Mid-range class, Art Deco style – and the ghosts of good-time girls.
So, I asked the owner of the Meurice as she served us breakfast one morning, what’s the story of this place? She was a smart lady, attractive in a snappy trouser suit. Of course, she was going to say that it had been a notable’s town-house. Lawyer's residence or something similar. These small, dignified central hotels always were.
“Well, until just after the war, it was a brothel. High class, of course,” she smiled. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this seemed a whole lot more interesting than lawyers. Or even buttered croissants.
“Older people living in the street can still remember the big cars pulling up and the gentlemen getting out. Then, in the late ‘40s, the government shut the maisons closes and that was that. I’m not sure it made the world a better place....”
Please don’t worry, ladies (or gentlemen, for that matter). The place is as respectable as can be today, and in a terribly respectable district – five minutes from the sea and the old town, bang in the middle of the classier shopping zone.
But trace elements of ancient friskiness survive, whether in the Art Deco frontage and vintage iron-cage lift – both redolent of a less concerned age – or in 23 rooms of a certain retro charm.
They’re recently renovated and fresh in colour, but with beguiling femininity which could lead your imagination astray, were you so weak as to let it.
The Meurice is pretty compact: go for the Harmonie rooms or, better still, junior suite, if your budget can stand it. Breakfast is agreeably served in the lounge area of Reception. The staff – both the owner and the bloke who replaces her behind the desk – ensure the atmosphere remains charming and civilised. And you’re handy for just about everything.
In short you get … well, I was going to say “a pretty decent bang for your buck”. In the circumstances, I won’t. I’ll just say that I was happy there and so was my wife – and no more virtuous woman ever walked God’s earth.