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Poolside in Paris

Swimming pool at Shangri-La, Paris
Swimming pool at Shangri-La, Paris

By Bobbie Leigh

If you were to hold a Paris hotel swimming pool competition today, the likely winner would be Shangri-La’s huge pool, delightfully bathed in natural light from a wall of glass doors leading to a lush outdoor garden. This is the pace to dip into paradise, a Paris equivalent of James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon.” Like the novel, the pool’s narrative is peaceful and dreamy. The adjacent health club has a menu of treatments that are over-the-top, even for a Shangri-La. The “Experience Precieuse” is nothing less than rejuvenation if not the “unique rebirth….” as promised.

The former home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, the Shangri-La is a masterpiece of renovation. Clearly battalions of stoneworkers, gilders, master craftsmen of every stripe contributed to the massive renovation of what is now a mini-Versailles, a palace with distinct royal bloodlines in every room, most of which have stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.

The Grande Dame of Paris hotel pools used to be Le Bristol. It is shaped like the bow of a sailing ship and has panoramic views of Sacre Coeur. It is lovely but in a quaint sort of way. Other hotels including the Four Seasons Hotel George V and the Mandarin Oriental can share pride of pool place at least for a while… until two icons of Parisian luxury re-open. The Ritz and the Crillon, are currently closed for extensive reservations but when they finally make their grande entrée, their swimming pools are bound to be dazzlers.

The new Paris Peninsula, the former Hotel Majestic, is scheduled to open its doors beneath a new glass-and-steel canopy August 1. It has been a huge work in progress – including an underground pool and below level parking – for about six years. With rooms starting above 1,000 € per night, guests will enjoy all the usual Peninsula bells and whistles including a courtesy fleet of cars and drivers.

Paris hotels are always recreating themselves. Where once only a spiffy health club was obligatory, now to swim with the tide, it’s a palatial palace fit for a princely pool.

 

bobbie  Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

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