Hôtel de Crillon sits on the Place de la Concorde, a vast square renamed for bloodshed, then the lack of it – it was the Place de la Révolution, with knitting and bouncing heads. Now it is placid, and the Crillon is the most placid thing in it.
No one does grand hotels like the French, except perhaps the Swiss, who have nothing better to do. Hôtel de Crillon was one of twin palaces commissioned by Louis XV before the French butchered his grandson and his wife outside them: it looks like Buckingham Palace but prettier and with possible PTSD. It has been a hotel for 115 years and next to it our Ritz and Savoy look grubby, needy even, but they were built for the bourgeoisie. They have a different kind of grandeur, a kind I prefer.
Like all grand hotels that want to survive, it has been remade, and I stare at deliberately confounding art – a feathered snake in a glass box, toy cars – and dine in three of its restaurants. The idea of the Crillon, common to grand hotels, is that it is a dreamworld you do not have to leave and, in homage to the completeness of this vision, for 24 hours I don’t.
Jardin d’Hiver is the all-day dining room and tearoom. There are painted clouds on the ceiling, as there were in the recent Planet of the Apes: until he touches the clouds the ape does not understand that he is imprisoned. But what a prison! The floors are marble, the windows high, the massed flowers lilac. The view is of a garden. My only issue with such comfort is having found it, how do you live without it? Perhaps the real clientele – I am an imposter, like all hacks – have no such issues because they do not have to.