This week I've been top of the top-tenned by blogs.com (thanks, Maitresse!) and have been staying at the top of one of the top hotels in Paris. I'm not paying, of course, as my personal finances are not - erm - personally top.
At the top of the 3e where the Marais is starting to give way to the Tati 10e, there is an unexpected hotel. It's rather silly. I mean as in the Coen brothers' definition of silly. You know in the movie about divorce with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones where concierge of 'Les Pantalons Rouges', Baron Krauss von Espy, goes on the stand in the divorce court and says,
"She said she wanted a very rich husband... She specificated a seelly man."
This is a hotel for the rich and possibly also for the silly. It’s a design hotel. They like you to know that. Immediately inside the door is a plastic crocodile. Round the corner is another. There are also several very decorative guests, correctly tall and clothed, correctly in Etro and Prada, talking into mobile phones. I pass them on my way to reception. They look cross.
I am guided, by a very charming concierge who insists that his English is not good, to a door in the wall.
“We go in here.” he says.
The door opens. I look inside.
It’s entirely dark. I wonder whether it is the service hatch. Nevertheless I go in.
Ah. It’s the lift. The doors close. No lights go on. Is it meant to be like this? Something sparkles faintly in the darkness. I think the walls are covered with beads, although I can’t be sure.
‘Welcome to the Moulin Rouge’, says the concierge.
“You press this button for your floor and this for the ground,” he tells me, indicating an upper and a lower button from a panel of six or so. I’m glad he showed me because, although I can see the buttons' outlines, the lift is too dark for me to see the numbers written on them.
We begin to ascend. I can still see the vague outline of my companion. Call me Anglo Saxon, but I do find being stuck in a pitch-black lift with a strange man vaguely disturbing.
The corridor to the rooms is so dark that I can’t see where to stick my finger in order to open the fingerprint-activated door (isn’t this the system they have in prisons?). Eventually I find a hole. This must be it. The concierge scans my finger. "Now, you try it." he says. But which finger did they scan? I try several. Eventually we get into my room.
It's big. It's at the top. That's good. It has three windows. I congratulate myself on this first amongst Paris hotels. I walk across the room to enjoy my temporary monopoly on that essential utility, piped hot and cold into all Paris apartments - though not necessarily enjoyed in greatest quantities by the wealthiest - white Parisian light.
The bedroom looks over the glass domed courtyard below ("At night, the light from it is
very sympathetic", says my guide). It’s a lovely view and I am reassured to see, on the
balcony of one of the apartments in the building opposite, a
rickety orange plastic beach chair. I hang onto this chair as evidence of a
reality I seem to have left behind, though the orange could be a ploy. It’s the
same orange as the rug in my room; the sort of orange beloved of designers who
like to make rubber chairs and inflatable egg cups.
They’re keen on black here. And white. The floor of my room is black slate. A fabulously enormous white bed rises up from it on a central platform. I stumble like a pilgrim as I approach it. There is a step in the black gulf of the floor which I have missed because I can’t see it. I pick myself up.
"You like it?"
"You would like to see the bathroom? It is very Philippe Stark influence. Influence – is that a good word?"
I notice that the egg-shaped loo, wall-mounted slightly too high for most girls. There is black toilet paper, waiting beside its white alternative. On the shelf, there’s a ‘barbapapa nostress’ – a squeezy toy you can press to relax. You have to pay for it, naturally.
"It is a boutique hotel," my guide explains, "so we have various items available."
I was under the impression that ‘boutique’ referred more to the size of the place, and its independent style, not to the fact that it sold things.
The hotel sells other overpriced toys: erotic candy, incense and lollipops. You can rent video games from reception and the largest category in its movie collection is fantasy and adventure. This may be less a hotel for playboys than for boys who like to play.
He makes for the door, but returns. "And this is how you operate the lights." He shows me a console by the bed. “You can change the colour.” He presses the button and a the room becomes a disco.
And he leaves me alone in my room. This is the bit I like. I like to look in the minibar, which I never use, and fiddle with the electrical equipment.
The problem with minimalism is that you need training to
operate the Bang and Olufsen system which is too minimalist to bother with the
usual kind of buttons. I press one and the cover of the cd player parts slowly into a pair of mechanical petals. I press play. Nothing happens. I press more buttons. The television switches itself on.
It is an expensive hotel (I am not paying). The sort of hotel, nevertheless, where they charge extra for breakfast, and where there is a 5€ charge for room-service. I leaf through the room-service menu and find interesting combinations
such as the Deluxe breakfast, which involves porridge, a club sandwich and a
glass of champagne and costs 50
As I return downstairs to search for a dinner in the Marais more suitable to my pouvoir d'achat, I hear a loud bang at the other end of the corridor. I can’t see what it is. I can only assume it is one of the other guests, or perhaps a room-service waiter, falling over in the dark.
In the reception rooms, I find the plastic crocodiles prowling everywhere as though, while I was upstairs, they had escaped and bred in the Paris sewers then returned to the hotel through the drains. They’re on tables, in corners hidden behind potted plants, lying curled around speakers...
I pass more guests in the lobby. They are paying their bills, checking out. They can afford this place, but they don't want to look it. They're wearing open-necked denim shirts over their tans. They wheel globetrotter cabin luggage. They all look rich. They all look pissed-off