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the lux score explained
As you wander along the cobbled Rue des Beaux-Arts in the stylish St-Germain-des-Prés, area of the Left Bank, it’s easy to pick out L’Hotel – a pewter ram’s head hangs over the heavy carved doors. From that point you know you are in for something special. Step into the small foyer and you soon discover there’s something captivating about the hotel – the words decadently delicious spring to mind, thanks to the lavish decor created by Jacques Garcia.
A tiny velvet-padded lift takes you to your floor, or for those who aren’t keen on small spaces, you can climb the spiral staircase. If you are on the sixth floor take a look over the bannister – the magnificent oval atrium is impressive.
L’Hotel was originally part of the palace of La Reine Margot before being transformed into a Pavilion d’Amour – a pavilion of love- in the early 19th century.
Wilde took up residence at the end of the 19th century and lived at L’Hotel then called Hotel d’Alsace until his death, famously claiming to ‘live above his means’. He died heavily in debt and owed 2643 gold francs and the cost of 42 candles, 11 bottles of milk and three bottles of lemonade.
The framed bill urging him to pay up is a feature of the hotel’s Oscar Wilde suite, which is decorated in traditional English decor and partly modelled on Wilde’s London dining room.
Each opulent suite has its own theme with a flamboyant décor.
The 20 suites are spread over six floors and are all different yet have in common rich fabrics, original artworks, shabby chic chandeliers, gilded mirrors and antiques that create an atmosphere of sheer joie de vie.
Some have large bathrooms and sitting rooms with city or courtyard views complete with large LCD screens, DVD, iPod docking stations, free WIFI, in-room safes and mini-bars.
I open the red door to our Marco Polo suite which certainly has that wow factor with two huge vases taking centre stage. I am immediately immersed in oriental splendour.
Even more so when I’m told it’s much favoured by actor Sean Penn.
There’s a touch of the bohemian about the décor that makes you want to soak it up and enjoy the moment.
Other suites are decorated in everything from Napoleon III style decor to gold damask wall coverings, Japanese-inspired bamboo prints and decadent leopard print wall coverings.
Other 35 sq m rooms pay tribute to historic characters including Mistinguett, Mata Hari, Reine Hortense as well as Oscar Wilde.
Wilde lived in Room 16 and just a month before he died, he is quoted as saying, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go”.
It is the most requested room and features a peacock mural and private terrace.
Dining is another treat here with dishes as dramatic as the décor. Le Restaurant, which earned a Michelin star in 2008, offers superb French cuisine created by chef, Julien Montbabut.
We settle in on the velvet chairs around a tiny table with starched white linen and our feast begins.
The menu features everything from frogs legs served in a garlic bouillon to pigeon and veal sweetbread.
Each course is exquisitely presented and the John Dory served with crystallised lemon, cauliflower and broccoli is amazing.
For a sweet finale it’s Lichee – Eau de rose with jelly, Japan pearl and sorbet.
Service is exceptional and of so French.
The Bar on the ground floor adjacent to Le Restaurant, captures the charm and discreet glamour of the Left Bank.
It’s a favourite haunt of artists, film stars and hip Parisians with little nooks to sit quietly and watch who comes and goes.
The cocktail list includes a nod to Oscar Wilde and there’s a Dorian Gray cocktail made with
Bombay Sapphire Gin, Estragon, Sirop de Passion, Jus d’Ananas and Bitter Rhubarbe – that packs a punch.
In the past L’Hotel was the haunt of Princess Grace, Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, while today showbiz stars Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Mick Jagger, Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino often drop in.
Hammam & Pool
“Don’t forget to book in for the swimming pool – it’s an experience,” the concierge says and he’s right.
Dressed in robes we follow the spiralling stone staircase to the former vaults and find a small Roman-style pool and tiled hammam sauna – just for two – complete with soft flickering candlelight.Use of the steam room and pool is complimentary for guests.
L’Hotel is ideally located and close to the Louvre Museum, Museum d’Orsay, the famous cafes – Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore, Notre Dame, Museum Les Beaux Arts, River Seine cruises, Jardin des Tuileries, the Opera Garnier and the Jazz Quarter.
A Special Moment
I’m sipping a Born to be Wilde cocktail made from Bacardi Reserva, Basilic, Miel, Citron Vert and Tabasco at the tiny bar.
It seems appropriate to imbibe the heady mix as I sit back in a plush velvet armchair, gazing at a photograph of Wilde, who took his final breath here on November 30, 1900.
The walls in the lobby lounge are decorated with art by Jean Cocteau and letters and photographs of Oscar Wilde.
Just as we are leaving, I am sure I spot Sean Penn heading to the bar and I suddenly want to rush back for another cocktail – a Born to be Wilde of course.
13 Rue des Beaux Arts
Phone 33 1 44 41 99 00
The hotel is 20 km from Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport. Nearest train station: Gare du Nord.
Rail Europe simplifies train travel in Europe. Purchase a Europass and book reservations before you leave Australia, raileurope.com.au
For Paris Tourism information visit www.parisinfo.com
L’Hotel is a member of The Small Luxury Hotels of the World. For bookings and more information phone or visit www.slh.com/LHotel