The Palace of Versailles might have been out of our panorama but the "Sun King" feel prevailed nonetheless.

The usual guest view from the seventh floor - avec Eiffel Tower

We made instant use of the expansive terrace which was flooded by sun and, soon enough, with bottles of France’s best. Nearly 300 sq ft of space and an assortment of loungers, tables and chairs easily held 15 people here. Let the party commence!

Our view from our seventh floor terrace - Vive la France!

The feeling of seclusion and privacy here meant that there we no qualms about plugging in sound systems unintrusively.

The Panoramic Suite also features a private dining room in the lounge area and king beds beyond for when sleep becomes a necessity.

It has to be said that the circa £3,500-plus that secured this suite over the weekend will get you ‘Paris space’ ie. more compact than apex suites in other cities and the Panoramic will thus only sleep two adults and two kids. The rest of the rooms in the hotel follow suit with Paris space and start at around £350. Yet the upside is that all rooms, suites and leisure spaces come with a finesse that is unequivocally…Paris.

As if to emphasise the sunny day, shafts of daylight set the marble bathroom aglow, amply furnished with double sink, bath and shower in the Panoramic.

STAFF AND SERVICE

The lounge bar

Staff joyfully aided and abetted our seventh-floor shenanigans, encouraging us Brits to make merry. The warmth and courtesy percolated down to the lobby. Special mention must also be made of Leon, the French-sounding Englishman, who presided over the intimate hotel lounge bar and swapped tales of Birmingham and tricks with gin.

Le Lulli restaurant is headed by Jean-Baptiste Orieux whose exquisite dishes are made from local and seasonal ingredients.   

Elsewhere, Wi-Fi comes free and accomplished ‘Clefs d’or’ concierge caters for all whims. There’s also a Carita spa, Turkish bath and fitness centre. There are also special services for families and children.

GRAND HÔTEL DU PALAIS ROYAL

4 rue de Valois, Paris, FR, 75001

33-142-961535

www.grandhoteldupalaisroyal.com

www.slh.com

The Windfall

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Humankind is so clever and accomplished - until it’s time to distinguish between wealth and contentment. This momentous distinction is comedically tackled in “The Windfall” a debut novel set in the status-obsessed wealth colonies of India. Sat Bal

 

There’s even an official name for the kind of psychological turmoil that overnight wealth of this sort brings: Sudden Wealth Syndrome. “The Windfall” mirrors this turn in fortunes for middling entrepreneur Anil Jha whose SWS moment comes when he manages to sell his website for $20 million.  

While this sum doesn’t quite put Jha in the 1% of India’s Bollygarchs, it’s enough to catapult his family from a respectable housing complex to the luxurious Delhi suburb of Gurgaon where status is all.

Author Diksha Basu tells a jaunty, witty story that bristles with the psychopathologies of handling both new and established wealth. In doing so she artfully weaves a cast that vacillates between the former and future lives of the Jha family.

Their future features Mr Chopra, a beefy burgher of Gurgaon and the scion of inherited money. In other words, he knows his way around wealth and is accustomed to the lifestyle it affords. The Jhas are not. Yet Chopra’s dynastic wealth does little to calm his psyche. We’re told that he’s not afraid of much “but the thing that frightened him most was poverty.”

His status fears are heightened when his neighbours sell their house to the Jhas in order to upgrade to London’s Kensington, prompting Mrs Chopra’s insecurities. “What if everyone else in Delhi becomes rich and the people who are poor now move in next door and suddenly we are one of the poor. What then?”

One imagines the same anxieties being played out in Shanghai, Brasilia and other new money hot spots around the globe. The realisation that happiness is not automatically on the fixtures and fittings list of a luxurious house is a sobering thought for anyone who expects contentment to flow as an emotional corollary of wealth. As Charles Spurgeon put it: “It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

The constant catch-up attempts of the Jhas set the tragicomic scenes ahead as new wealth conflates with old times. Witness the embarrassment felt by Mr Jha when his new Mercedes, which arrived early, was delivered to his old home where it was “nearly impossible to navigate past the cows in the narrow lanes.” Jha’s shame is palpable: the delivery driver seeing his old abode and the neighbours seeing his new luxury car.  

Mrs Jha has parallel issues when her husband decides that they can’t employ a kitchen maid lest guests fail to notice that they have a new automatic dishwasher in the kitchen. The husband even sees trophy value in the aspiration that their son, Rupak, will have a blonde American girlfriend in the US, where he’s studying for an MBA.

