Puttin' on the Ritz: Europe's grand hotels; Grand Hotel: The Golden Age of Palace Hotels - an Architectural and Social History, by Jean d'Ormesson, David Watkin, Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, Pierre-Jean Remy, Frederic Grendel, and Marc Walter. New York and Paris: The Vendome Press. 272 pp. $45.
-30 Staying in one of Europe's grand hotels in their heyday - roughly 1860-1960, was the best way for a bourgeois to feel, and to be treated, like royalty. For the first time in history, money was all it took to be ensconced in opulence, luxury, and romance: to have all one's elitist, hedonistic dreams come true.
Some of these fabulous hotels still exist. It is still possible to stay in some of them, though in today's egalitarian world it's hard to re-create their past glories. But this book does the next best thing.
On every page there are amazing photographs of terraces, ballrooms, lobbies, drawing rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, grand staircases; exteriors and interiors, each more splendid than the last. Most of the photos date from the golden age of the grand hotels, revealing some unexpected glimpses of the times.
Although this is mainly a book of photographs, the text, by six French and English men of letters who obviously revel in their subject, is as evocative, informative, and atmospheric as any picture. In compiling this beautiful book, they have responded to our nostalgia for a fairy-tale world that most of us remember only in our dreams.