The Païva hotel is a Parisian townhouse built between 1856 and 1866 on the Champs-Elysées avenue. Its owner was a famous courtesan, Esther Lachman, better know under the exotic name “La Païva”, born poor in the Moscow ghetto.

The legend goes that the young and poor Esther was pushed out of a cab by a gentleman and left slightly injured. She then promised to herself to build a townhouse on the avenue where she fell.

Thanks to her courtesan career and lucrative marriages, she later became a Prussian countess able to fund the erection (ah!) of this decadent hotel where she gave equally decadent feasts.

Suspected of espionage, la Païva and her husband left Paris for Silesia in 1882 where she died in 1884.

Since 1904, the townhouse became a private club, the Travellers Club, open to gentlemen only, until recently.

The townhouse is renowned for its onyx staircase. The legend – again – goes that the staircase was inspired by a play by François Ponsard, which reads : “ainsi que la vertu, le vice a ses degrés” : “like virtue, vice has its degrees”. Degrés means both steps in French and levels of a hierarchy.

So witty from a courtesan, right.

March 5, 2020