The allure of Paris is clear. Its landmarks, chic shops and enviable restaurants
draw in tourists from around the world. But has the ‘City of Lights’ lost some of its
shine? Is it trapped by its glorious past? Well, the city’s mayor and some of its most
venerable businesses are working hard to keep the city looking forward. New environmental policies have opened up
the streets, while the city’s most famous hotels have been refurbished and modernized. Welcome to Paris. One of the first global cities, Paris has
attracted émigrés and artists, writers and entrepreneurs for centuries. It remains famous for fashion and food and
attracts more than 17 million tourists a year. And when they get here, tourists dig deep,
spending on average over $300 a day. That’s second only to shopping mall heaven Dubai. But with its clogged boulevards, neoclassical
architecture and occasionally obstinate service, Paris can feel like it’s penned in by its
past but nostalgic thinking is being firmly rejected,
and not by some nouveau crowd but by the old guard. This is the Ritz Paris, arguably the world’s
most famous hotel. It opened in 1898 and has been serving the
world’s who’s who ever since. But this symbol of high society and luxury
was getting a bit tired and it closed in 2012 for a $420 million renovation, only
reopening in 2016. Welcome inside the Ritz’s Imperial Suite. It’s pretty rare to get in here. It starts at $20,000 a night but for that money you get a lot of marble,
gold leaf, and antique furniture. This is 18th century refinement, with USB plugs in the wall. But you don’t come to the Ritz just for
the suites. Perhaps as famous as the hotel itself is its
bar, The Hemingway named after the American author and keen drinker. The story of how it got its name is full of
holes but the short version is that it was “liberated” – and that word is used very
loosely – by the author from German soldiers. He proceeded to buy 51 Dry Martinis. So if the Ritz is keeping modernity close,
but not too close, Paris’s other grand old hotel has gone the other way. If you think the Ritz is posh, take a look
at the Crillon. This 18th century property has been transformed
from a snooty hotel for the world’s super-rich into a classy, modern hotel for the
world’s super-rich. Contemporary art adorns the lobbies and bars,
while the staff are youthful and dressed to the nines. It also beats the Ritz on price. Business
suites start at $1,350 and go up to a whopping $36,000 a night for the Grand Apartment. Every room has its own butler, because why not? but it’s the little things that make the experience special. A barber is on-site to make sure your beard
is as sharp as your suit. While in-house cobblers are at the ready to
fix, polish and shine and offer some vintage cognac. The Crillon has embraced modernity and it’s
all the better for it. But step outside and cars, trucks and scooters
roar round Place de la Concorde. Research by environmental lobby group Transport
& Environment found living in the city for a year is equivalent to smoking 183 cigarettes. Paris’s air quality is bad. You can taste the
diesel fumes and its mayor is determined to change that. Cars built before 1997 are banned from entering
the city center on weekdays from 8am to 8pm. And the city has also introduced car-free days
on the first Sunday of every month. Paris wants to lead the way in reducing air
pollution and other cities around Europe are following suit. Working to ensure this historic city doesn’t
rest on its laurels but keeps its eyes on the future.