PARIS, CITY OF LIGHTS
Pigalle, Place Vendôme,
Place de la Concorde
Paris: such a short name for such a great journey! One could accomplish a world tour in a single city, since Paris had hosted the representatives of over thirty countries for the Exposition Universelle of 1855. That year, the world discovered locomotives, Samuel Colt’s six-shooter revolver, as well as the Champs-Élysées and Avenue Montaigne. It was also the year the Hôtel du Louvre opened. Camille Pissarro stayed there a few years later, delighted to be able to paint Paris from the window of his room, which offered a splendid view of Avenue de l’Opéra. The hotel Le Meurice, superbly located on Rue de Rivoli, was already open; and the Hôtel Bedford was founded by a Russian countess who gave it an English name because Great Britain was in fashion. Moreover, the first luxury travelers were Englishmen. They flocked to visit French cultural sites, loved spa towns, invented guide books, and all wanted to see Paris.
Since the Exposition Universelle, people came to Paris from every corner of the world. Artists, writers, men of the world, dandies, high-class floozies, crowned heads, transatlantic crossers, and mysterious characters of undetermined nationality would meet up in the chic restaurants, hotel foyers, cafés, and Montmartre brasseries, where Hemingway hung out with Henry Miller and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Le Bristol opened in 1925, in the middle of a decade that brought fame to Josephine Baker and the Surrealists. Stefan Zweig was in Paris in 1922 and met Rilke there.
In those days, people could live in a hotel, and anything seemed possible. Wealthy foreigners moved into suites that they decorated as they wished with their own furniture, objects, and souvenirs, for these refined bohemians could not imagine living in an apartment. It was a life described by Gaston-Louis Vuitton in his anecdote-packed memoirs. At the Hôtel Chatham on Rue Daunou, for example, a shop boy went to collect payment for a bill from an American customer. He knocked on the door of the room; someone answered, “Come in.” To his shock, a totally naked woman was standing in the room. The boy quickly closed the door, knocked again, louder this time, but again heard, “Come in.” Had she dressed? Not in the least. She took her bill in the nude and went to get the money in the room next door. Another anecdote, about Hôtel de Hollande on Rue de la Paix this time: one of Louis Vuitton’s excellent customers always stayed at this hotel although he could have opted for a much more luxurious establishment. People wondered at this; they asked him why. The reason was simple: he was known here as Mr. Witney and not a room number as at most hotels. The best reward for any elegant traveler.
“Hôtel Mirabeau on Rue de la Paix.
Another amusing anecdote took place here. It is about an Egyptian. This Egyptian only had his laundry done in Cairo, and every week a servant had to go to Cairo with a trunk full of dirty washing and bring it back with clean linen. He had two servants who made the trips back and forth. He asked my father to make him a large trunk, measuring 1.75 m long.
My father said to him:
‘– But Your Excellency, do you realize what you are ordering? Such an item is unthinkable.
– Mr. Vuitton, I know what I am ordering, I am accustomed to ordering.
– Very good, Your Excellency, but allow me to make you a dummy in plain wood so that you can see the size of it.
– There is no need for that,’ he replied.
My father said: ‘No, I won’t make your trunks without you having seen what you are ordering.
– Alright, I will come tomorrow.’
The next day, the prince returned, looked at the trunk and very indifferently said: ‘Make it ten centimeters taller.’ My father made the trunks, but when they were delivered to the Hôtel Mirabeau, they couldn’t get
the trunks into the room. So the prince came back
the next day, and said: ‘Cut the trunks.’”
– GASTON-LOUIS VUITTON, Causerie de Monsieur G.L. Vuitton au dîner du Vieux papier
About World Tour
Louis Vuitton and Editions Xavier Barral published an original travel book: World Tour, a genuine journey around the world in twenty-one stopovers with 1,000 hotel labels from the collection constituted by Gaston-Louis Vuitton. Formerly stuck to the luggage of travelers, these small posters tell us their fabulous adventure and inspire an initiatory journey, a Grand Tour back to the mythical past of the Art of travel.
This fascinating volume by well-known travel writer Francisca Mattéoli draws on his collection to pay tribute to the most famous hotels of the world, evoking 21 world destinations through texts, illustrations, archive documents and quotations from famous travelers.
Learn more about Louis Vuitton’s World Tour.
Images via Louis Vuitton