As the exiled Oscar Wilde lay dying in a seedy Paris pension, he famously quipped, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go."
Today the offending covering has been replaced by a sumptuous emerald and gold replica of an engraving from the playwright's London home, and his shabby sanctuary is now a luxurious hotel. In Room 16, where he spent his final days, you can picture the Irishman penning letters at the antique desk above which hangs a copy of the final bill he failed to pay when he "died beyond his means".
Situated in an area where La Reine Margot once met her lovers, the original hotel was built as a "Pavilion d'Amour" in the early 19th century. It has since gone through several incarnations: it was the Hotel d'Alsace of Wilde's days and a fashionable haunt of Sixties stars such as Peter Sellers, Katharine Hepburn, George Harrison and Salvador Dali.
Recently refurbished by designer Jacques Garcia, today it is an intimate retreat, reminiscent of another era where charming staff go out of their way to provide a stress-free haven. You can sample cocktails amid the dark wood and deep sofas of the bar before retiring to the restaurant to enjoy delicacies created by Philippe Belissent - previously sous-chef at the Michelin 3-starred Ledoyen.
And, for the ultimate in decadence, guests can reserve the small pool surrounded by candles and steam room in the old vaults.
L'Hôtel, 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts, 75006 Paris (00 33 1 44 41 9900; www.l-hotel.com). Set on a quiet street of fine art galleries in the heart of the bars, brasseries and boutiques of the fashionable Left Bank.
Time to international station/airport: 20 minutes by taxi to the Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord; 45 minutes by cab to Charles de Gaulle, 30 minutes to Orly.
Each of the 20 rooms and suites has been sumptuously and individually designed with antiques and mahogany panels disguising modern amenities such as mini-bars and safes. The Mistinguett has an art deco theme, the Loti is Ottoman-inspired while the St Petersburg is designed to mirror the atmosphere of a 19th-century house described by Tolstoy. Some have terraces overlooking the Paris rooftops.
Marble bathrooms boast old-style tubs big enough to hold swimming lessons and separate showers.
Freebies: Lavender, petigrain and sweet orange bath products specially made for the hotel and Cowley Manor, its sister property in the Cotswolds.
Keeping in touch: Flat screen televisions with DVD players and stereos in each room. Free internet is available in the lobby with Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms from €255 (£182) excluding breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Hotel de Nesle, offers an eccentric choice close by at 7 Rue de Nesle, 75006 Paris (00 33 1 43 54 62 41; www.hoteldenesleparis.com). Double rooms excluding breakfast from €75 (£54).Reuse content