Lifestyle : The Hotel Imperator, Nîmes, a local legend
Audio version : www.lesun.fr/AUDIO/imperator.mp3
Pablo Picasso, Ava Gardner and Jean Cocteau have all stayed here and the famous Hemingway spent hours contemplating in the bar, writing.
At a stones throw from the beautiful Jardins de la Fontaine and in the heart of ancient Nîmes, the 4 star Hotel Imperator stands majestically next to its neighbours. Built in 1929, the hotel is not only a perfect example of Art Nouveau with its parquet ﬂoors, tall windows and stunning époque elevator, but also a historical meeting place for artists, writers and local society.
M any of Hemingway’s characters stay at the Imperator; scenes are set in its garden and the famous writer declares to adore Nîmes. It is easy to understand why. The hotel has a unique atmosphere of reﬁnement but, as you stroll through the lobby into the garden, there is a strong sense of artistic inspiration. In the heart of a city whose charm is held in its narrow streets and crowded café terraces, the Imperator’s spacious, light and airy rooms are a refreshing and welcome change.
"The Imperator is renowned for being the place for rencontres mythiques" explains hotel manager Christophe Chalvidal, "and it’s in this spirit that we want the hotel to continue." The hotel has played an important role in the important role in the lives of the nîmois — every family has its own story to tell about the hotel and the events held here.
Since the hotel was taken over in 2010 by local entrepreneur entrepreneur Mr Sanchez, the Imperator is focusing on strengthening its role as a meeting place. Sitting in the legendary Hemingway bar gazing into the h o t e l ’s beautiful garden inspires even the most reluctant imagination. Eating at the restaurant is equally inspiring since chef Thierry Plaideau joined the team earlier this year. Plaideau has travelled the world working in top quality establishments, selecting all the best ﬂavours and methods which he brings to the Imperator to create an imaginative and reﬁned menu. ''Quality is our key word, and eating here is guaranteed to be an excellent gastronomic experience,'' enthuses Chalvidal.
It’s not just in the kitchen, however, that enthusiasm reigns. In its objective to make the hotel Imperator part of local life once more, the team organises regular events to inspire and bring people together. "Our main event of the year is during the Féria when the Imperator becomes the place to be" explains Chalvidal.
Jazz evenings, art exhibitions, ﬂamenco competitions, cultural events ﬁll up the hotel’s calendar for the rest of the year. For weary shoppers or those seeking a moments luxury, the hotel also offers tea in front of the ﬁreplace with a choice of delicious patisseries freshly cooked by Fauchon trained chef, David Ponge and a selection of specialist teas. As of January 2012, the hotel will be hosting Les Vins du Vingt, a monthly event (on the 20th of each month) giving twenty participants, residents or not, a chance to discover and taste wines with an expert, and to enjoy a meal which is adapted to the wines presented (and not the other way round!).
The hotel has even thought to provide its guests with a resident artist. Every year the hotel sponsors a young emerging artist or writer to take up residence in the hotel for two months under a scheme entitled 'Le Prix Hemingway'. In this drive to encourage and promote culture and art, the artist has and art, the artist has the possibility of using the hotel to exhibit his/her work and to come everyday to the Hemingway bar to contemplate their work.
In this way, the original spirit of the hotel thrives and evolves. Who knows how many future Hemingways have sat at that legendary bar and found inspiration?
Angela de Plano
Hotel Imperator Concorde
Quai de la Fontaine, Nîmes
Tel. 04 66 21 90 30
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The sun is out, bank holidays are in, we all want to go and explore, although this can sometimes be ruined by the dreaded mistral (p14). But let’s not spoil things. How about a visit to St Jean du Fos (p20) or if you’re feeling more urban, a nice shopping day in Avignon with a healthy tea break (p23) or a visit to an art gallery in Nîmes? (p17) If you’re feeling extra energetic like me, how about entering the Pont du Gard race on 30 June to raise money for a fantastic local charity? Also in this issue, the remarkable story of a simulated space mission by Claire (p18) and a very funny article by Bernice on her pathological inability (or so she says) to learn languages (p22).