The hotel is a work of art in itself.
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View and terrace from a suite at Le Meurice
Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

Le Meurice says that it's "the hotel of artists and thinkers" — an ambitious title to bestow upon oneself. However, after my stay, it was clear the title was never aspirational; it was simply factual. 

On a rainy Friday morning, our group headed out on one of the hotel's exclusive walking tours, "Picasso's Montmartre," part of a series following in the footsteps of legendary artists in Paris.

The neighborhood of Montmartre sits atop a considerable hill, making for spectacular views of the city. Today, it's one of Paris' most iconic areas, but in the early 1900s, when Picasso spent time there, it was a rundown village that attracted artists with its cheap rent and vivacious nightlife. Other household names like Van Gogh, Renoir, and Matisse were also residents for a time.

From left: The exterior of Lapin Agile, a historic bar in Montmartre; Exterior of La Maison Rose, a famous restaurant in Montmartre
Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

We saw the studio where Picasso both lived and painted some of his most well-known works, as well as a bar where he paid for drinks with a painting (the masterpiece sold for $40 million after his death), all the while learning about the life events that inspired his different stylistic periods.

I don't always feel like I get a lot out of guided tours, but this one was captivating, despite the rain. But what I didn't realize while strolling Montmartre was that my awe and appreciation for this fascinating history would only grow stronger when we returned to the hotel.

That evening, we had dinner in Le Meurice's Salon Pompadour, a private dining room and event space that transports you to a 19th-century palace with its opulent decor. The room alone is enough to take your breath away, but its intrigue goes beyond the golden trim and sparkling chandeliers.

The salon hosted Picasso's wedding banquet when he married Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova in 1918. In fact, a painting that hangs in the room still bears a dent from a Champagne cork that went flying during the celebration.

Interior of dining rooms at Le Meurice
Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

I felt as if I had become immersed in Picasso's life for a day, and somehow, I came to understand him and his work much more than I ever did in my many art history classes in school. What's more, Picasso isn't the only famous artist with ties to Le Meurice.

For over 30 years, Salvador Dalí spent a month at the hotel each year. An eccentric character, Dalí was apparently quite demanding of the staff, but my favorite anecdote was that his domestic cheetahs left scratches on the carpet of his suite. Still, the hotel named a restaurant after him — Le Dalí serves local, seasonal French cuisine, and the decor emulates the artist's surrealist style.

The hotel sits in the center of Paris, less than a 10-minute walk from the Louvre, which has made it a natural meeting place for artists and intellectuals for decades. (Coco Chanel, Franklin Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela have all passed through.)

From left: A lounge area inside of Le Meurice; View from a window at Le Meurice
Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Lauriello

Today, there are many modern art forms on display. Pastry chef Cédric Grolet serves his signature sculpted fruit, which looks like an ordinary apple or pear, but is actually a marvelous dessert. And head chef of the hotel's two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse, Amaury Bouhours, leads a staff that performs a sort of ballet while preparing dinner in the kitchen each night. (You'll only get a glimpse of the magic if you're lucky enough to eat at the chef's table.)

Le Meurice has a fascinating history and lasting relevance, between its artist ties and tasteful evolution, but all it takes is a short stay to realize the hotel is a work of art in itself.