There is a little hotel in the Marais district of Paris that I’ve stayed at three times. In the reception there’s a dinky bar. The second year I visited, the receptionist recognised me. "Ah," she said, "you like to drink." Indeed. The place turned out to be interesting for other reasons too. The last time I went, there was a rather hunky male receptionist who said he came from Transylvania and was studying and working part-time in Paris. He didn’t show his teeth. Another no-show was the owner of the absinthe shop around the corner. My travelling companion and I would amble by — peering through the dusty window displaying intriguing absinthe paraphernalia — and try to look past or through the peeling posters covering the glass door. We knocked, rang the bell (a faint tinkle somewhere inside the shop), but everything — even the dust on the accoutrements in the window — remained unresponsive. Can you imagine the person who owns such a shop and never opens it? It’s probably the Green Fa...

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