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HÔTEL PLAZA ATHÉNÉE – A CELESTIAL EXPERIENCE

“When you get into a hotel room, you lock the door, and you know there is a secrecy, there is a luxury, there is fantasy.” — Diane von Fürstenberg

If the former princess’s words were inspired, we’d bet she was relaxing at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, in Paris. Few hotels are as storied as Athénée, one of an exclusive eight designated “palace” hotels in the City of Lights. This makes it is so exclusive, it’s technically deserving of a sixth star.

The signature red accents throughout. The collaborations with Alain Ducasse and Christian Dior. The location, with stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. The fragrance of fresh cut flowers or bath amenities by Guerlain. The lobby walls covered with photos of the most celebrated guests from the past century. The flawless service from curbside to bedside. These are just a handful of elements that push Hotel Plaza Athénée to the top of anyone’s short list, and, once there, it is never replaced.

This year, celebrating its 106th birthday, Le Plaza Athénée immediately established itself in 1913 as a Parisian icon, situated among the chic haute couture of the fabled avenue Montaigne. In 1947, Christian Dior set up his couture house right next door, and in recent years, established the Dior Institut within the hotel. Needless to say, wellness and beauty are achieved at a stratospheric level in the high- class subterranean spa. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The property is unmistakable. Red canvas awnings fly over every window and red geraniums are displayed in window boxes on the façade. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower glints in the sun and establishes a dramatic backdrop at night.

Curbside, you are greeted by a concierge team who exude the French art of welcoming, and who are able to produce whatever you may need, including a reservation at an impossible-to-book restaurant or a growing number of exceptional craft cocktail bars.

That said, it’s very likely you won’t want to leave the premises for your sustenance. Six options are available to guests and visitors, and each radiates its own personality.

The eponymous Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée is as over the top as it sounds, with a trifecta of flavor, atmosphere, and price. Touting a “free and nearly instinctive interpretation of haute cuisine,” this restaurant delivers in every way. First, you’ll feel like you are in a completely alternate dimension with the stupendous other-worldly design — think Barbarella meets Louis XIV in the dining area featuring chrome-style banquettes and crystal drop chandeliers. The food isn’t quite as far out in a cosmic sense, but the local and seasonal dishes are heavenly, and have earned the restaurant three Michelin stars.

Only slightly more laid back is Le Relais Plaza. While Alain Ducasse is decidedly modern, Le Relais Plaza is differently graceful with an Art Deco interior inspired by the elegant steamer Normandie. A chic and classic Parisian brasserie that has been attracting the beau monde since 1936, Le Relais is helmed by Chef Philippe Marc, who ceaselessly maintains not only relevance in this grande dame, but also excellence. There’s a good chance you’ll see a celeb or two at a nearby table.

Le Bar

Le Bar has been an “it” spot for well-heeled trendsetters for years and has earned its salt on the coveted list of top 50 bars in the world. Creative cocktails and smooth grooves punctuate a lively ambiance. Go late to fully appreciate the colorful acrylic bar and insane ceiling.

The restaurants are reasons enough to visit Hotel Plaza Athénée, but the experience is truly far from complete unless you stay. At “palace” level, your expectations should be high, and they will be more than met. Each and every room is spacious, with exceptionally appointed fabrics, both classic and modern furnishings, and unique art.

You’ll want to opt for a Junior Suite. This is the type of room you see in movies and always dream of experiencing in person. Spacious Parisian-apartment-style living spills into a bedroom designed for hyper relaxation. Order from the pillow menu. Really.

Many suites open to the hidden La Cour Jardin. Billed as “secret Paris,” this haven is known only to the well-informed who enjoy sunny days amid lush greenery and beneath the canopy of red awnings (think destination wedding).

Junior Suite

Spend time in your bathroom. Surrounded by marble, you’ll want to lather up with exclusive Guerlain suds and salves. Top off the experience by lounging about in your sumptuous robe with a glass of wine from the well-stocked in-room bar.

For an equally exciting experience, check out the Deluxe Room, which overlooks avenue Montaigne. Look left to take in couture design houses. Look right to gaze at the Eiffel Tower and the glittering river Seine.

If it’s complete captivation you seek, go bigger in the Prestige Suite. With a range of classic and modern appointments — and classic Paris views — from room to room and floor to floor, you can truly customize your experience. If you’re brave enough to bring your kids and/or pups, the Athénée can handle them, too.

In short, the operative words when it comes to the Plaza Athénée are opulence and luxury. If conspicuous splendor turns you off, this gem isn’t for you.

But, who are you kidding?