Sometime after her own birthday and our recent trip to Italy, Ladan shared with me a beautiful message. She wrote “we still have the privilege of being unreasonable.” I’m not sure if it’s what she meant, but if it’s spending five-hundred bucks last minute for a night in a five star hotel in the city I live in, then I agree. In case I need another excuse to justify such behavior, it was also my birthday. Twenty-eight is surely a sweet spot, just old enough to call myself a woman and afford the life I love, just young enough to still be…unreasonable.
I had always wondered about the Hotel Raphael but it totally slipped my mind once I set my eyes on the newly reopened Ritz at Place Vendôme. Turns out I am not totally out of control after all. Upon further investigation I would have to rent out my Paris apartment for two months to afford a night at the Ritz in Paris. This is just too steep a price to pay, but figuratively speaking I’ve paid dearer costs for just one night, but that is a sad story for another time. Give me another decade, or a winning lottery ticket, and I’ll try for the Ritz again.
But back to the Hotel Raphael because this place hardly feels like settling. Actually, I kind of enjoy that it doesn’t need to be dripping in gold to be fantastically French. If it’s good enough for the diplomats and politicians whose secret service are constantly parked outside in black sedans, then it’s good enough for me. And this is just one of the fascinating things about this beautiful hotel.
It’s owner, Françoise Bavarez, inherited the hotel from her family and has since declined every offer from incessant Arab, Chinese, and American groups constantly trying to buy her out. Nearly every other five store hotel in Paris is owned by foreigners and undergone some questionable renovations financed primarily by oil money. But not Françoise’s…she just isn’t having it, which makes me kind of adore this woman I’ve never met. A long list of iconic clients like Walt Disney, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardener, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, and Steve McQueen are just a few names that appear in the reservations of her hotel’s fascinating history. During the German occupation of Paris some of the highest ranking Nazis imposed themselves on the hotel by choosing to live here, which doesn’t surprise me since they were known for their great taste in hotels, and…well…being the worst people ever. Françoise wasn’t around then, but I’m sure if she was she would have strongly objected to the whole thing, given how she feels about foreigners coming in and trying to acquire the place.
Nowadays the Hotel Raphael doesn’t seem to need a full service spa or twenty-four hour room service to earn its five stars. I love everything about it just the way it is and I hope they never change it. There is just the right amount of patina to make you wonder what these floral wallpapers and crown moldings would say if they could talk. If they did, maybe they would mention me, twenty-eight years young in my five star hotel room, polishing off a Laduree birthday cake while I still have the privilege of being unreasonable.