Letter from Paris for Valentine’s Day

  Are you looking for a special place for a romantic stay in Paris? Thirza Vallois has some exquisite recommendations in the hotel section of her book Romantic Paris. Why not try the one that is simply named, L’Hôtel? Here is the excerpt about it, as it appears in Romantic Paris: On the night of November 29, 1900, Oscar Wilde died almost anonymously in this hotel, at the age of 46. It was a tragic ending, after the two-year ordeal in jail that destroyed his health. His wit, however, remained unimpaired to the end, as reflected by his last comment: "I am dying beyond my means." This note, along with an unpaid bill for 2643.40 francs, now hangs on the wall in his room, no. 23. Only Robin Ross, his devoted old friend, and "Bosie" Douglas, his demon, attended his funeral and followed his hearse to the Père Lachaise, alongside a handful of the hotel staff who left the note "To our tenant" on the wax bead wreath.   In 1984, another famous guest at the Hôtel, the Argentinean Jorges Luis Borges, left the following written homage: "This hotel… where one can’t find two identical rooms. It seems to have been sculpted by a cabinet-maker." Jean-Paul Besnard, the present owner of the Hôtel, took the "sculpture" one step further. For many years, he had dreamed of owning a hotel in his beloved St-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood. Thanks to serendipitous timing, this one was put on sale by Monsieur Dubucheron when Besnard was ready to buy it and lavish on it his boundless passion and imagination. As far as romance goes, it has few rivals. It starts at the reception with the Venus Cupid emblem. Or rather it starts way back four centuries ago when, legend has it, Queen Margot had a love nest on this site. Today each of the twenty rooms feels like a love nest, whatever its style, whatever its size. They are so eclectic that you’ll have to come back many times and try them all out. Nothing could be further apart than the voluptuous, opulent 19th-century boudoir that is Room 54 and the fresh Art Deco Room 36. The sunny, soft orange hue of the walls and the mirror-covered furniture that once belonged to the celebrated singer Mistinguett make this room a stunning period-piece. If you want a spectacular view and a fantastic terrace all for yourselves, book Room 62, la Cardinale. The old roofs of Paris and the belltower of St-Germain will be your backdrop. The public areas are just as eclectic and include a lobby filled with Jean Cocteau’s paintings, a cosy library, and a wonderful restaurant, Le Bélier. Downstairs, under a romantic vault, you may relax in the smoking room or luxuriate in the jacuzzi or sauna in the fitness club. The well, it is rumoured, was once used as a fridge by Queen Margot and her companions when they repaired to this hideaway. With so much going for the Hôtel, you will not be surprised to find out that it has been favoured by the grand and the mighty. Ava Gardner, Marcello Martroianni, Roman Polanski, Roberto de Niro, and Claudia Cardinale are among those who stayed here. L’Hôtel 13, rue des Beaux-Arts, 75006 Paris Tel: 01 44 41 99 00 Fax: 01 43 25 64 81 For further information as to where to stay, eat, shop and be entertained in the 9th arrondissement, look up Romantic Paris, by Thirza Vallois, published by Arris Books. To order your copies of Around and About Paris and Romantic Paris: http://www.thirzavallois.com And to read an interview with Thirza, click here.
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