Restored palace hotels invite guests to live like royalty


Most consumers would not pass up the chance to live like a king or queen for a day. Why not for an entire vacation?

From a gleaming pleasure palace in the middle of a lake in North India and a guesthouse on the grounds of the Château de Versailles, to a lovingly-restored home of Fassi nobility in Fez, Morocco, a taste of the royal life can be found all over the world.

“She has given me so much,” said owner and Fez native Driss Faceh of the medina where his hotel is in a statement. “The Faraj Palace is for me the way to give her back what she brought me.”

Medina majesty

The Faraj Palace Suites & Spa in Fez was originally the Bensouda Palace, occupied by the large family of Sidi Mohamed Bensouda, one of the Fassi bourgeoisie in the early 20th century. Bensouda was a judge, a chair at the university and an advisor to the king, and owned a complex in the medina that included a palace, stables and seven smaller riads and dars.

Sweeping views of the Fez medina at the Palais Faraj

Mr. Faceh and his wife purchased the property almost a century later after it was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Traditional Moroccan craftsmen helped to restore the paintings on wooden doors and ceilings, the mosaic tile walls and floors, and the carved stucco on the walls and ceilings to create the sumptuous and expansive guest suites.

Hotel guests can explore the dizzying maze of the Fez medina by day and enjoy Fassi cuisine in a fine dining setting by night. A traditional Moroccan hammam spa offers relaxation after sightseeing.

Queen’s quarters

Outside of Paris, the Airelles hotel group recently opened its latest project: Le Grand Contrôle at the Château de Versailles. The main of the three buildings housing the hotel was constructed in 1681 by the favorite architect of King Louis XIV, and they overlook the beloved Orangerie, the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses and the Château where guests can retrace the steps of Versailles’ most famed residents, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

A period-accurate guest suite at Le Grand Contrôle. Image credit: Renée Kemps

Historically accurate décor was based on the times of the ill-fated rulers, focusing on 1788, with most of the furniture dating to the period.

Authentic art and artifacts from the 17th and 18th centuries adorn the 14 rooms and suites along with period-appropriate colors, fabrics, intricate chandeliers, parquet flooring and a custom wall hanging in each room.

“I’m extremely proud of the team involved in bringing this dream to life and the level of detail and dedication that has gone into this very special property,” said Airelles CEO Guillaume Fonquernie in a statement.

All hotel guests have access to the palace grounds and will experience private tours of the Trianon by day and the Château once all public visitors have gone.

Extra add-ons include private dinners in the gardens courtesy of 20-time Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, trying on exact replicas of Maria Antoinette’s dresses and a private concert at the Royal Opera House after the regular performance.

Pleasure principals

Another 18th-century wonder sits in the center of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, a former princely state in India’s Rajasthan state.

The Taj Lake Palace was once Jag Niwas, an island paradise built by the young prince and future ruler, Jagat Singh, after his father, Maharana Sangram Singh II, refused the prince’s request to reside at his own pleasure palace with his ladies. Thanks to taunts from his father about getting his own palace, the prince did just that in 1746.

The Taj Lake Palace sits on its own in Lake Pichola

With views of the sparkling lake, City Palace, Aravalli Hills and Jag Mandir, guests arrive by boat to the gleaming white masterpiece. The interior has been restored to all its princely glory and features teak furniture, Indian silks, wooden lattice and araish work on the walls and ceilings.

Guests of the hotel will enjoy palace butler service, rides in vintage cars and a relaxing spa experience on a boat floating in the lake.

“A must try at the Taj Lake Palace is the Royal Gangaur Experience – the 150-year-old boat used by the maharanas for floating processions, celebrating festivals and royal ceremonies,” said K. Mohanchandran, area director for Udaipur and Jodhpur and general manager of the Taj Lake Palace.

“The Gangaur is the signature Taj Lake Palace dining experience, with twists and surprises that never cease to amaze and fascinate our guests,” he said.

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