Bienvenue! Little Paris in Addis [opinion]

Opened 8 months ago, the Louvre Grand Hotel is a French islet installed next to the British embassy, writes Cyrielle Bouju.

Paris… the city of lights and fashion, home of good cheese and perfect wine! Paris… cradle of democracy and culture a capital where pavements are soaped every week. No dust, power outages or water cuts and with only 2.3 million inhabitants and over 22 million tourists per year. A dreamy place, really, if it was not for the prices.

The price of beauty

If you are planning on visiting this European capital, you better be prepared to face big price tags. For example, the average cost for a hotel room is over USD 200 (4,200 birr) and it reaches the incredible price of USD 14,200 (291,000 birr) to get into the best Ritz’s suite.

Yeah, you read it right and believe it or not, this is not even the most expensive place you can find. The Plaza Atheacuteneacutee offers a room for almost 600,000 birr and, to make myself very clear, this is not for a week-long vacation, but the amount they are going to charge you is for every single day.

Of course, you can always go to some cheap hotel but you will have to share your room with some local creatures: cockroaches or other little animals such as mice and grasshoppers.

Another way around

So the first question coming to mind is how can regular people afford a trip to Paris? Of course, you can always ask the local travel agency if they have a few special offers in their drawers.

But the easiest thing to do is to ask for the Louvre Grand Hotel, a French establishment opened in September 2014 in the Ethiopian capital. Located next to the British embassy, in front of Misrak Technical School, this guesthouse is a real treasure in Addis.

Walking inside this little palace is a tangible immersion into the French lifestyle. In the hall, welcoming the visitors are gildings and chandeliers that set the tone. Mirrors, reflecting sunlight and bronze statues, enlarge the space while the front desk manager welcomes you with a perfect English accent. On my right, a showcase features the Franco-Ethiopian railroad and some antiquities. I would really like to enjoy one of the comfy armchairs scattered around the room but a voice is already calling for me in French.

“Bonjour! C’est vous la journaliste?”

Yes, I am the journalist and I am really impressed by this huge man standing in front of me. Tall and squarish, he is looking at me with a big smile on his face. A g handshake later, he presents himself as Jean-Marc, owner of this tiny peace of heaven.

Shortcut to Paris

And here we go it is time for the Grand Tour! We start the visit with the Cafeacute du Louvre, a really nice looking restaurant with the traditional red and white tablecloths – in Paris, you can find them in every bistro. I cast a quick glance at the menu: roasted chicken, duck breast, chocolate mousse. French recipes! And, of course, a French chef behind the grill.

On the walls, a map of the Paris subway and a huge mural featuring Parisian life immediately catch my eyes. Then I notice the amazing 1940’s zinc bar standing on my left. I did not know where to look anymore I am absorbing this familiar atmosphere, enjoying the memories accompanying the smell of fresh bread.

Behind the picture window, a terrace is surrounded by an incredible fresco depicting a Parisian street some traditional streetlights add the finishing touches to the stage.

“That’s it… I am home!”

Art and history

No time to rest we are heading to the first floor. With pride, Jean-Marc opens Rimbaud’s Room and shows me the Eiffel Tower shaped table standing in the middle of a cozy salon. Two meters high, this piece of art is as strange as it is beautiful.

Behind it, I can perceive an Absinthe counter. Now, you may not know what Absinthe is so let me explain. This nineteenth century alcohol was one of the most popular drinks in French intellectual circles. Usually consumed with a sugar lump, it was well known for its hallucinogenic properties and probably caused Van Gogh’s madness-it has a potential 40 percent to 90 percent alcohol by volume (abv)!

In 1907, scientists, doctors, ecclesiastics and winegrowers protested in the street of Paris, chanting ” All for wine, against Absinthe! ” Eight years later, the beverage was banned from the country and Absinthe lovers had to wait until 2011 in order to see it coming back in Parisian streets.

Getting closer to the counter, I recognize the figures painted on it: Apollinaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Mallarme – French poets. Jean-Marc explains to me that it is a Patrick Singh creation (Singh had performed a three-month exhibition at the Alliance that ended in December 2014).

“Something different ”

In order to talk a little bit, we decide to sit in this room and have coffee-although I would have liked to taste one of the bountiful bottles of wine he stores in his cellar.

The first question coming to my mind is how long it took him to create such a wonderful islet. I have to admit that his answer surprised me as much as the place itself: “Six years!” For God’s sake! I mean, the result is definitely worth the time but still… it is a long way to go and a difficult construction work to fund.

Married to an Ethiopian woman, Jean-Marc is the CEO of a French company offering safety council and equipment. Having fallen in love with his wife’s birthplace, he decided to launch a project here in Addis.

“I wanted to create something different. The country is booming and I was looking for a unique place to go.”

In the last eight months, Jean-Marc has seen tourists and locals coming by his hotel.

“A trip to Paris is really expensive. We now have a few inhabitants of Addis coming to enjoy a little French-time. They discover our food, wine and ornamentation without having to spend their lifesavings.”

And for the Ferenjs, it is a perfect treatment for homesickness!

Ed.’s Note: The writer is on an internship at The Reporter.

Source : The Reporter