Oscar Wilde, Jorge Luis Borges both slept at L’Hôtel in Paris
Paris has always been a magnet for expatriates. Artists, musicians, writers, bohemians… all have been drawn to Paris for its appreciation and embrace of fine arts, its beauty, food, wine, women, and liberal approach to life.
It was the latter that attracted Oscar Wilde towards the end of his flamboyant life. After being incarcerated for two years of hard labour in Great Britain for having an affair with the wrong man (Lord Alfred Douglas whose father was the Marquess of Queensbury, today known as the one who created the rules for modern boxing), Wilde fled Great Britain for Italy and France, finally settling down in Paris at a flea bag hotel, Hotel d’Alsace at 13 Rue Des Beaux Arts, in what is now the very fashionable and expensive 6th arrondisement.
Before dying of cerebral meningitis in utter poverty in Room 16 on November 30, 1900, he uttered two of the many bon mots for which he’s become famous. He noted he was “dying beyond his means”, not having paid his hotel bill for months, and “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.”
Today, Hotel d’Alsace is known simply as L’Hôtel and is an intimate 4-star luxury hotel with an extraordinary interior. We had to go see it.
It’s very discreet, in a tight row of buildings. We took a few pictures before being discouraged by the concierge. If money is no object, about $500 a night, this is a perfect boutique hotel in a wonderful Saint-Germain-des-Prés location.
There are plaques celebrating both Oscar Wilde and Jorge Luis Borges by the front door. The Borges connection is interesting. He stayed at L’Hôtel numerous times in his travels, specifically, because when he was nine(!!!), he translated Wilde’s The Happy Prince into Spanish. Allegedly, Borges wanted to die where Wilde died. Didn’t happen, Borges died and was buried in Switzerland.
Go see the L’Hôtel site, fantasize about dinner in the Michelin one-star Le Restaurant. Check out the intimate bar with original Cocteau drawings on the wall next to letters from Wilde to his friends. Check out the virtual tour of the bar on the L’Hôtel site. Worth it! Pick one of the twenty theatrical rooms. All are build around the six-storey oval atrium.
If you choose the ultra-British room 16, you’ll find framed letters from the hotel management asking Wilde to please pay up, along with a copy of the final unpaid bill, a total of 2,643 gold francs, about $25,000 today. Now, that’s going out in style!
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