A boarding house :
Party to make fortune in Louisiana after the rout of Waterloo and the Sainte-Hélene exile,
then on return in strong Paris of its American success,
this old grognard of Napoleon, dismayed by misery to which his
former comrades in arms were reduced, decides to found a boarding house :
The appointment of St-Germain-des-Prés : During 20's and 30's, then after the second world war, the hotel is the place of meeting of the most known jazzmen : Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bud Powell, Lester Young, Chet Baker, Mal Waldron, Archi Shep, Mal Waldron, ... like artists in love with St-Germain-des-près Like : Dennis Oppenheim, Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jim Morrison, Juliette Greco, Keith Haring, Lester Young, Mal Waldron, Miles Davis, Nam Jun Paik, Simone de Beauvoir, Tarantino, Boris Vian, Bertrand Tavernier, Ernest Hemingway, Lester Young, Henri Miller, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Camille Desmoulins, Annabel Buffet, Anne-Marie Cazalis, ..
Today still, several personalities taste with the modern charms of the hotel which preserved a savour of antan.
An Online Start-Up Finds a Home in a 'Happening' Hotel in Paris
Sartre, Bardot, The Stones ... ViaFrance.com?
By Kevin J. Delaney in the Wall Street Journal Europe
Paris The Hotel La Louisiane in Paris's fabled St.Germain quarter is likely the world's first inn-cubator. The two-star tourist hotel is already home to one French Internet start-up and expects two more to check in shortly. Open most doors off La Louisiane's strikingly narrow hallways and you'll find standard two-star hotel fare, the 1950s-style beige textured wallpaper and well-hornbedspreads familiar to budget travellers the world over. But room 39 offers something different. The dated wallpaper is the same and there is a sink corner, but this small room is crammed with desks and computer monitors. Since February, it has been the headquarters of ViaFrance.com, an online directory of French hotels and cultural events. ViaFrance, which uses five rooms in La Louisiane, originally saw the hotel as temporary lodging, but now it is there indefinitely. Company staffers post notices of Paris concert and festivals an a wall in the lobby for the hotel guests. They use a cramped open mezzanine above the front desk and the hotel's breakfast room for meetings. "The neighbourhood is very nice and the location is original," says Thomas Lefort, one of ViaFrance's founders. "We would have a hard time moving into a business complex after this." Soon, ViaFrance's staff should have company. The hotel's owner, Xavier Blanchot, is negotiating leases with an Internet tourism portal ans a group of Linux software specialists. He says he expects the house three or four start-ups on the premises and expands the 80-room hotel into neighboring apartments to accommodate them as they grow. (Tourist are still welcome, of course; double room are available for 588 French francs (€90) a night.) La Louisiane's New Economy tenants are but the latest example of the Internet kudzu effect, with start-ups, often young and liberated from business preconceptions, sprouting up in unlikely, and even previously undesired, locations. There's a similar phenomenon at work across the Seine in a neighborhood dubbed The Silicon Sentier. Internet concerns have moved en masse into a red-light district that cut's through the qarter.
A colorfull History
La Louisiane does have its New Economy virtues. The hotel is wired for high-speed Internet over cable. But, added to that, the place has a history of attracting a cutting-edge crowd. The hotel, built in 1823 by an officer in Napoleon's army who made his fortune trading animal skins in the Louisiana territory, has been home to Jean-Paul Sartre (room 10) ans Simone de Beauvoir (room 68), who spend their days writing in the nearby Cafe de Flore. Over the years, its guests have included Ernest Hemingway, Quentin Tarantino, Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and The Rolling Stones. Producers of the 1986 Oscar winner "Round Midnight", which recounts the story of Bud Powell, an American jazz musician and former La Louisiane resident, built a studio mockup of the hotel and filmed parts of the movie on the premises. Mr. Blanchot's father, Steve, was a professional dancer for part of his life, and in running the hotel he accepted paintings - a number of which still hang in the stairway - in lieu of payments from many of its artist guests. "You had people like Sartre here in the '50s and '60s. It was a happening place," says Steven Schwartz, an English and linguistics professor at California State University at San Bernardino, who has stayed at the hotel nearly every year since 1963. "It still is a happening place. It's just a different kind of software." The current owner was responsible for the New Economy twist. Mr. Blanchot, 32 years olrd, is chairman of the supervisory board of Internet Telecom, a Paris-based provider of Internet and telecommunications services. He inherited the hotel - which his family has owned since his grandfather, a farmer from France's Jura region, bought it in 1932 - following the death of is father about a year ago. The decision to install ViaFrance was a relatively simple one. Mr.Blanchot holds a 10% stake in the in the company and offered it temporary quarters over the winters. The hotel has hosted businesses in spare rooms in the past, including an architectural firm that once inhabited the top floor. ViaFrance initially expected to stay for a few weeks. But its staff was happy enough working out of the hotel, and a few weeks stretched into a few months. Now they have no plans to leave. The idea of Internet corporate lodging took hold in Mr. Blanchot's mind.
