I have become someone I never wanted to be. Yes, I, the son of a humble miner (OK, telephone engineer), have my favourite little hotel in Paris. Can you think of anything more petit bourgeois than that? My dinner lady mother would be ashamed… if it wasn’t for the fact that, she too, likes nice things.
Even the key – yes, key! A real room key! – has a five-inch tassle attached
But there you have it. It is the loveliest little hotel in the whole of Paris and I don’t care what anyone says. It’s not huge like the George V, with its statement flowers and lobby so big you need water breaks to cross it. Or “humorously” funky in that way that proves Parisians have no sense of humour.
No, it is small and snooky and, with a discreet level of sophistication that you only really get in Paris. It is called Hotel Bourg Tibourg, in a quaint little street of the same name that runs between the high-class butt plug shop on Rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie and more or less the Hôtel de Ville. Not far, in fact, from where Marie-Antoinette was once held in a tower while wags put her friends’ heads on long sticks so they could surprise her at her windows.
And let’s face it, if you’re going to be in Paris, you might as well be in the Marais. So Parisian it’s almost corny, it still mixes up smart little boutiques, Jewish takeaways, cheap-looking gays bars, art bookshops, a whole lot of tat, a branch of Diptyque, and a little red bar called Café Cox where Alexander McQueen used to hang out with the bears. Oh, and just down there is the inexplicably fashionable La Perle where John Galliano ended his career over a few too many glasses of something cheeky. Rue Bourg Tibourg is right in the middle of all that.
As soon as you walk in to Hotel Bourg Tibourg – along the street from all those fancy tea sellers and perfume manufactrices – it’s got you. The light is low (the manageress explains how to turn it up if ever such a madness should come upon you; like if you dropped a contact lens or something), the air is heavy with their trademark fragrance and every surface has a pattern or a textile or – bare minimum – a fringe. And not a simple fringe. A fringe with bobbles or beads.
The look is decadent souk, light shades are red, walls are soft and spongey to the touch and furniture is low and likely to never let you up once you’re in it. Even the key – yes, key! A real room key! – has a five-inch tassle attached.
You are transported five floors in a two-man wardrobe of a lift lined with silky texture, into a room that you might never leave. We once came for Christmas and only went out for one meal (on Christmas Day) and spent the rest of the time just lazing on the bed. It’s the sort of room you imagine Oscar Wilde might bring his male mistresses: decadent, sensual, rude.
The rooms are all on the small side, womb-like with padded fabric covered walls and plentiful lights with fringing so long you could probably swing on it. A small table, the mini-est of minibars with some champagne in it, a TV that’s no bigger than my laptop and which we never turn on once. That’s all.
After an hour reading in the bath, I smell like the place. And am happy to do so
Double doors open on a titchy bathroom with a tub where you can lie back and look at the sky above the rooftops across the way. The lamp (yes, fringed) above the imposing ceramic sink is low enough that you never get that early morning fright in the mirror. And that signature fragrance is in all the products: after an hour reading in the bath, I smell like the place. And am happy to do so.
With hotels falling over themselves to discover the next thing in hotel living – the lobby as bar (good), the lobby as pool room (bad), the lobby as co-working space (ugly) – it’s refreshing to find somewhere that’s happy to be a lovely little hotel. As far as extras go, there are some dog-eared art books (clever ones!) in the tiny salon and that’s your lot. WiFi is good though.
Breakfast is in your room or down a curly stone staircase in the ancient basement (the façade is only 19th century, but looks a lot older) and yes, it’s a little on the claustrophobic side. The whole place is, in fact. Americans who do love their space – I once had a room in Vegas with whole areas I never went to – probably don’t get it. It is a hotel for the slim who actually want to get away from activity, not get embroiled in it.
And if that sounds bourgeois, then so be it. C
Hotel Bourg Tibourg, 19 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 Paris, France
+33 1 42 78 47 39; bourgtibourg.com