On 20 April 1913, the Plaza Athénée opened its doors for the first time. One hundred years to the day after the hotel's inauguration, 25 Avenue Montaigne underwent a transformation for a day, taking its 600 or more guests into a world in which time stood still. It was a vivid experience that coloured the world ... red!
The red carpet. The staff line-up. The guests smile and greet the men and women who make this hotel so unique. A jazz band provides background music as they arrive, accompanying them to Alain Ducasse' restaurant where they are welcomed by hostesses in black dresses and pearl necklaces. A wall of images projects a continuous stream of festive photos and videos shot before the event or on the day itself!
Guests are then invited to go up to the first floor where the florists, housekeepers, French polisher, John Lobb service and children's services are presented in a succession of suites given that little extra touch for the occasion. Discussions about the expertise specific to the Plaza Athénée (which received a "Living Heritage Enterprise" award in 2010) are as wide-ranging as they are enthusiastic! In the cellar, wine aficionados were given an opportunity to see the 35.000 bottles, accompanied by Gérard Margeon, Head Sommelier for the Alain Ducasse Group.
The guests then went to the Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée restaurant where they could admire the wonderful pyramid of 650 flutes created by Moët & Chandon and reaching a height of 3.50 metres, before moving on to the Garden Courtyard.
There, they were amazed by the extraordinary, and elegantly decorated, cake 8 metres high bearing the message "100 years - Happy Birthday, Plaza Athénée", made by Jean-Marie Hiblot under Christophe Michalak's supervision. Beyond that were mouthwatering displays of bakery, cakemaking and mixology.
François Delahaye then gave his keynote address. It was a solemn moment, with items from the past and present brought together with a view to handing them on to posterity, for the next 25 years! With the theme tune from "Sex and the City" playing in the background (an acknowledgement of the series that filmed one of its last episodes at the Plaza Athénée), the Time Capsule arrived.
Standing next to François Delahaye were not only the hotel's two leading stars of gastronomy, Alain Ducasse and Christophe Michalak, but also Alain Delon
, the two great grand-daughters of the Plaza Athénée's founders - Jules Cadillat and Emile Armbruster, Stéphane Baschiera, President of Moët & Chandon, Mr Bernardaud, President of the Colbert Committee, and Vincenzo Equestre, Director General Europe at the House of Dior.
After being filled with treasures (a newspaper published that day containing an article on the "hotel's 100 years of excellence", a valet's whistle dating from 1913, a bailiff's chain of office, a set of Cardex records from the 1970's showing names such as Mr Frank Sinatra, Mr Elton John
, Mr Steven Spielberg and Mr Jermaine Jackson, a bottle of Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection 1911 etc.), the time capsule was sealed and guests turned their attention to cakes and champagne!
The ceremony ended on a high note with the release of 100 red balloons, a delight for the assembled guests and an expression of hope for the next 100 years!
Later in the evening, the Galerie des Gobelins was decorated with pearls, feathers, frills and fancies, a setting in which all the guests could enjoy a "Great Gatsby" evening.
Then, at exactly 12.30 pm, the guests were invited to move to the bar, accompanied by confetti and music, to raise a glass to "the luxury hotel of the future"!
It really was a birthday to remember.