There within the walls of St Malo, directly opposite the ancient town hall stands the Hotel de l’Univers. From the moment I stepped through the door I knew that in all the universe I would never find a hotel I could love more.
The discrete back stairs with a wooden banister rail worn so perfectly smooth it made one want to commit indiscretions just for the joy of running your hand along it. The rooms, each with their own little personalities with abandoned fireplaces of marble, suggesting previous incarnations. Floors so appealingly uneven that each step was an adventure. The seemingly abandoned tiny ballroom, deliciously cool and dim, with time alone separating one from the Belle Epoque and the grand piano standing as though the very last vibrations of a salon piece by Debussy or Delibes had just stopped resonating.
The dining room with the last vestiges of Art Nouveau whiplashing its way around the cornices. The charming lounge of paneled wood with hundreds of photographs of little pleasure boats gifted by the owners over the decades, the fading only increasing the romance.
The strangely empty salon filled with ancient armchairs that begged to give repose. And the wonderful lift.
Oh the lift, so narrow and tiny that one patron had changed the maximum number of passengers from 4 to 2 and written “Aiiii!” above the “up” button. How we loved to ride it’s red fabric lined interior, knowing that just behind the rear panels was Narnia.
It may not have suited the traveler who demands hospital like cleanliness or carbon copied comfort. It may not have suited those who demand obsequious staff and gargantuan buffets. It may not have suited those who have lost a sense of adventure after years of privilege and excess. But, it suited me, and it will always live in my mind as the perfect “Hotel of the Universe”.
This is my 100th Post!
If you would like to join me on a walk down memory lane and see some of my other photos then click on the gallery images that take your fancy.
Oxford through one of the apertures at the top of Magdalen Tower Oxford
Lamp base on the Pont Neuf I took in Paris in spring. The first true view of the city I had in my life after debouching from the Metro.
I snapped this lucky shot in April in Paris with les Invalides in the background. A wonderful day!
Voted best facade in Paris 1901, the front door of the building caused scandal when on closer inspection the door clearly represented male “rude bits”.
Produced by Nobutaka Shikanai, with sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire, and reliefs by Atsushi Imoto, this 18 metre high tower of stained glass is a wonder of art and engineering.
At the risk of losing a limb, I snapped this photo in Exmouth as we drifted in sea kayaks over a coral outcrop about 500m from shore.
As I recall, I took this photo in a tiny ante-chamber at Vaux le Vicomte which turned out to be a 17th Century toilet. As a vulgar tourist remarked nearby… “What a way to go!”
We photographed this view from a platform in Dinan. Oh that we had the time to wander down to see it!
This tent and camp bed are to be found in Fontainebleau. I took this photo in the dim light and was pleased to see how well Napoleon’s “glamping” experience came up.
Your Christmas Getaway – Feeling a little down this December? Why not rent Vaux le Vicomte and flee to France. Don’t bother telling your family and friends. You can always claim you were abducted by aliens if they ask any questions.