Category Archives: Cesar Ritz

The Hotel Ritz

Hotel Ritz, Paris

It was at the bar at the Hotel Ritz that Mother conducted the “business” that brought our ex-stepfather back into our lives for a time while we were living in London.  I don’t know if it was the Ritz Bar, the Bar Vendome or the Bar Hemingway over Rainbows (a signature cocktail) Blood Marys (said to be invented here for Hemingway) or Champagne (although my step-father did favor a Gibson) but whatever they drank in whichever bar overlooking the Place Vendome, it was a success and she brought our now fairy ex-stepfather back to the Hotel Sydney Opera to take us away to the Inter-Continental.

The Ritz was a favorite hotel of Oliver’s and run at this time by Charles Ritz the son of the hotel’s founder Cesar Ritz, the legendary Swiss hotelier whose name is still synonymous with glamour and luxury almost a hundred years after his death.


The Ritz-Carlton Boston

I used to say, after my mother divorced my step-father, that we changed addresses the way other people changed storm windows.  An important part of this peripatetic lifestyle–sublet flats and leased apartments and houses from Park Avenue in New York to Sloane Square in London to Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge–was the hotel.  Hotels were a bridge into new cities and countries, between addresses within cities.  Sometimes they would serves us as an address or home and other times as a reminder of what a home could be–an oasis in an unfamiliar, often foreign, world.  I sometimes feel that I feel more at home in hotels than homes because no matter where they are–Morocco or Omaha–or what kind of place–four star luxury or Best Western–they have, at a minimum, a bed, a bath and clean towels.

The original Ritz Hotel in Paris–the cornerstone of what would become the Ritz-Carlton chain–was founded by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef August Escoffier in 1898 overlooking the Place Vendome in Paris.  Proust, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Edward VII, Coco Chanel and Marie of Roumania were just a few of the wealthy, royal and famous who stayed there.  The chain (named also for the Carlton Hotel in London) expanded into the United States (New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City) in the early 1900s.  My step-father Oliver Rea was born at the Ritz-Carlton in New York in the twenties. The Ritz-Carlton in Boston (overlooking the Boston Common) was not originally a part of the chain’s expansion.  It was a 1926 real estate development that was originally begun as the luxury Mayflower apartment building but was finished, thanks to the persuasiver personality of Boston’s mayor James Michael Curly, as the 300 room Ritz-Carlton hotel and opened in 1927.  

We did not live at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, but we spent a fair amount of time there.  Mother would meet “ladies” there for tea or beaus for cocktails.  Our fairy-ex-stepfather would stay there when he came to town to get us settled or “fix” some problem (before the final fall-out) and sometimes we would just go for supper or tea to feel at home in a strange new city.  

We used to see an old woman there dressed in Victorian mourning clothes.  She lived in the hotel and ate supper by herself every night.  I imagined that, like me, she felt that even living by yourself in a hotel you are never alone–a comforting thought.

I’ll be talking about hotels all week this week but I’ve already posted about one special hotel in which a fun scene from Chanel Bonfire was set: The Hotel Sydney Opera.  Here’s a link to that March 11th post!