by Ron Bernthal
The French have maintained a presence in Shanghai since the mid-1800′s, when their Parisian-style homes, public gardens, and cafes became known as the French Concession district. Today, the French presence in Shanghai can be found within the delightful Le Royal Méridien Hotel, located on People’s Square, in the center of downtown Shanghai, a few miles from the still beautiful French Concession neighborhood.
Stepping off the Art Deco-style elevator and into the 10th-floor lobby of the hotel I was greeted with wonderful French-Chinese juxtapositions — images of beautiful and fashionably-dressed Chinese young women, speaking French and Mandarin, behind the front desk; a lavish breakfast buffet, displayed in Le Bistrot lobby restaurant, with trays of perfect looking croissants and French pastries adjacent to steaming Chinese noodles and dumplings; and piped through the elevator sound system the soft sounds of chirping birds and New Age music by French composer Henri Scars Struck contrasting with the view of Shanghai’s towering glass skyscrapers seen through the lobby’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
My room, on the 39th floor, had sweeping views of the Huangpu River and the new Pudong business district. The room was configured so you entered through the bathroom, which was odd, but with lots of space, wood cabinetry, and a large, glass work desk facing the oversize windows, the room was quite comfortable. Amenities included a 42″ plasma flat screen, high-speed Internet cable, and a sexy, glass-wall rain shower that faced the bedroom and its city skyline view.
The fitness center was large, with state-of-the-art machines and a nice vibe, and the indoor swimming pool, bathed with natural light, was great for lap swimming. A sauna, steam room, and professional spa treatments are also available. There are several restaurants in the hotel, including Ai Mei (Chinese), Allure (French), and Favola (Italian), and a bi-level bar, called 789 Nanjing, on the 65th -66th floors, offers a live DJ, cocktails, and cigar lounge. The hotel’s Le Bistrot Restaurant offers all day dining with an Asian and Western menu designed by Executive Chef Stephane Tremblay, who has opened up the outdoor terrace next to the restaurant by adding attractive umbrella- covered tables and BBQ grills for lunch and dinner options.
The770-room hotel is filled with so many pieces of arresting artwork and interesting interior design touches, it doesn’t feel like a corporate high-rise box. I liked the open children’s area near the lobby, with its toys and soft furniture, and the innovative glass brick display by each elevator door, signaling with a silent flash of colors when an elevator is arriving. Le Royal Méridien, part of the Starwood chain, was voted the Best Business Hotel in Shanghai, 2009, by Travel Trade Gazette magazine readers.
Contact: Le Royal Méridien Shanghai, 789 Nanjing Road East,
Shanghai 200001 China. Reservations: 800-543-4300
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