As a rule the French hotels are far inferior to our own. They are neither as convenient nor as well managed. Of late years, however, there has been a decided improvement in the hotels of Paris, and the city can boast at least two which are even superior to American establishments of a similar character. These are the Grand Hôtel and the Grand Hôtel du Louvre. The former is situated on the Boulevard des Capucines, adjoining the square of the New Opera, and the latter on the Rue de Rivoli, opposite the Louvre.
The Grand Hôtel is in every respects worthy of its name. It is situated in one of the most delightful parts of Paris. It faces the Boulevard des Capucines, and is thus on the main promenade of the city. On its left is the New Opera, and almost facing it, the Rue de la Paix. A little distance to the right is the beautiful Boulevard de la Madeleine and the church of the same name. The Tuileries gardens, the Place de la Concorde, and the Champs Elysées are but five minutes distant, and the Bourse and the Palais Royal are equally near. The location is thoroughly central to all parts of the city, and is, indeed, the very heart of Paris.
The building itself is immense, and is bounded on all sides by wide streets. In front is the Boulevard, on the right the Square of the New Opera and the Rue Auber, the latter of which also bounds the rear of the edifice, and on the left the Rue Scribe. The hotel is built of a light-colored stone, and the exterior is handsomely ornamented with carvings, and with a row of splendid pilasters extending from the top of the ground-floor to the balcony surrounding the third floor, and reaching entirely around the building. Above the fourth story from the ground (the third floor of the hotel rises a handsome mansard roof, pierced with the windows of the fourth floor, above which is still another floor. Pretty iron balconies extend around the house at the first, third, and fourth floors, and upon these open the long windows of the rooms of those stories. The ground floor is occupied with shops and cafés along the street, some of which open into the court-yard of the hotel. Seen from the street, the house is one of the prettiest sights in Paris. Start from the principal gateway on the Boulevard, and walk around the building back to the point from which you started, and you will consume over ten minutes, going at a moderately quick pace.
The principal entrance is from the Boulevard, in the centre of the building. Pass in through the heavy archway, and you come at once to the prettiest place in the whole quarter the grand court. It is a large yard, about one hundred feet square, bounded on all four sides by the chambers and sitting-rooms of the hotel. Oftentimes the windows are open, affording a sight of the luxurious apartments within, or, still better, they are filled with faces representing almost every nationality under Heaven, gazing down upon the interesting scene below. The yard is paved with marble flags, and arched over above with a roof of iron and glass. It is ornamented with statues, fountains and shrubbery. Opposite the archway is a large clock, illuminated at night, and below it a marble balcony, upon which open the door and the long windows of the gorgeous reading-room beyond. On the left of the balcony is an elevator for conveying guests from the yard to the floors on which they dwell, and to the right and left of the balcony are massive marble stairs extending to the top of the house, each one leading to a different portion of the building. On the right and in front of the balcony are the principal offices of the establishment, and an elevator for transporting baggage to the various floors.
In its internal arrangements, the Grand Hôtel forms a distinct community of its own a separate town in the heart of the great city. It contains seven hundred chambers and seventy sitting-rooms, drawing-rooms, etc. Its service is discharged by sixty waiters, thirty cooks, twenty-five washer-women, and an unknown number of doorkeepers, grooms, house-servants, and chambermaids. It is usually crowded with guests, and at such times contains about twelve hundred inhabitants besides its attachés. It has its own telegraph, communicating between the various parts of the house, its own post-office, its own café, its own barber shop, its own cigar-store, its own tailor shop, (one of the best in the city,) its own optician, and its own book-store. Above all it has its own newspaper --- La Gazette des Etrangers (The Stranger's Gazette) --- written, edited, and printed in the hotel, and slipped, free of charge, under the door of each chamber every morning. This gossipy little sheet is edited by no less a person than M. Henri de Pere, famous both as a writer and a duellist, and one of its features is the daily publication of the bills of fare of the leading restaurants and cafés of the city, by means of which the stranger is enabled to select his breakfast and the place of breakfasting before leaving his chamber.
