Versailles’s premier hotel is as crazy as you’d expect
Tbump, boom, boom…
I waited, confused as to why the secondary embarrassment-controlled part of me didn’t fear this beefy 20-year-old who bellowed something deep in French about a king and his food.
Maybe it was because I had a few deep glasses that I didn’t mind, but I suspect the real culprit was where I was: the lavish dining room at the resort’s very first hotel. Versailles.
It is therefore normal that this hotel, which has just opened this summer, The Great Control, is the latest pick in our series of exciting new hotels, The New Room with a View. The Grand Contrôle is housed in the mansion designed in 1681 by Mansart and last occupied before the Revolution by Prime Minister Jacques Necker. It’s located next to the Orangery, which you can find by standing on the Grand Canal in front of the palace, turning left and going down the steps.
If the location appeals to you (it really is the only true luxury hotel in the region), the decor will enchant you. The hotel is an Airelles property (the group also owns properties in Courchevel, Saint-Tropez and Gordes), so the design was overseen internally by Christophe Tollemer. Fortunately, it is more Louis XVI than XIV and therefore although still opulent, it is far from being garish.
In fact, despite working within historicist constraints and at a time when so many luxury hotels all look alike, the decor is imaginative, transporting and, in a way, comfortable. The underground swimming pool, which is part of a spa managed by Valmont, is a special gem.
Each of the 14 rooms and suites (which start at around $ 2,000 a night) are appointed differently. I was in the Foucquet Suite, which had the original 18th century gilded mirror frames and a spectacular Polish four-poster bed. But the details throughout the hotel are worth noting – textiles recreated from historic motifs by Maison Pierre Frey, technology hidden in leather boxes, worktops in limestone from Saint Maximin, side tables in wicker – who made the place, well, chef’s kiss.
Most of the year, but especially during the high summer tourist season, Versailles is extremely busy. This means not only long queues, but also trips to state rooms, apartments and the Hall of Mirrors with crowds of people. Of course, if you go on weekdays from the first hour or if you stay straight until it closes, you might get a bit of a break. But, included with your stay at The Great Control is an after-hours palace tour where the only other visitors are the other guests, which means you won’t have to download an app to edit the people in your Hall of Mirrors photo. (Or, if you’re on the next level as a woman who stays while I was there, you can get ready in a fairytale dress for your quick photoshoot in the empty lobby.)
You also get a private tour of the Petit Trianon, the miniature palace complex built by Madame du Barry and occupied by Marie-Antoinette.
Additional experiences not included in the rate range from lighting the Hall of Mirrors for you at night, to Marie-Antoinette’s outfit for the day, to macaron tastings and dinner in the French Pavilion.
While this is not one of the “experiences” hotels talk about, one of the most magical things I did while I was there was to go for a run in the park right. at the opening of the palace park. There was something truly surreal about panting on the manicured paths with 21st century athletic wear in a place that was once the world’s pinnacle of fashion and prestige. (He also joins the Exorcist The steps and the Rocky Steps are one of the coolest places to make stairs.)
During your stay at the hotel, however, it is impossible to forget the history of the place where you are staying. Not only because of what’s right at the window, but also because the staff (very handsome by the way) are dressed up in period costumes.
Which brings me back to this young man in a suit tapping on a big stick in imitation of the announcements made at the king’s ceremonial dinners. The dining experience at the hotel is overseen by none other than Alain Ducasse, a man drowned in Michelin stars. Everything is as fabulous as expected (and breakfast, prepared by him, is included), but dinner is done with part of the pageant. Normally I would hate this stuff, but I can’t help but think that if there’s a place in the world you’re gonna be additional with all the pomp and theater, it’s Versailles. It gives you a little taste of the absurdity of court life. (However, I did not accept the hotel’s offer to have a royal wake-up call for guests.)
If Airelles does as well with The Great Control as I think it will, it will probably be a novelty for American luxury travelers who often spend a few days in Parisian palaces before heading south. Now they could just head to Versailles for a night or two for a little taste of that royal life.