In 2014, I stayed for several nights at the Hôtel Stanislas. Since I had never stayed in the 6th arrondissement before, I entered that as a search criterion in booking.com and came up with this small hotel on Rue du Montparnasse — a street I was slightly familiar with because I had come through it on a guided walking tour of Montparnasse the previous year.
Hôtel Stanislas turned out to be a pleasant little hotel with no frills. The people at reception were friendly and the price was reasonable, 75 Euros per night for a single room with en suite facilities and free WiFi.
The only disappointment was breakfast, which consisted of dry bread and tiny dabs of butter and jam for six Euros. I tried it once and then told them I would skip it for the rest of my visit.
While staying at this hotel I took the opportunity to see a play at the Lucernaire, which is just up the street on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
The hotel is in a quiet neighborhood, even though Montparnasse and its Rue de la Gaité are just a short walk away. Aside from the Lucernaire there is no nightlife in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, which meant that on Saturday night all the Vélib’ stations were empty, because people had taken all the bikes to go to livelier sections of the city.
All you loyal readers of my Nancy posts might be wondering if by any chance Hôtel Stanislas might perhaps have been named after Stanislas Leszczynski, the erstwhile King of Poland, later Duke of Lorraine and father-in-law of the French king Louis XV.
The answer is yes, but only indirectly. The hotel was named after the Stanislas School (collège for ages 11 to 15 and lycée for ages 15 to 18), located just across the street. But the school was indeed named after Stanislas Leszczynski on orders of his great-grandson, Louis XVIII (= the 18th) who reigned as King of France (with one interruption) from 1814 to 1824.
The Stanislas School, with well over three thousand pupils, is a private Catholic boarding school with a reputation for discipline, an arch-conservative ideology and two centuries of success in getting its pupils to achieve high scores on national examinations. For most of its history, the Stanislas (‘Stan’ for short) was strictly an all-boys school. The first girls were not admitted until the later years of the 20th century.
Simone de Beauvoir, who grew up in this neighborhood, mentioned the Stanislas School several times in the first volume of her autobiography, Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée (Memoirs of a dutiful daughter).
Her father, Georges de Beauvoir, had been a pupil there as a child — an excellent pupil, thanks to his mother’s constant prodding. “My grandmother stimulated him: he lived in her shadow and sought only to please her. Coming from an austere bourgeoisie that firmly believed in God, in work, in duty, in merit, she demanded that a schoolboy fulfill his school duties perfectly: each year Georges won the prize of excellence at Stanislas Collège.” (page 45 of the folio edition)
His mother died when Georges was thirteen. “Not only did he feel a violent grief, but he found himself suddenly left to his own devices. My grandmother was the one who had always embodied the law for him. […] He continued to shine in the subjects that interested him: in Latin, in literature. But he no longer obtained the prize for excellence; he had ceased to force himself.” (pages 45-46)
Later in the book there is another mention of Georges de Beauvoir and the Stanislaus School: “One of his fellow pupils at Stanislas had been Marcel Bouteron, later a great specialist in Balzac. Georges spoke of Bouteron with pity; he found it ridiculous that someone could waste his life in dusty works of erudition.” (page 233)
In Simone de Beauvoir’s own generation, her cousin Jacques was a pupil at Stanislas, while she had to attend a girls’ school called Cours Désir (which had nothing to do with desire) in rue Jacob. “Jacques and his comrades read real books; they were aware of real problems; they lived in the open air. I was confined to a nursery. […]
“When I happened to pass by the Stanislas School, my heart sank. I evoked the mystery that was being celebrated behind these walls; a class of boys, and I felt like an exile. Their teachers were brilliant men bursting with intelligence, who imparted knowledge in all its intact splendor. My old-lady teachers passed it on to me only expurgated, faded, withered. I was fed ersatz and kept in a cage.” (page 161)
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2022.