Hotel Lutetia has been in the news a lot recently, since they are doing a complete renovation, auctioning most of the historic hotel’s original furnishings, including the lobby’s massive front desk and Art Deco furniture. It took me back to the week I stayed there last year, when I commuted out to Nanterre, in the Paris suburbs, to do Lilac Girls research in Caroline Ferriday’s archive there.
Staying at the lovely old Art Nouveau hotel was part pleasure, since the location is one of the best in Paris, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres–close to Luxembourg Gardens and the Louvre, steps from some of the best shopping and restaurants. It was part work, since one of my novel’s most pivotal scenes takes place at the hotel. Hotel Lutetia was used as a Nazi headquarters during WWII and once Paris was liberated, the hotel was used as a clearing house/hospital for those returning from concentration camps (below).
Returning French deportees enjoy bread and champagne in Hotel Lutetia dining room
Returning French deportee and family
Deportees from concentration camps check the Hotel Lutetia board of the missing
French poster, “Return to France.”
While I couldn’t swing one of the hotel’s King’s suites, my little chamber was comfy and it was wonderful to wake up in one of the rooms that was used to house returning refugees. Who knows, might have been the room James Joyce stayed in while he wrote part of Ulysses here…
I did my best to soak up every bit of atmosphere while I was there, including a visit to Jardin du Luxembourg.
The best pistachio ice cream ever at the charming little kiosk above!
Here is the Nanterre crew in front of the Statue of Liberty replica in Luxembourg Gardens. Our intrepid translator Joséphine Boulanger (she translated over 100 of Caroline’s letters for me!), my sister-in-law Mary Pat Kelly who was along to research the sequel to her own novel, Galway Bay and me.
Hope these few pictures give you a little taste of how wonderful the Hotel Lutetia was.
Looking forward to staying at there again in three years once the renovation is complete. It will no doubt be a splendid transformation, but the ghosts of her past will always be with the lovely Hotel Lutetia.