Deadly Hotels

by Ralph Martin

L'HÔTEL, Paris

These days, the fab L'Hôtel (see slideshow), on Paris's Left Bank, is as far from a stained-floral-bedspread overdose motel as you can get. Not so, however, when Oscar Wilde lay in his death throes, which ended on November 30, 1900. One of his last quips, "I am dying beyond my means," referred not to the hotel's elegance, but to his own total insolvency (there is an unpaid bill of 26,000 francs still outstanding). But Wilde's last days in room 16 are shrouded in mystery. Did he die of syphilis, or cerebral meningitis resulting from an ear infection? Did he willingly join the Catholic faith, or was he dragooned into accepting last rites by pushy priests? One thing is clear: The hotel's decor was not up to the aesthete's standards. His last words are reputed to be, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go." The hotel has transformed itself, meanwhile, into one of the most praised boutique hotels on the planet, full of rich brocades, wood paneling, and framed mementos of Wilde's stay. Though it took them another 100 years to finally change that wallpaper.

Tel: 33 1 44 41 99 00

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