“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.” — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), at Hôtel d’Alsace, a pension house, now L’Hôtel
It was not the wallpaper that went; it was Mr. Wilde. We had the honor of spending five nights in the very room where Mr. Wilde spent his last years, following his release from a two-year prison term at Reading Gaol. And, then, because the wallpaper was going nowhere, Wilde passed into eternity from this room.
Room No. 16 is decorated based on illustrations and descriptions of Wilde’s London dining room with wood paneling and scenes of peacocks strutting their way across the upper half of the walls on tooled and heavily impasto green leather. Some of these flamboyant birds seem to be kissing; because they are peacocks, without a peahen in sight, this nod to “the love that dare not speak its name” is welcome (see photo #5). The heavy wood furniture and marble-topped tables (one with a large flat-screen TV on one) fit the English gentleman’s club feeling. The true test of any hotel accommodation is how well you sleep. The comfortable mattress helps to pass this test with an A+.
There is a small, planted terrace where we enjoyed our daily breakfast, courtesy of room service, each morning. At 18 euros per serving, we split the ample portions of croissants, baguettes, jams, cereal, coffee, orange juice, milk, and yogurt; we were satisfied. The Oscar Wilde Room is at the rear, facing north; it did not get too warm during the warm Parisian summer of 2008; the air conditioning worked well. I would suggest anyone considering staying here in the summer to reserve a north-facing, rear room (numbers 14, 16, 24, 26, 34, 36, 44, 46) to avoid the heat of the sun and the heat reflected from the buildings across Rue des Beaux-Arts.
With only 20 rooms or suits, L’Hôtel falls into the boutique category. It is a pricey treat for a special occasion. Mick Jagger, Johnny Depp, and Keanu Reeves have all stayed here. L’Hotel trades on its historical association with Mr. Wilde. Photographs of the late 19th-century playwright and letters written by him to friends decorate the lobby; his likeness graces the very heavy key fob, as well as a plaque outside the front door. When Wilde lived here the establishment was called Hôtel l’Alsace, where the author of “The Importance of Being Ernest” left an unpaid tab in excess of 26,000 francs. Letters to Wilde asking for payment are framed and displayed in Room #16.
The public areas are sumptuously decorated in a Second Empire style, with plush green and red velvets, trims of gold tassels, pedestal tables with black marble tops, brass wall sconces, cameo medallions, striped wallpaper edged with classical scene borders, even the publicly available computer tucked in a corner of the lobby’s sitting area looks right at home. All this over-the-top fantasy décor comes to us by way of designer Jacques Garcia.
Following your refreshing, hour-long dip in the basement pool, with a stop in the steam room, you can slip into one of the plush bathrobes that comes with each room. You will need to reserve the use of this spa area with the front desk; massages, by reservation too, are also available. The complementary bath gel, bath oil, shampoo and conditioner are quite nice.
The young, attractive staff is very attentive. I had reserved the room directly with the hotel because I wanted to be certain that we booked “la chambre Oscar Wilde,” therefore I was in touch with the hotel regularly. My e-mails were always answered promptly, including my request that L’Hôtel reserve us a table for diner at Le Jules Verne, the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower (see von.otter’s Paris Restaurant Tip : “Le Jules Verne: Dining in the Sky” for more). L’Hôtel does have its own restaurant, rated one star by Michelin. We would have eaten there but it was closed for the very civilized, traditional French, summer, month-long vacation.
Unique Quality: The location of L’Hôtel is ideal. Situated in the middle of the 6th arrondissement on Rue des Beaux-Arts so much of Paris is within easy walking distance. The River Seine, to the north, is only few blocks away, with the Musée du Louvre a quick walk across Pont des Artists. To the south, at the corner of Boulevard St-Germain and Rue Bonaparte are the famous Café des Deux Magots and Café de Fleurs. Across the street from Café des Deux Magots is the church of St-Germain des Pres, as well as the St-Germain Metro stop of the yellow #4 line.