The hotel is divided into three distinct quarters Quartier de Scribe, Quartier du Boulevard, and Quartier de l 'Opera. Each of these quarters constitutes a complete establishment, and manages its affairs without reference to those of the others. The hotel has fifteen immense passages, which cross each other at regular points, besides several smaller passage-ways. At the corners of these passages, or streets, tin signs ornamented with brass letters direct strangers to the different portions of the house and quarter. Without these signs guests would be continually losing their way in the long corridors, and even persons thoroughly familiar with the house are often perplexed as to their localities, and forced to seek the assistance of the signs. These passages are covered with rich carpets, into which your feet sink noiselessly, and are ornamented with mirrors, frescoes, and paintings. At night they are brilliantly lighted; in summer they are cool and shady, and in winter warm and snug, forming at all times and in all seasons a series of extensive and pleasant promenades.
Each floor, in each separate quarter, is in charge of a separate set of servants, and has its own office, in which someone is on the watch at all hours of the day and night. Each chamber has a dial-plate, covered with a glass face, set in the wall. By touching an ivory knob over the dial-plate you telegraph the number of your room to the office of your floor. A steel indicator flies around to the right as you touch the knob. The servant in charge of the office, upon hearing your signal, resets the alarm before him, and causes the indicator on your dial to return to its original position, by which you are informed that your call has been heard and will be answered at once. In going out, you leave your key at this office, and find it there upon your return. If you come in after midnight, however, you will have to apply to the concierge at the street entrance for it.
The chambers and sitting-rooms are furnished with a degree of splendor corresponding to the price asked for them, but even the cheapest are equal to any room in a first-class American hotel. The plainest chambers on the upper floors are handsomely carpeted, and provided with large mirrors, a timepiece, a bureau, a dressing-table, large arm-chairs, and a bed which is the very perfection of comfort. About everything there is a luxuriousness and comfort which must be seen to be appreciated. The higher-priced rooms are magnificent, and are fitted up with every luxury. The prices range from four to thirty francs per day.
At night, the grand court is brilliantly lighted, and is crowded with representatives of every nation. Ladies sit amongst the oleandars on the balcony, and sip their refreshments; and down in the court-yard the men play dominoes and drink their wine and brandy. In the adjoining Café, the rattle of glasses and the sharp click of billiard-balls is heard above the babel of voices. In the rear of the balcony is a magnificent saloon, filled with persons reading and writing, and presided over by a pompous official, whose chain and badge of shining silver announce his position. A civil fellow he is, too, well posted as to city matters, speaking English like a native, and ready to assist you with any information for a gratuity. The tables are filled with journals from all parts of the world, amongst which the New York dailies figure prominently. As for the room itself, go read the Arabian Nights and you can form some idea of it. Carriages are dashing into and leaving the court-yard every moment, adding to and taking from the throng of guests. "The king and the commons" both lodge here -- titled and untitled share the hospitality of the house. It is a great rendezvous for Americans, who find about it much to remind them of home, and who are almost always pleased with the energetic and intelligent manner in which its business is conducted.
The Grand Hôtel du Louvre ranks next, both in size and magnificence, and is owned and managed by the company owning and conducting the Grand Hôtel. The new Hôtel de l'Athénée, in Rue Scribe, opposite the Grand Hôtel is also much liked by American visitors.
Besides these, are a number of first-class Houses, all more or less splendid, and some of them very expensive; but as they are managed chiefly after English models, an American is not apt to find them as comfortable as the houses named above. In all the hotels, however, the guest pays merely for his room and attendance. Should he take his meals in the house, or make other purchases, he is charged according to his orders, which he can regulate to suit himself. In all, guests are requested not to fee the servants a polite way perhaps, of reminding them to do so, for woe be to him who endeavors to comply with the request.
As in all large cities, many of the hotels of Paris are patronized by special classes. Some are visited by merchants only, others by professional men, others by students, and others by tourists. The English do not, as a rule, patronize the houses frequented by Americans, but confine themselves to the cheerless establishments which are simply magnificent at the expense of comfort. Persons of all classes and nations intending to remain long in the city, usually go into lodgings which are very much cheaper after the first few days.
Source: Paris by Sunlight and Gaslight; a work descriptive of the mysteries and miseries, the virtues, the vices, the splendors, and the crimes of the city of Paris. By James D. McCabe. .