Paris' Park Hotel for Scholars

Entry to the Cité Universitaire
Classy entry has several dozen classy student hotels behind it.

University of Paris Has United Nations
of Students at Porte d'Orléans

Paris:- Friday, 23. May 1997:- The faintest memory of why I ever went to the Cité Universitaire on the southern edge of the 14th arrondissement, is so faint that all I can remember is that it was winter and raining ice.

Oh, I remember that I had to take the RER from Denfert-Rochereau to get there, and then walk three-quarters of a kilometre - aha! - to see some multimedia guys in the boulevard Kellermann; somewhere like Siberia in Paris.

On the way, across the boulevard - a wide speedway with the cars throwing up rooster-tails of freezing water - there was the indistinct shape of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris and on that particular day at least, my curiosity about it was minus zero. About the same as the ambient temperature.

Last Wednesday, I was talking to a fellow journalist and he mentioned in passing that he had stayed the Cité Universitaire. Rather, he said he got there too late to get in; spent the night in an expensive hotel and blew a quarter of his budget for a month in Avignon. It was in the early '60's.

Then, Wednesday night, I get an email pass-through with an enquiry about whether it is possible to cook there. This was disguised as an idea for a 'story' by the 'through-passer.'

If I was normal, I would say this is lame. But I am not normal - I am the 'Internet Reporter for Paris' - and any bit of it which is terraBrochure for the US Foundation incognito, is my meat. Besides, of the thousands of times I have ridden the métro line, Porte de Clignancourt - Porte d'Orléans, the north-south speedball line four, I have never ridden it to the Porte d'Orléans.

This may not be so exciting, so if you read no further, you'll be better off taking the RER to Cité Universitaire instead of métro line four.

Because, the place du 25. Août 1944, also known as the Porte d'Orléans, although big and wide open to the sky and a gateway to the sunny south of France, and a remembrance of the entry of French forces returning to Paris - is a fair walk from the closest part of the Cité Universitaire, and about 970 metres away from the Fondation des Etats-Unis building, which is right across the street from the RER station.

Taking the long way today, I pass a lot of fence. The occasional gates have signs saying 'private property.' The buildings behind the fence are large and varied, and are inscribed with the names of many countries - in fact, 37 or more in all.

I go in one of the gates and look at a location-map. The 'administration' building is near the top of the list, but when I walk - a long way - to where it might be, I still have to ask for directions to it.

This 'administration' office is for the 'Fondation Nationale' - the French foundation - in other words. Scattered over the 40 hectares, there are French 'maisons' and foreign ones. These are all lodgings for students at the University of Paris.

This 'city' was begun in 1920, and the central 'home' consists of the seven buildings of the French foundation, 'Deutsch de La Meurthe,' constructed by L. Bechmann, and inaugurated on 10. September 1925.

The French rules for admission permit the lodging of students under 30 years, for students over 30, and for graduates doing their post-doctorates. The main rule is that everybody has to be a registered student at the University of Paris. The category for 'students over 30' allows professionals - who may be working - to have lodging while following courses of further studies, and the admission of post-doctorates candidates is fairly recent; since 1993.

Once inside the 'private property' gate the setting is campus-like - with the difference that most of the buildings somehow represent the countries they lodge. This varies from the Maison du Maroc to the Fondation de Monaco. The biggest building is probably the Maison Internationale, possibly The Cité Internationale Building built in 1935, although the photo says 1925. It was financed by John D. Rockefeller - and you can judge its age for yourself from the photo here.

Quite a number of world-famous people have been resident Cité Universitaire and the local 'Service Etrangers' - where one would get French residence papers - is the one used by exotic foreigners; perhaps a bit more so than at other prefectures in the Ile-de-France.

According to the brochure from the US Foundation, US citizens can apply directly to it. Foreign nationals who would like to stay at the US residence have to apply to the Fondation Nationale itself; and about half the residents of the US building will not be Americans.

I assume these regulations apply to all of the other national 'maisons.' If you are German and wish to stay in the Maison de l'Inde, apply to the Fondation Nationale; if you wish to stay at the Maison Heinrich Heine, then apply directly to it.

About five to 6,000 students from over 100 countries are in residence during the Paris school term, from the beginning of October until the end of June.

As a residential campus, the facilities include all normal services, plus areas for sport and swimming. Rooms are probably simple, and one might have to buy a used 'frigo,' but there are coin laundries and many restaurants.

I do not think the rooms are wired for Internet access - but there are computer labs and they may be. The main entry is roughly directly across the boulevard from the RER station, and it is only a three-stop ride to the heart of the Sorbonne district in the Latin Quarter.

All of this logically leads to the proposition that all these student lodgings may be free during the summer. I ask at the US building and they are full for July. There are a few places left for August, but I think they are closed entirely for the second half of the month.

The fellow at the central administration office tells me that applications for lodgings for the summer have to be made at each building. Since there are too many of them for me to visit today, I include the main address below, and if you are interested in renting a room for the summer, you can request a list of the 'maisons' and their telephone numbers.

I forgot to ask for rates for any rentals, so you will have to do this for yourself.

Cité Internationale - Universitaire de Paris
Fondation Nationale
19. Boulevard Jourdan, 75690 Paris Cedex 14.
Tel.: +33 (0)1 44 16 64 41, Fax.: +33 (0)1 44 16 64 03.
(Drop the '0' if calling from abroad.)

Admission Service Reception:
Hours are from 9:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday. Address above.
Tel.: 01 44 16 64 46 or 01 44 16 64 48.

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