Tag Archives: Farewell
PARIS (Reuters) – One of the grandest luxury hotels in Paris will put most of its of furniture and fine wines under the hammer next week to help raise funds for a lengthy restoration.
The sumptuous Hotel Crillon, hushed after the departure of its last guests in March, has been transformed into a buyer’s wonderland as it closes its doors for a two-year renovation.
Full suites of furniture are on display ahead of a series of auctions scheduled for April 18-22, with about 3,500 lots including carpets and curtains expected to raise hundreds of thousands of euros.
Buyers seeking to recreate a little bit of the hotel in their homes can even stock up on reception counters, staff uniforms and bathrobes.
“A sale like this is a unique moment, a real cherry on the cake,” auctioneer Stephane Aubert from auction house Artcurial said.
Such vast hotel sales are rare, with once-in-a-lifetime treasures available.
A highlight is the hotel’s mirror-encrusted bar designed by 20th-century French sculptor Cesar, who gave his name to the annual French film awards where, similar to the Oscars, miniature reproductions of one of his works are distributed.
The artist’s signature is inscribed on the twinkling glass front of the bar – protected beneath a perspex panel ever since a cleaner unwittingly took the first version for graffiti and scrubbed it off. Cesar was able to return and sign again before his death in 1998.
Dominating one side of Place de la Concorde, the Crillon has housed the great and the good since its construction as a private home under French King Louis XV in 1758.
The ill-fated Queen Marie Antoinette took music lessons on its first floor only to be guillotined years later in the shadow of the palace’s grand neoclassical façade.
Since its conversion into a hotel in 1909, it has welcomed U.S. pop singer Madonna, former president Bill Clinton and was the site of the formal founding of the League of Nations.
U.S. composer Leonard Bernstein regularly set up home in a top floor suite with a view onto the Arc de Triomphe. One anonymous client rents that same suite every year to watch the finale of the Tour de France with friends and an unspecified amount of champagne.
Bidders with deep pockets can fork out for the piano Bernstein is believed to have used during his stays, while fans of lesser means can still hope to go home with light fittings and rugs.
A large part of the Crillon’s vast wine and spirit cellar is likely to be snapped up by connoisseurs, including a rare Louis XIII Black Pearl Remy Martin cognac with a list price of 7,000 euros ($ 9,200). Mini-bars and chairs customized by artists are also being auctioned for two French charities.
Profits raised from the auction will fund a sweeping modernization to bring the hotel up to date while preserving its character, with work due to last until 2015.
The Ritz in Paris is also out of action for a revamp, with both hotels aiming to reinvigorate their classic grandeur and poach customers tempted by high-end newcomers such as the Shangri-La opened in Paris in 2010.
A sad tale of a grand old dame selling off her jewels? Not at all, according to Aubert.
“It’s part of the story of these objects that they go and have a new life,” he said, eyeing up his favorite lots – the silver-plated cocktail shakers from the bar.
($ 1 = 0.7642 euros)
(Reporting by Tara Oakes; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Paul Casciato)
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After a year and 12,339 miles, we say goodbye to another extended-use vehicle. The Outlander Sport is Mitsubishi’s latest foray into the crowded and highly competitive compact-SUV class. Whenever a newcomer appears in a high-stakes class such as this one, we are interested in putting it through our battery of tests to see if it has the chops to merit your consideration.
We received our long-term Outlander Sport during February of 2011, and it came just in time. Our test vehicle was equipped with all-wheel drive, which was a welcome feature for slogging though Chicago’s famous winters. However, this vehicle was different because its AWD system could be switched on and off at will via a center-console control knob. It had three settings (2WD, 4WD, Lock) that allowed the driver to tailor the system to road conditions. If the weather was warm and sunny, 2WD could contribute to a boost in fuel economy because only the front wheels were being powered. 4WD was good for snow because the computer apportions power for best traction. Lock mode set a 50/50 front/rear power split for high-performance driving on slippery roads.
Engine: 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: CVT automatic
Total Miles Driven: 12,339 miles
CG Observed Fuel Economy: 24.7 mpg
Base Price: $ 22,995
Major Options: Premium Package (panoramic glass sunroof with LED illumination, black roof rails, Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with 9 speakers, Sirius satellite radio with 3 months of service) Navigation Package (rearview camera, 40GB hard-drive navigation with music server and real time traffic, auxilliary video input jack), Interior Package (piano black interior accents, gear shift knob made of black leather and aluminum), LED Illumination Package (blue LED floor illumination, blue LED tailgate lamp, LED interior lamps)
Price as Tested: $ 28,180
Problems During Test: None
We came to appreciate the Outlander Sport in a few ways. It proved to be more fun to drive than many other compact SUVs. It had good steering feel and feedback, and strong brakes with good pedal feel. It averaged 24.7 mpg over the course of its yearlong test, which is about average for this category. Some of its features also surprised and delighted, such as the available panoramic sunroof. It was effectively a fixed glass roof with LEDs that pleasingly lights up the edges in a soft yellow glow at night. Also, the navigation system and the rearview camera earned their keep during this vehicle’s yearlong stint in the long-term test fleet, particularly in finding our way and parking on the crowded streets in and around Chicago.
