L’Hôtel Vicq D’Azir

Posted on January 26, 2009

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On my arrival in Paris I was in a bit of a gloomy mood once again. This is not unusual for me, as you can probably tell. Travel tends to exaggerate my uneven moods, which easily and often swing from pure elation to absolute sourness. This time I’d been booted off a Thalys train for having no reservation and forced to wait in the Brussels train station for two hours with the kind of people who hang out at a train station at 2 in the afternoon, like the lady with the long, wispy, revolting moustache eating fried chicken and giggling maniacally, and the drunk who approached a guitarist quietly playing to himself and began singing along in a manner that I can only describe this way: imagine a deaf man yodeling.

So, sourness was the order of the day when I disembarked in Paris. I’d become paranoid about pickpockets and scam artists while reading the wikitravel on Paris, and thus had begun to look at everyone with suspicion. In a move directed not against pickpockets but against my paranoid fear of pickpockets, I transferred my wallet to my inside coat pocket and slid my computer to an less accessible part of my messenger bag. Waiting in the station in Brussels I’d made the mistake of sitting in front of the departures board, which meant that one out of every three passers-by stopped short about 5 feet away from my seat, as if they’d just recognized me as a long-lost cousin. This had put me on edge, to say the least. Still, when I set off for the first hotel on my Paris list (I was again boldly, sexily unreserved) I was immediately swept up in the current of city foot traffic.

I headed east from Gare du Nord, in the general direction of la rue vicq d’azir in the eastern part of the 10th, passing through a neighborhood that featured, along with many Indian restaurants, Indian barbershops, Indian hair salons, Indian video stores, etc., etc. I remember vividly one dish pictured on the wall of a restaurant that looked like nothing so much as a pair of beige, shriveled, baked boobs. Just as I was noting that part about being swept up in the current of city foot traffic, some guy nearly hit me in the face with his daughter and I had to lurch to the left. After the benign calm of Brugge, I was a little overstimulated by g(r)ay Paris, and my mind went into overdrive noting things of no importance or interest. “That car is dirty,” it kept piping, “that truck belongs to a security company, that short parisian businessman just pushed by me to get one foot closer to the curb even though we can’t cross the street anyway, he has a salt and pepper moustache.” I felt like Dudley from The Royal Tenenbaums. (In fact I almost typed, “that cab has a dent in it.”)

I was so caught up in my accelerated city walking pace that I somehow wound up going north, and about three times as far as I’d intended, resulting in my accidentally interrupting a couple of teens engaged in a steamy MO session on an unpopulated street behind a mall. Finally, after consulting about 16 different public maps and walking for two hours, to the point where my I had to put a second layer of socks on in a public toilet to prevent blistering, I made it to Hotel Vicq-D’Azir. Let me tell you something about the Hotel Vicq-D’Azir: I love it. The decor is spartan, to say the least, and it is run down in the most wonderful of ways.

My second day here, I noticed for the first time that although my room pretends to be rectangular, like a good hotel room, it is in fact impossible to line the bed up with the two corner walls at once. I am sleeping in some kind of parallelogram. The color scheme loosely coagulates around yellow and blue, and the closet in which I am to hang my shirts consists of one white board of plywood extended from the top of the bookcase upon which I am supposed to place my folded underwear, one parallel piece of metal pipe, and five hangers, none of which match any of the others and all of which are bent. I told you, it’s fantastic. Also, the window doesn’t close, the view outside is a resplendent potpourri of green and yellow garbage bins, there is no internet (or “whiffy” as the Parisians call it (say it out loud)), and the only people I’ve seen in the narrow, poorly lit halls are stooped and gray. When I arrived yesterday evening, the receptionist seemed shocked to see me. Also there is a blazing construction project next door that kicks in at 8:30 AM on weekdays.

On the sink in my room there sits an unusually hotel-y touch: a complimentary bar of soap wrapped in brown paper. GUEST OF, it says, but no one has bothered to write HOTEL VICQ D’AZIR.

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