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.

Rue Des Beaux Arts Sunset

Rue Des Beaux Arts at sunset from Rue de Seine. L'Hôtel is at the far end.

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.

L'Hotel Front

The discreet front of L'Hôtel. It's easy to miss.

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.

The six storey L'Hotel Atrium

Incredible interior. Couldn't find any information about the architect, or why it was built this way.

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.

Oscar Wilde Plaque

Many stars have stayed here, but L'Hôtel will always be associated with Oscar Wilde. What was scandalous in England, was fine in Paris. Other than dying without paying the bill!

Borges Plaque

By the time Borges was staying here, he was completely blind. But still writing.

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.

Jorge_Luis_Borges_Hotel

Jorge Luis Borges on the medallion in the lobby.....

Floor L'Hotel Lobby

Floor hasn't changed. Marlene feels the ghost of Jorge Luis behind her.

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.

L'Hotel Lobby Le Restaurant

The alcove bar is to the left and right with Le Restaurant straight through. Very boutique!

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!

Wilde Medallion

The man who had nothing to declare but his reputation.

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