But, the Outlander Sport possessed some qualities that weren’t so endearing. For example, this vehicle isn’t the quietest in the class. Copious amounts of engine drone around town and tire and wind noise on the highway proved to be somewhat annoying during daily commuting and on road trips. Also, the interior materials feel cheap and they bring down the interior ambiance somewhat. Additionally, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that behaves much like an automatic doesn’t do a great job managing the SUV’s powerplant. It sometimes lets the engine rev high at inappropriate times, such as when gently accelerating. In addition, Outlander Sport isn’t a very quick vehicle, leaving some of us wanting more gumption for highway passing and merging. Minor annoyances included pushbuttons for the audio system in place of knobs (particularly for volume) and the use of red and white RCA plugs for the auxiliary audio input instead of the ubiquitous headphone-jack plug found in most other vehicles. To top it off, the Outlander Sport runs a few thousand dollars more than compact SUVs from other manufacturers.
Overall, we found the Outlander Sport to be a fun and fuel-efficient runabout, albeit a tad rough around the edges and somewhat expensive for what you get. Mitsubishi claims to have addressed many of the Outlander Sport’s shortcomings with enhancements and tweaks for the 2012 model year, so some of our gripes may be moot at this point, but don’t overlook the Outlander Sport. This SUV boasts a lot of unique creature comforts, a certain degree of flexibility afforded by its switchable all-wheel-drive system, and a great warranty. So, while it might not make a dent in the sales of the popular Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, or Toyota RAV4, the Outlander Sport is still worth your consideration.
The Mazda 5 has been around since model-year 2006, but it went on hiatus for 2011 pending a redesign. The 2012 Mazda 5, with its freshened styling and additional power, joined the Consumer Guide test car fleet in the spring of 2011. Editors drove it for 12 months and fell in love with its practicality.
Like a minivan, the Mazda 5 has sliding rear-side doors and 3 rows of seating. But because of its small size, we slot it in the midsize-car class. This little people mover is 180 inches long and 69 inches wide, compared to approximately 200 and 77 for the typical minivan.
Engine: 157-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Total Miles Driven: 14,738 miles
CG Observed Fuel Economy: 25.1 mpg
Base Price: $ 21,195
Major Options: Rear bumper guard, Moonroof and Audio Package (power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio w/ 4-month subscription)
Price as Tested: $ 23,180
Problems During Test: None
For many minivan shoppers, the 5 is too small. The 3rd row can accommodate only tykes, not teens, and its cargo capacity is only 55 cubic feet–not the 140-plus that the traditional minivans provide. But the 5 trumps the minivans in some very significant ways. It starts under $ 20,000, can get more than 25 mpg, handles like a sedan, and doesn’t feel like you’re driving the team bus.
We had driven the previous-generation 5 before, but never for an extended period of time. We were anxious to see if this mini family hauler had staying power–or if we would become increasingly annoyed by its shortcomings. Over the course of 12 months, we drove the 5 on several road trips (hello, Smoky Mountains!) and through a variety of weather conditions, amassing 14,717 miles. The result? We liked the 5 so much that we granted it a Best Buy Award and rated it a perfect 10 for “Value within Class.” Heck, one editor was so enamored with the 5 that he went out and bought one.
The 2012 Mazda 5 comes with one engine, a 157-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. The 5 can be paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, which is rarely selected but makes for an enticing starting price at $ 19,195. Our test vehicle came with a 5-speed automatic transmission, a $ 1,000 option.
Our tester was the Touring model. Though it’s one step up from the base Sport, Touring lacks some minivan creature comforts. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is the most “luxurious” item it adds to the base. Our car came with one standalone option (a rear bumper guard) as well as the Moonroof and Audio Package (power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, satellite radio). The retail price for our tester was $ 23,180.
The 5’s engine may seem small for a 3-row vehicle, but it got the job done. Though the car was not especially quick, it was responsive from a stop and in around-town driving. It was reasonably peppy on the highway too, though passing maneuvers required plenty of throttle input. The automatic shifted smoothly and provided timely downshifts.
The EPA rates the 5 at 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. We averaged 25.2 mpg overall, 5-7 mpg better than what we got with three current-generation V6 minivans (and 2.5 mpg better than the 4-cylinder Toyota Sienna minivan).
Test drivers were impressed with the 5’s ride/handling balance. Ride: “Supple suspension gives a well-modulated ride that’s at once comfortable and communicative,” stated one editor. Handling: “The steering is wonderful, and the car is about as light on its feet as you can expect from something that resembles a minivan,” reported another.
