A very short history of The Lutetia Hotel in Paris

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They say that old mansions and grand hotels are haunted by ghosts. If that’s true, then the Lutetia Hotel in the 6th arrondissement of Paris is the most haunted of them all. 

If ghosts exist, then the corridors of this storied hotel must be filled with the spirits of cabaret singers, artists, writers, Josephine Baker and Nazis.

Built in 1910, during France’s Belle Époque, this architectural gem hosted James Joyce where he wrote parts of Ulysses. Josephine Baker and Picasso were regular guests, as was Ernest Hemingway. 

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A young Charles De Gaulle stayed there for his honeymoon. And it was this fortuitous visit that would change the course of the hotel’s history.

During the occupation of Paris, the Nazis requisitioned the hotel to house and feed their officers and French collaborators. 

After the war was over, hundreds of thousands of former prisoners and Holocaust survivors began to make the trek home to France. The now General Charles de Gaulle remembered his luxurious stay at the Lutetia and demanded that the hotel house the survivors of the Holocaust because he wanted them to be housed in comfort after the horrors they suffered.

And this is how it came to be that the grandest hotel in Paris opened its doors to displaced persons and Holocaust survivors. The first survivors arrived at the hotel in April 1945. They received food, shelter, money and clothing.

The hotel also became the Paris headquarters for those searching for loved ones or waiting on Red Cross updates of family members sent to camps. An entire wall of the hotel was filled with photographs of missing persons. Relatives desperate for reunification with loved ones regularly stopped by to see whether missing family and friends had arrived from the camps. 

The last displaced person left the hotel in September 1945. Soon thereafter the hotel reopened its doors for business as usual and celebrities once again flocked to the grandest hotel in Paris. 

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The Lutetia closed in 2014 for renovations and reopened in 2018. The old-fashioned decor was replaced by chic, contemporary pieces. The dark paneling was removed to make room for a marbled lobby that boasts an airy, light-filled space. Once again, celebrities and the well-to-do made the Lutetia Hotel their home away from home.

As for the ghosts, they probably still roam the halls. 

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Note: If you want to learn more about the Holocaust survivors who stayed at the Lutetia Hotel, please search for “Lutetia Hotel” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

Thornbury Castle

Last November my husband and I stayed at the beautiful Thornbury Castle in the town of Thornbury in England. I’ve visited countless castles over the years, but I’ve never spend the night in one. I’ve always, always wanted to stay at a castle and this trip was literally my dream come true.

Thornbury Castle isn’t really a castle, it’s a Tudor estate. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful and castle-ish.

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We stayed on this side of the hotel and the view was phenomenal. Like a dream.

Thornbury Castle was built by Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, between 1508 and 1521. The Duke was going to use it as his base for courtly living and entertainment.* He also planned to build a garrison of at least 200 men, but this plan never came to fruition because when Henry VIII found out about the planned garrison (and how grandiose the castle was becoming), he became livid and jealous.**

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The croquet court.

The King was a paranoid man. He assumed that the Duke was building the garrison because he planned to take over the throne in an uprising. So Henry VIII did what he did best and had the poor Duke executed for treason.

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I love this room. We had drinks at this very spot every evening before we were escorted to our table in the dining room.

The estate (and all the Stafford estates around the country) became the property of the monarch. The King and his second queen, Anne Boleyn, even stayed at the castle for about ten days.

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Anne Boleyn stayed in the room. Today it’s the dining room. 

Eventually the castle fell into disrepair, but it was restored under the ownership of the Howard family. It stayed with the Howard family*** from the 1700s until the mid-19th century. Today it’s a luxury hotel steeped in history. And since I am a tea lover, I must add that the castle has a delicious and stately afternoon tea.

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I love narrow, spiral staircases. This one led to nowhere, much to my amusement and delight!

I am definitely staying at Thornbury Castle again. I’m toying with the idea of staying at the castle over Christmas. Wouldn’t that be romantic?

Thank you for reading. xoxo, Jane

*In other words, showing off his power and wealth.

**The “jealous” part is my own interpretation of events. 

***Catherine Howard came from this family. She was the fifth wife of Henry VIII.