Unique Hotels – Prince de Galles, Paris

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2017 is, given my frequent travels, to do more hotel reviews. I’ve decided to kick off with the Prince de Galles in Paris, for several reasons. First, you can’t beat the location – in the 8th arrondissement on the Avenue George V (more on that below). Second, it’s one of Starwood’s most elegant properties but beyond that it’s also quite historically significant. Third, it is where Chris and I stayed for our honeymoon and, of course, because of that it’s very special to us.

The Prince de Galles is located just off the Champs-Élysées, and shares its portion of the Avenue George V with the Four Seasons next door. In the neighborhood with the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde, and the Élysée Palace, the Prince de Galles is at the heart of Parisian elegance and romance. We’ve stayed at the Four Seasons as well, and while it’s certainly very glamorous, it can be somewhat formal and stiff. Or, as a slightly inebriated (and slightly too overly-Chanel clad) American guest who was sitting next to us one night at dinner famously declaimed: “It’s such a scene.” And with that pronouncement – which could have been uttered by one of Woody Allen’s more pretentious characters in “Midnight in Paris” – we had to be captivated by the “anti-scene” next door. 

The Prince de Galles and the Four Seasons share many characteristics – plush and decadent lobbies filled with ever-freshened floral arrangements, polished marble floors and acres of shiny brass and silver accents, eternal mirrors and silent but ever-present staff. But where the Four Seasons evokes the establishment and the upper crust of la Belle Epoque, the Prince de Galles exudes insouciant, Art Deco charm. Built in the heyday of the Jazz Age in 1928, the Prince de Galles has also welcomed many famous guests with a certain flair of their own: Winston Churchill, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley among them. The Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and still later the Duke of Windsor, also lodged at his namesake on several occasions. A massive renovation in 2013 restored the hotel to something close to the original glorious elegance that he and others would have enjoyed nearly a century ago. The guest rooms are like jewel boxes – less spacious than intimate, more divine than staid. The spa is tiled in hues of blue and green, hidden in a deep, hushed core of the building, where you can forget you are in a busy hotel, much less one of the busiest cities in the world – sensory deprivation, anyone?

We were fortunate to be given a suite of rooms facing several stories up onto the courtyard below where “Le Patio,” a fabulous outdoor bar surrounded by terracing with endless mosaic tiles has held court since the hotel was built. While I didn’t fall for the claim by a staff member – who showed us over the property when we arrived – that Le Patio is UNESCO-protected due to those tiles having been hand-fired and glazed in Morocco, I agree it’s a beautiful and enchanting place. Having a drink under one of the potted palms and stretched on a rattan chaise lounge, you can imagine yourself somewhere between the Right Bank and French Algeria, c. 1934. At night, we opened the window of our bedroom, which faced over the patio and heard the laughter and music from guests below. Even on a cool November night, there was plenty of late-night revelry at Le Patio.

We also loved La Scene – the one Michelin star restaurant at the hotel. Described as a gastronomic experience it does live up to the hype. The food was delicious and rendered even more special as during our meal (late in the even due to full booking that night and others) ended with Chris and me as the only diners left. Our curated dessert of chocolate and figs made it a perfect evening. With a kitchen open on three sides to the dining room, you can also see the chef and team at work, which for foodies like us was another lovely treat.

Full disclosure: the staff did know we were on our honeymoon, and even if they did not they might have guessed from the surfeit of flowers, chocolate and champagne that kind friends and colleagues had delivered to us daily (either that or they might have mistaken us for someone’s entourage!). That said, the service was impeccable and we had no complaints or negative experiences at the Prince de Galles. And if you’re a Starwood points hound – as I am – there are some great deals to be had at this property. Start looking for those, and put the Prince de Galles on your list for a trip to Paris.

DNA Testing for World Travelers?!?!

This news from Kuwait on the potential collection of DNA of anyone traveling into the country is really amazing. The following is from The Points Guy‘s website:

“If traveling to Kuwait has been on your radar, now’s the time to go — before the country implements its mandatory DNA testing for everyone in the country, including tourists. Starting sometime this year, Kuwait will be the first (and hopefully only) country to implement a law that will require everyone to submit a DNA sample in an effort to increase security.

The country has stated that the DNA testing won’t be used for genealogical analysis and it won’t impact personal freedoms or privacy. If you’re traveling to Kuwait, you can expect the following at the Kuwait International Airport (KWI) upon your arrival, according to the Kuwait Times:

‘From Visitors: Collections will be done at a special center at Kuwait International Airport, where in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Department, airlines and embassies, visitors will be advised on their rights and duties towards the DNA law.’ 

Wondering how authorities are going to collect your DNA at the airport? The Kuwait Times reports that the government will collect a saliva sample or a few drops of blood placed on special cards. From there, your blood or saliva will travel to a lab where it will be tested ‘according to international scientific and technical methods using special DNA examination equipment.’ As for how citizens’ DNA will be collected, mobile centers will travel to individuals’ offices to collect samples, or people can stop by citizen services centers to submit their DNA while ‘doing various transactions.’

Last year before the route ended, TPG flew on Kuwait Airways from New York to London. And while he didn’t fly to the country itself, he still had a less-than-pleasant experience while on board the severely outdated aircraft. It appears with the new law that those simply flying on Kuwait Airways (and on to another destination) won’t be required to provide a DNA sample — only those actually entering the country.

Will this new law impact your willingness to travel to Kuwait?”

The devil will be in the details of course, and I sympathize with the desire of countries to ensure robust security in the current global security environment.  However, this does seem a bit ominous – and I say this as someone who has submitted fingerprints and other personal information and data to the US government as part of joining the TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Programs. But DNA seems to take security and clearances to a whole new level.  It will be interesting to see if the US government –  which will no doubt be lobbied by US-based construction, contracting and consulting companies which have a heavy presence in Kuwait – pressures Kuwait to reconsider or amend its policy.  Kuwait and the US have a close relationship and the Kuwaiti people are still very grateful for US assistance in the liberation of the country in the 1990s. When I’ve visited Kuwait, the people could not be more gracious or kind towards Americans. It would be a shame for something like this new policy to impede travel and exchange between the two countries.

Source:

Kuwait Will Soon Require Everyone in the Country to Undergo a DNA Test — Even Tourists. (2016). The Points Guy. Source: http://thepointsguy.com/2016/04/kuwait-to-require-everyone-in-the-country-to-undergo-a-dna-test/

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