Paris Update: Peninsula Paris Preview and New Air France Cabins (VIDEO)

This week saw plenty of news from France, from hotel previews to airline upgrades to a new cooking school. Here's the latest buzz you may have missed...

Our own Mary Winston Nicklin was on-site for an exclusive preview of The Peninsula Paris, which will officially open to guests on August 1 as the brand’s first hotel in Europe

As the 10th Peninsula Hotel worldwide, the Paris property represents a true “labor of love” with over six years of design and construction employing the skills of France’s finest artisans. A feat that French newspaper Le Figaro calls “pharonic.” Clement Kwok, the CEO of Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels, told Nicklin that the company took 20 years to identify an opportunity in Europe.

General Manager Nicolas Béliard, who used to helm The Peninsula Bangkok, said that the hotel would revitalize the 16th arrondissement’s Avenue Kléber, which is a major artery between the Trocadéro and the Arc de Triomphe. The restaurants are certainly a star attraction, and will be the talk of the town among Parisians. The Kléber Terrace, its entrance flanked by two enormous lion statues, echoes the Parisian “sidewalk café.” Lili, the Cantonese restaurant, is marked by its dramatic design inspired by Chinese and French opera. And the rooftop restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc, will likewise be one of the most coveted tables in town.

In other hotel news, the Concorde Opera Paris is set to rebrand as the Hilton Paris Opera, and is getting ready to kick off a major renovation that will last until early next year. On completion of the refurbishment, the hotel will have 268 rooms across five floors, including 29 Suites, 56 Executive Rooms, 164 Deluxe Rooms and 18 Guest Rooms. The hotel will remain open during the renovation, which will take place in stages.

Flying to Paris

In terms of airlift to Paris, Air France launched its first flight between the City of Light and New York with its upgraded cabins

Each class of service has new perks and features, Bruno Matheu, Chief Officer, Long Haul told the group. The Economy cabin’s new seats are thinner and lighter than previous models (reducing up to 1,000 pounds on each plane), and each comes with a nine-inch personal flat-screen TV as well as an electrical socket for charging personal devices. 

The Premium Economy seats have hard shells as well as 40 percent more space than the economy seats. They have 12-inch screens and footrests. 

The Business Class seats, which were unveiled in February, are set up in a 1-2-1 configuration so that they all have aisle access, as well as privacy screens. The seats fold out to become fully flat beds that are 77 inches long and 27 inches wide with real duvets. For entertainment, passengers get 16-inch screens and noise-canceling headphones. 

Then there’s the new La Première suite, which is set to roll out on 19 Air France Boeing 777-300 planes from September. Our sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor looked at the suites last month: The seats stretch out into a flatbed that is more than six feet long with a mattress installed by the flight attendants.

In total, 44 Boeing 777 planes will get almost 10,000 Economy seats, more than 1,100 Premium Economy seats and 2,102 new Business class seats. By the end of the year, the new cabins will be used on flights to Singapore, Jakarta, Tokyo-Haneda, Houston and Shanghai. Douala, Dubai and Sao Paulo will follow early 2015.

New Cooking School

At BHV Marais, the landmark department store near the Paris City Hall, L'École de Cuisine Alain Ducasse—the star chef’s acclaimed cooking school—has opened a new space

Located on the third floor, the cooking school offers a range of courses starting from 70€ (1.5 hours). After a morning shopping the summer sales, you can sign up for the 1 pm “Cuisinez & déjeunez” course for a convivial lunch. Learn to make a gourmet dish like red mullet in a olive and basil gratinee, then sit down to savor it, along with something sweet.