“Sporty simplicity” summed up the cabin’s décor. Front-seat passengers were generally comfortable, but they had some issues: not enough legroom for our 6-foot-6 driver; a high dashtop that might bother short drivers. Power seat adjustment is not offered on the 5.
The comfort level worsened as you moved toward the rear. Second-row seats were too low and “uncomfortably upright,” while the 3rd row was “strictly kiddieland.” However, one tester was amazed at what he could squeeze into the 5 after folding down the 2nd- and 3rd-row seats: “I was able to fit a full set of 1970s-vintage Corvette tires and a separate pair of 14 × 7 mag wheels with some room to spare.”
Almost all of our test drivers commended the 5’s practical merits. One editor summed it up: “There’s nothing else on the market that matches the Mazda 5’s cargo/passenger capability, nimble handling, decent fuel economy, and affordability.” A family of five on a tight budget should consider this Mazda over the pricier minivans–especially if the youngest child can fit comfortably in kiddieland.
A 2011 Kia Optima EX joined our extended-use fleet last spring and quickly became a staff favorite for long trips. It not only had a roomy interior and comfortable ride, but was also easy on gas. The icing on the cake was a long list of luxury equipment at a bargain price: navigation, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, cooled glovebox, and dual-zone automatic climate controls.
Kia redesigned the Optima for the 2011 model year. This car and its platform mate, Hyundai Sonata, have a history of offering an impressive amount of features for the buck, and we were curious to see if the new Optima followed suit. We were pleased to find out it offers many compelling features, and that put it over the top to earn our Consumer Guide Best Buy award.
Optima is offered with a 200-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine or a 274-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four. Kia also sells a hybrid Optima. We chose the 2.4 with a 6-speed automatic transmission that carried EPA estimates of 24 mpg city and 34 highway.
Engine: 200-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Total Miles Driven: 13,491 miles
CG Observed Fuel Economy: 25.51 mpg
Base Price: $ 22,495
Major Options: Technology Package (Navigation system with rearview camera and Sirius traffic), Infinity audio system–8 speakers, EX Premium Package (Panoramic sunroof, power front passenger’s seat, driver’s seat memory, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel)
Price as Tested: $ 27,440
Problems During Test: None
Our Optima EX’s $ 22,495 base price included leather upholstery, USB port, wireless cell-phone link, keyless access and starting, and universal garage door opener. To this we added the $ 2,000 Technology Package (navigation, rearview camera) and a $ 2,250 Premium Package (driver-seat memory, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled front seats, and heated rear seats). The last four items of the Premium Package are not often available on some luxury cars and seldom offered on rival popular-priced midsized sedans. One tester noted, “I continue to be amazed by the refinement and features-per-dollar the Optima offers. Nowhere in this class can you get a car with a navigation system, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, and panoramic roof for $ 30,000, much less the $ 27,500 for our test example.” Including destination charge, our Optima came to a reasonable as-tested price of $ 27,440.
It was more than Optima’s equipment list that impressed CG’s testers. The ride was smooth and generally well controlled. Handling was sportier than most mainstream midsized sedans. We also found the Optima EX’s 2.4-liter engine peppy in all situations. One driver said, “It is also a decent driver’s car, extremely rare in this ‘transportation appliance’ class. It handles reasonably well and is relatively responsive, especially the 4-cylinder.”
Over almost 13,500 miles we averaged 25.5 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. That was less than projected by the EPA, but still respectable for such a roomy sedan. The Optima’s 18.5-gallon tank and good gas mileage meant a long distance between fill ups. One tester commented, “Despite some high-speed shenanigans on Michigan’s highways, the car still returned 31.4 mpg, requiring me to fill up only once on the journey.”
There were a few negatives. Although generally smooth riding, some thought the suspension unsettled at times. A driver noted, “…this Optima is simply not as composed over sharp bumps as its class rivals.” We found the engine less refined than the best in class, although it was quiet at cruise.
The Optima is missed. It was comfortable, yet still entertaining to drive. And our Optima EX upheld Kia’s tradition of features-per-dollar value. One driver summed it up, “Whenever I get into this car, my passengers always think it’s more expensive than it is. The fact that this Optima is loaded with premium features (backup camera, leather, and dual sunroof are my favorites) and only stickers in the mid-20s makes this car very appealing.” This midsize car’s sales have grown, and after a year in our long-term EX model, we understand why.
Let your child discover the wonderful world of wheels with Xavier Finkley’s newest book “What’s the Wheelie-O?”. This the the perfect children’s picture book for kids ages 1-5 who love cars, trucks and other modes of transportation. With a wide variety of wheels to discover, you child will want to know “What’s the Wheelie-O?”.
***Check out Xavier Finkley’s other children’s picture books “Epic Tails”, “If Your Brother Stinks…” and “Benny’s Boogers”. All three have been on the Amazon Kind