The Cash-for-Questions Affair: Heaven on earth at pounds 295 a night

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The Independent Online
'WHEN I dream of heaven,' Ernest Hemingway said, 'the action takes place at the Paris Ritz.' In memory of the writer, one of the Ritz hotel's bars now bears his name.

The Paris Ritz, where Neil Hamilton and his wife stayed in 1987, is one of the city's most luxurious palaces. Situated on the Place Vendome, it rests amid an array of some of the world's most famous jewellers' shops.

Current room rates start at 2,450 francs ( pounds 295) a night for a single room rising to 5,600Fr for a suite. A continental breakfast costs 170Fr, more than pounds 20.

Most of the 142 rooms in the century-old hotel, which was bought by the Fayed brothers in 1979, are decorated in Louis XV and Louis XVI styles. The successors of Charles Ritz, the first hotelier to offer rooms with a bath, have added Jacuzzis and saunas to five of the 45 suites.

Tea at the Ritz is as much an institution for the rich in Paris as in London. The Paris hotel is also known for having the city's most exclusive health club, 1,500 square metres of marble splendour with a pool surrounded by frescoes and mosaics.

Home to the Ritz-Escoffier gastronomy school, its main restaurant, rating Michelin's second-highest two-star rating, is the Espadon, where an average meal, containing such dishes as 'a charlotte of foie gras of duck with turnips', can cost as much as 660Fr per person. For wine in the pounds 150 range, the Espadon offers a 1985 Graves, the Chateau Mission Haut-Brion.

France's serious yet irreverent Gault Millau hotel and restaurant guide describes the Paris Ritz as le palace par excellence. It adds: 'From the doorman to the youngest chamber-maid, the staff are perfect, warm and attentive'.

One of the Ritz's own leaflets gives the hotel other qualities. It sums it up as 'a place of legend where 20th-century history was made and is in the making. A stay in the Ritz is an exceptional and timeless experience, an opportunity to become part of the legend'.

Hotel staff yesterday seemed unmoved by news that the establishment had become the focus of British media attention because of Mr Hamilton's stay.

No one would own up to remembering the visit, saying that it occurred long ago. Even had it been more recent, a concierge said, staff would not have commented because discretion oblige.

(Photograph omitted)