A Grand Restoration
by Ann Tsang
With two world-class golf clubs close by and an attractive golf package, plus a plethora of activities for non-golfing companions, why not visit the newly refurbished L’Imperator on your next trip to France?
A classic Art Deco-style building, the L’Imperateur hotel first opened in June 1930 as one of southern France’s most famous “grands hotels”, during “Les Années Folles”, when France was at the forefront of creativity and glamour during the economic boom that followed the First World War. The original building combined the simple and symmetrical style of Art Deco with local touches such as génoise roof tiling, balconies, and frescos in the verandah and dining room.
Through the years the hotel has played host to the rich and famous, the titled and tycoons, welcoming the leading lights of the worlds of literature, art, music, cinema, theatre and politics, with famous guests ranging from Pablo Picasso to former French president Jacques Chirac and singer Lenny Kravitz.
Ernest Hemingway also stayed at the hotel while writing Garden of Eden, which includes references to both L'Imperator and the city of N.mes, while actress Ava Gardner – married to Frank Sinatra, but enjoyed an illicit affair with bullfighter Luis Miguel Domingu.n while staying at the hotel - would enter and leave via the kitchens to avoid the awaiting paparazzi.
The twice-yearly ferias, or festivals, began in 1952, and since then, L’Imperator is the place where the N.mois celebrate - to see and be seen, to socialise and party with music and dancing. The hotel is also home for the bull fighters performing in the corridas– and once even had a tiny dedicated chapel where the matadors would pray before facing their mighty adversaries in the ring of the nearby Arènes.
With the aim of preserving and restoring the hotel’s original Art Deco ambience and most iconic heritage elements - including the original 1930s Otis cage lift and the fireplace in the Lobby, the Bar Hemingway and the “costume of lights” of celebrated bullfighter and friend of Hemingway, Antonio Ord..ez – and with interiors designed by French-Argentinian designer Marcelo Joulia of Na.o, the building has been meticulously restored by teams of French master craftsmen, utilising traditional techniques with the aim of preserving the heritage, authenticity and spirit of the building.