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The Mystery of Hotels

The Mystery of Hotels

The Hotel du Dragon on Rue du Dragon is small and inconspicuous. All that identifies it is a neon sign that calls to mind, quite nostalgically, the 1960s. But ever since I first saw it, if I'm in Paris I have to look in. I make detours so I have an excuse to look in.

That's all I do, though - look in. Despite the Dragon's lowkeyness, it's small neon sign, and its size (only two windows across), it's pretty expensive. Last time I passed by and was looking in, a man on the second floor stood staring out of a window back at me. I think he worked there.

Little did he know I was imagining his life up at the Dragon. Who had stayed in that room he was wiping traces of? What tales could he tell of women fleeing cruel men, weekend trysts, doors that stayed locked too long?

Pass any small hotel in a place like Paris or Vienna or Bangkok or St Moritz (sorry, no chains qualify) and you can't help wondering what goes on inside, those people coming and going, those covert encounters, that forgotten loot.

In Irwin Shaw's fantastic novel 'Nightwork,' a guy like the one at the Dragon, a decent guy down on his luck (okay, I'm guessing about the Dragon guy), finds a bag stuffed with money belonging to a dead guest in the hotel. He takes it, of course, and that's where the thrilling story begins.

So when I pass the Dragon or the Hotel Acropole or the Hotel des Bains or the Splendide, or even a hotel as majestic as the Plaza Athenee, I have to stop for just a moment. It's probably as much reverence as intrigue, but each time I try imagine just one of the many stories going on inside.

Some Paris Coffee Shops

Some Paris Coffee Shops

The Girl with the Crooked Nose

The Girl with the Crooked Nose