"The Next El Dorado's"
His drive to expand La Louisiane's Internet tenantsis fuelled in part by a vision of the surrounding streets as one of Paris's New Economy neighborhoods. At first glance, tha goal appears improbable. For starters, there are far more "Let's go" travel guides tha laptops aking their way around the quarter - the tourist trade dominates the area. And what commerce there is in place is decidedly Old Economy. The hotel is situated across a butcher shop and a cheese shop. For years its lobby reeked of seafood, thanks to a fish store next door. Rue de Seine, where is located, is know for upscale art galleries. And real-estate prices in the district are among the highest in Paris. But Mr. Blanchot is undaunted. "This is the next Internet neighborhood and the reason is simple: All of the publishing houses are here," he says. Indeed, La Louisiane is within blocks of Fayard, Gallimard, Actes Sud, and dozens of other literary editors. "Content is the next El Dorado of the Internet," says Mr. Blanchot. There's a growing corps of online types who check in at La Louisiane when they're in Paris for meetings or extended business stays, including one of ViaFrance's staffers and a Greek business angel who has invested in the company. But most of the clientele has no idea of the hotel's double life. None of the tourist quizzed there recently - part of a steady stream from the U.S., Germany, Japan and elsewhere - knew anything about the start-up upstairs. "You can do an Internet company anywhere," says Jane McGee, a guest from London. "It's a bit bizarre nonetheless: Why do it in a hotel?" ViaFrance's managers say they occasionally wind up greeting guests lost on their way back to their rooms from breakfast, and insit there's a certain synergy to these chance encounters. " Everyone is a potential client of ViaFrance," says Caroline Dero, the company's chief executive. The downside is that potential business partners and other people scheduled for meetings in ViaFrance's offices sometimes fail turn up. These people have arrived at the hotel and then left right away, thinking they had the wrong address. Mr. Lefort says: "Now we tell people, 'Don't worry, it's a hotel - it's normal.'"
"Between the wars, in his room at the Hôtel La Louisiane, Cyril Connoly used to breed ferrets that he fed on bloody pieces of liver procured from the horse butcher's. These ferrets would chase after oranges, eggs and ping-pong balls and wore harnesses with bells on." And why not? as Desnos would say.
After staying in an hotel between the Avenue du Maine and the Montparnasse Cemetery, an hotel on the Rue Vavin, the Hôtel Mistral and a hovel on the Rue Dauphine, Simone de Beauvoir was recommended the Hôtel La Louisiane on Rue de Seine by fellow regulars at the Café de Flore and checked in in October 1943.
"I'd never lodged anywhere that fulfilled my dreams as that place did; I would have happily stayed there for the rest of my life. At the other end of the corridor, Sartre had a tiny room where he lived in a state of asceticism that never ceased to shock his visitors: he didn't even have any books."
In the spring of '44, when the Allies landed in Normandy, some of the hotel guests used to go and sunbathe on the roof terrace. "I couldn't bear the hot sun beating down on the hard cement, " wrote Beauvoir, "but in the evenings, I liked to go up there and sit and read or chat. " In 1945, an Egyptian writer came to Paris, to the land whose language he could read and write. The writer was Albert Cossery, and he had one thing on his mind: seducing pretty young women. He moved into an apartment building in Montparnasse, but soon tired of the constant to-ing and fro-ing between his lodgings and the hotel room in Saint-Germain where he took his conquests and eventually moved into the Louisiane in 1951. He would only write when he had absolutely nothing better to do. As far as he was concerned, the pleasures of living were far more important than writing, which wasn't a source of pleasure. He had no possessions and spent his time idling: "You have to earn idleness…If other people like working, then let them get on with it", he said somewhat cynically and philosophically.
"But by idleness I don't mean just doing nothing, but thinking and reading. Reading is the most extraordinary thing in the world." Fastidious, elegant and suspicious of reason, Cossery has lived at the La Louisiane in the same manner for the past forty years. He has only changed rooms once and his present room remains Spartan in the extreme. All he has are a few books (the best and his own publications) and some clothes (the cupboards and suitcases are full), but nothing else, not even the sculpture of a woman Giacometti gave him. He has gone from being a maverick in Cairo to a maverick in Paris. The characters in his novels, the Men God Forgot, the Proud Beggars, The Lazy Ones, are anti-heroes, devoid of any ambition. They have all the time in the world, the eternity of each moment that goes by. They are in no hurry. Free of ambition, their lives are simple, clear. Left my the wayside? Forgotten by God? They find the answer in the nobility of distress, and seek refuge in drugs and idleness, Oriental-style, knowing that misery is eternal and that any attempt to fight it is futile. The only way out is by acknowledging and accepting what is irremediable. Those who read books accept this and use idleness as their defence. Life in a hotel is ideal for those seeking freedom and idleness. Cossery rises late, goes for a walk, stops at the Café de Flore, picks up a girl and gives her his spare clothes and books. Elegance is of crucial importance. As he puts it, "Morality is aesthetic". He chose the Louisiane because models and actresses stayed there. His two-year attempt at communal living was a disastrous experiment he will never repeat. He will remain free, without any baggage, and his only possession is the manuscript he's working on. If he died, he would stop writing. "Why all these questions? " "Because I'm writing a book on literary hotels." "I'm the only person who lives in an hotel! You'll never find enough material to write a book! Even Matzneff, who lives in the room across the hall, has a pied-à-terre somewhere else and only uses the hotel for pleasure. Yes, I'm the only writer who lives in a hotel! Who else is there?! "
(from HOTELS LITTERAIRES by Nathalie de Saint Phalle, Edition Quai Voltaire, 1991)