Paris On a Hundred Bucks a Day

the place Dauphine
The entry to the place Dauphine, from the Pont Neuf.

In the Place Dauphine - A Two Year-Old True Story

from Kathie Coulson; reply to ''

Los Angeles:- Monday, 22. September 1997:- Can you please tell me if there is a new hotel facing the small, triangular park which is also the location of the Hôtel Henri IV and the Taverne Henri IV, in the place Dauphine?

My husband and I planned a trip to England for Christmas in 1995, and as usual, I talked him into a little 'side trip' - to Paris! I was dying to go - I have a degree from the University of California at San Diego in European History, but I'd never been to France. Husband says, "Fine. If you can do it on $100 a day we'll go."

I searched and searched. I was getting pretty discouraged until I found the Hôtel Henri IV. I was under no illusions: it was described - in whichever travel newsletter I unearthed it in - as "not having been refurbished since Clemenceau was in office." But I had thoroughly researched things like walking distances to métro stations, the RER; and for what amounted to about $40 per night in US dollars - I knew Paris was within my grasp!

We got there amid the strike* with bomb-sniffing dogs and the heavily armed police crawling all over every inch of the town. Rather unnerving, and everyone thought we were nuts for going.

It was never more than minus two degrees the entire five days. The Henri IV was a real challenge; I'm not accustomed to public restrooms and showers, no elevators - five flights to walk up - paper-thin walls; and I had to pay the maid five francs a day to provide clean towels. The room had a small balcony that came in handy for storing wine, cheese doorway, hotel Henri IV and paté. I had the flu - and never had a better time in my life!

I don't care what anybody says; the people of Paris are lovely. From the head hand-kisser at Fauchon to the cab drivers, to the sales clerks; everyone was as polite, sweet, cheerful and helpful as they could be. Everyone we met either spoke passable English or made a very good attempt at it.

Is this the right place? It must be because it is the only hotel in the place Dauphine!

I made a special effort to visit Fauchon because my wonderful boss, who has spent his life in the food service industry, described it so rapturously. It is one of his favorite places, and the man has been everywhere.

We were dressed for a shopping expedition in cold, rainy weather: jeans, sensible water-proof shoes, and raincoats with wool zip ins .

The Fauchon sales clerk was absolutely darling and guided us through the rather complicated process of selecting and paying for a little gift package of 'designer' honey for my boss. We decided to have lunch there.

We climbed a stairway, following signs to one of the restaurants. By the time the helpful and gorgeous maître d' had helped us off with our rain gear, it was too late. I realized that this was where the Nancy Reagans and Betsy Bloomingdales of Paris 'do' lunch!

Chanel suits and gold and pearl ropes were everywhere. My husband and I just looked at each other, giggled and ordered two fat glasses of nice, white wine. This was not like any department store restaurant I'd ever been in. Even Neiman Marcus has no equivalent. The food was divine, the service impeccable; we were treated with all the courtesy and attentiveness one could wish for. I'll be back.

On a day that I had about 102 degrees of temperature, a sore throat and a horrible cough, I went to three museums. I walked all over the city. I wore out my husband; he gave up at noon and I kept going. I mastered the métro system - I could get anywhere I wanted to go and it was - free - for the entire week, because of the strike just ending. What a city!

No New Hotel, But the Henri IV Has Saved a Room for You
Dear Kathy,

Paris:- Wednesday, 24. September 1997:- After going all around the place Dauphine this afternoon; I found no new hotel - nor any other hotel other than the Henri IV.

French post box

When I arrived at the hotel, the acting manger was in the reception, painting an aquarelle, by the low arched window overlooking the place. You can see the bottom of this window in the photo above.

The reception seems, as you put it, "not to have been refurbished since Georges Clemenceau was in office" so I assume the rooms are probably intact as well. When I asked if the hotel had a fax number, monsieur said such a machine would only increase the room prices, so the Henri IV does without.

If any other readers are interested in staying on the Ile-de-la-Cité in an authentic 1920's-style hotel, phone (33-1) 43 54 44 53 to make a reservation. No credit cards are accepted. The rates are so low plastic is hardly necessary.

Before returning to his painting, monsieur said he would ask a friend in Dieppe, who is online, to check out your letter. From this I gathered, the management of the Henri IV is not against our modern era - so long as it is not in the place Dauphine.

Regards, Ric

*The Paris transport strikes in November-December of 1995 were covered by this writer for 'The Paris Pages.' and are still available online.

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