Paris: Q&A with Henri le Goubin of Hotel Saint-Andre-des-Arts
Hotel Saint-Andre-des-Arts is a charming, historic hotel nestled into the picturesque cobblestone streets of Saint Germain des Prés. In a city like Paris, it’s unusual for any of those words to coincide with affordability. And yet, year after year, Hotel Saint-Andre-des-Arts tops EuroCheapo’s list of favorite and most reasonable places to stay in Paris. (Read our review of the property here.) I sat down with one of the hotel’s proprietors, Henri le Goubin, to get the scoop.
When I entered the antique wooden doors of the hotel, located a short walk from Pont Neuf and Odeon, I found a man in the lobby staring out the sunny window, tapping his toes to the sounds of some catchy jazz music. “Bonjour, jeune fille!” he sang to me, in tune with the song. It was Henri le Goubin, co-founder of the hotel. He turned down the music to tell me about the history of his special hotel.
Q: When was this hotel founded?
I founded the Hotel Saint-Andre-des-Arts in 1978 along with my brother. It has been in the family since then! I recently passed the hotel down to my son, who has been the owner for about two years now.
Q: The building is certainly older than that. What was it used for in the past?
This building was built towards the end of the 16th century. It still retains its historic charm—look at these stone walls! It was probably used to house military, like many of the other buildings on this street.
Since then, many interesting people have lived here. In the 1960’s, some great American jazz musicians stayed within these walls. Do you hear this jazz music? It’s Zoot Sims, a musician who lived in here in 1960.
Q: Wow, sounds like many talented people have stayed here! Have you welcomed any interesting guests since you founded the hotel?
Oh, yes, bien sûr. I won’t say names, but we have hosted a Nobel Prize Laureate in the category of Literature, an American actress who has won many Oscars, and an Olympic champion, to name a few. In the past, this was a historic hotel of the New York living theatre!
Q: Your location in the chic Saint German des Prés area must have something to do with the company of all these talented figures. What do you think of the neighborhood, and how has it changed over time?
Saint Germain des Prés is a place that attracts intellectuals and artists. Of course it has changed over the years; I have noticed there are less and less bookshops on the streets. In many ways it reminds me of the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. These two spots are becoming more cosmopolitan, but never lose their charm. As for the evolution of businesses in this neighborhood, well, they may change, but we never do!
Q: As Saint Germain des Prés becomes more chic, how do you keep the hotel so affordable?
We are a family business with clients who return year after year. Many hotels rely on seasonal tourism, but we always have guests year-round. Many of our clients are artists, writers, or even students. They appreciate our prices so they keep returning. Just last week we had a big group of returning American university students.
Q: With all these international guests, do you have special places in Paris you recommend to visit?
When guests ask us for places to go out to eat, we tell them to go where we eat ourselves. All of the little neighborhood spots are wonderful. There’s a great poissonerie around the corner… in fact I’m going there tomorrow.
Thanks for chatting with EuroCheapo, Mr. le Goubin! We wish you, your son and your charming hotel continued success.