Yet the fact that Rupak’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, is indeed a US blonde causes the boy untold grief. The non-disclosure of Elizabeth to his parents, whose objection he anticipates, sets the scene for endless conflict. Rupak is decidedly the weakest character in the book and Elizabeth makes this point with the warning: “Figure out who you are and just be that person,” as the relationship teeters.

The author brings an engaging set of characters to the fray. There’s the widowed romantic, Mrs Ray, who assures herself that lust is a curiosity rather than a reality. Mr Chopra’s son Johnny likes Lexus cars and girls but seems unable to earn a living - a fact welcomed by his dad whose money shields the boy from the unsavoury pursuit of working. And then there’s Serena - Elizabeth’s Indian counterpart. Predictably, Rupak’s affections for Serena just induce more hand-wringing and their druggy encounters stay right there.

Yet despite the promising cast, credible scene-setting and Diksha Basu’s nimble storytelling the novel ends at a plateau rather than the expected crescendo. That said, this debut novel puts Basu on the literary watch list - and the summer reading list.

 

The Windfall

£7.99 Paperback/Ebook

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Hola, Cancun! Part 2: Secrets Maroma Beach

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MEXICO: After a week of Hard Rock hotel hedonism the Secrets Maroma Beach resort offered a luxurious and private escape just 45 minutes away in Riviera Cancun. Sat Bal

 

Theme

Much more compact than the sprawling Hard Rock complex the award-winning Maroma Beach is an adults-only enclave of refinement. Its powdery beach is private and well-serviced by staff who cheerily ferry along trays of Mudslides and Mimosas along with food favourites. Just as well since the February sun nudged 30 degrees!

The beach provision falls under the all-inclusive service. Where things do cost, such as spa treatments, complimentary resort credits will offer discounts.

 

Rooms

Presidential suite balcony view  (Pic- Sat Bal) 

 

Rooms start from the Junior Suites (circa $230 pp, pn) and progress to the Preferred Club suites (circa $270 pp,pn) stepping up to the Preferred Club Honeymoon Suite (around $440 pp,pn). They variously feature ocean views or swim , on the ground-floor suites, which allow you to fling open the doors and step inside the cut-down pool adjoined to suite.

 

Presidential dining space (Pic- Sat Bal)

 

The Presidential Suite comes in at a spacious 1,873 sq ft cost around $1,100 pp,pn. For this you get a separate living area with a large sofa and TV and a dining area that accommodates eight. The spacious bedroom also includes a break-out lounge area and a king bed. The views are magnificent, offering a panoramic view of sand and sea.

All rooms are well-appointed with hydro spa tubs, a private balcony/terrace with hammocks and complimentary wi-fi throughout.

 

Out and About

As expected, water-bound activities abound: kayaks, sailing, scuba diving and plenty more. Golfers get complimentary greens fees at the Grand Coral Riviera Maya which skirts the Caribbean Sea. The 18-hole, 7,000-plus yards course was designed by PGA champion Nick Price.

Archery, dance lessons and an outdoor theatre featuring live shows gives a small idea of the big variety at Secrets.

 

Beaches & Pools

The private beach at Secrets is powdery and expansive at least in length (rather than width) at this time of year. Not that losing the sand to the tide led to loss of privacy; there was still plenty to go around. If the beach is your priority then we’d suggest spending more time at Secrets Maroma Beach than HRH.

 

Restaurants & Bars

 

An array of restaurants includes French dining at Bordeaux, Asian cuisine at Himitsu and Italian at Portofino. All are lavishly presented and exude their unique cultural themes in decor and dishes. Additional venues include sea food and munches at the 24-hour cafe. Informal grab-and-go food comes courtesy of the Barefoot Grill.

Bars are omnipresent with top-shelf, all-inclusive drinks. Try the plush lobby Rendezvous bar for a bubbly start to the day and swim up to Bar Manatees in the afternoon sun for cocktails and shorts.  Elsewhere, the on-site Desires music lounge club keeps up the tempo until 1am.

 

Cautionary note…

Secrets rather let down its image with a surge of salesmen intent on selling customers long-term, six-figure packages to the Secrets global network of destinations. We spoke to holidaymakers who were holed up with the high-pressure sales team for over three hours for meetings that were supposed to last an hour.

Although a ‘romantic meal on the beach’ for two was granted for those who stayed the course, such blatant and sustained money-grabbing is not something we’ve ever experienced in other luxury resorts.  Management: rein it in!

A blot on the otherwise flawless service and staff energy that made the place special.  

 

 Check out our review week at Hard Rock Hotel, Cancun:

 

 

 

 

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