All That Glitters: L’Hotel

L'Hotel, entrance

02 November 2013

Sarah Lubala

As a travel enthusiast, this writer is keenly interested in all things bright and beautiful. Accommodation is no exception. Some may call it snobbery, but others (and I do hope that those are in the majority) recognise the need to travel comfortably. Now, I am by no means encouraging you, dear reader, to embrace the spendthrift within you, but I do recognise the desire to travel in style. As such, I am a huge proponent of boutique hotels. For those of you who have been living under the proverbial rock, let me clue you in.

‘Boutique hotel’ is a term popularized in North America and the United Kingdom to describe small stylish hotels, typically situated in a fashionable urban location. Considered among the first boutique hotels are The Blake’s Hotel in South Kensington, London and the Bedford, a San Francisco hotel. The Morgans Hotel in Murray Hill, New York, is also considered by many to be one of the originals, as is the Hotel Village Court in San Francisco. One that may interest you is the five star luxury establishment simply named ‘L’Hotel’, located in St. Germain-des-Prés — the heart of the Rive Gauche — within easy reach of the Ecole des Beaux Arts and various art galleries, cafés, and boutiques.

“Either this wallpaper goes or I do,” the famous last words of Oscar Wilde (albeit paraphrased), uttered by the prolific writer as he lay on his deathbed in this very hotel some hundred years ago. The fixtures are more opulent now then they were when Wilde was lodged there. In the 1900s this swanky inn was little more than a hovel and called Hotel L’Alsace. The 20-room accommodation, which was the heart of Parisian society in the swinging sixties, has since been remodeled by famed designer Jacques Garcia and now encompasses a world of aesthetics.

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Looking out over the Rue de Bueax Arts, the small ‘Mignon’ rooms are furnished in 18thcentury Napoleon III style décor and include damask wall coverings and Japanese-inspired bamboo furniture.

From the 18 sq meters ‘Bijoux’ rooms one may survey a quiet courtyard and the rooms’s interiors are decorated in in a dramatic Baroque and IndoChinese mode. The more pricey ‘Grand’ style rooms are 35 sq meters and their windows open up onto a view of the Rue de Beaux Arts. The rooms are decoratively inspired by the eastern voyages of the famed novelist and naval officer, Saint Petersbourg and they each reflect the grand aesthetics of 19th-century Russia and the Belle Epoque. The 35 sq m more cost-concious ‘Chic’ rooms are all decorated in honour of famous historic characters — Marco Polo, Mistinguett, Mata Hari, Reine Hortense and of course L’Hôtel’s most noted resident, Oscar Wilde. Finally one ambles into the apartments, named after Louis-Antoine, Cardinal of Noailles. The largest suite is 45 sq meters and includes a terrace and a view of the city’s rooftops and the bell tower of Saint Germain-des Prés. The décor is inspired by the Cardinal’s robe with heavy red velvet drapes and silk fabric covering the walls.

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This hotel is for those amoung you looking to experience something of the past. Wilde is but one of many celebrities who found shelter under L’Hotel’s roof in its heyday. L’Hotel’s guest registry includes visits from such personalities as surrealist Spanish painter Salvador Dali, Princess Grace, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burt. Now, while I find this particular boutique hotel too ornate for my taste, it does offer a more personal service than large hotels. A boutique hotel’s intimate size produces its characteristic cosy feeling and heady ambiance. Boutique hotels strive to be utterly idiosyncratic in character and L’Hotel is no exception. This Parisian gem, its rooms thick with history, is the prefect getaway destination for the literary and history buffs amoung you.

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