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Paris' Lutetia reopens after luxury makeover

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Paris

THE Lutetia hotel in Paris, favoured by the likes of Picasso and Hemingway, reopens this week after four years of costly renovations that it hopes will win it the "palace" label reserved for the most opulent of French lodgings.

Steeped in history, from its occupation by Nazi intelligence agents to its years as a hangout for celebrity intellectuals in the 1950s, the Lutetia has not changed much on the outside at least.

The new-look hotel in the chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood has retained its imposing art deco facade, lined with elegant wrought iron balconies overhung with carved stone grapevines.

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But the 200-million-euro (S$311 million) makeover has allowed the hotel to spruce up its original frescos and stucco work, decking out the 184 rooms and suites in understated luxury. Hotel manager Jean-Luc Cousty told AFP that the goal was to "create a contemporary hotel by enhancing everything that was historic".

"The Lutetia has not lost its soul, and one of the big triumphs of architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte is that natural light has been brought in throughout," he said.

The first guests are due to walk through its corridors - lined with dark eucalyptus wood - from July 12.

There is a softly lit 17-metre swimming pool, while the rooms feature discreet art-deco chandeliers and a lot of white marble: the baths were carved out of a 1.9-tonne block.

While the brasserie will not reopen until autumn, guests can sip a cocktail in the Josephine bar, whose frescos, previously forgotten under layers of wallpaper and paint, have been restored after 17,000 hours of painstaking work.

Currently a four-star hotel, the Lutetia has applied for a fifth - the next step before getting the "palace" label, which is currently held by 10 top Parisian hotels including the Bristol and Peninsula.

While still out of reach for all but the wealthiest, Mr Cousty said the Lutetia was aiming for "more accessible" pricing than those rivals on the Right Bank, "with an average price of 800 euros".

Bought in 2010 by Israeli group Alrov, the Lutetia is seeking to double its turnover - which stood at 30 million euros before the renovation works - within three or four years of reopening.

At least the timing is good: after two years during which Paris was scarred by terror attacks, tourists returned to the French capital in record numbers in 2017, with 33.8 million hotel rooms booked. AFP