“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway
Having returned from a visit to the City of Lights I can only concur with Hemingway and a multitude of other artists, musicians, writers and philosophers who have flocked to Paris to find inspiration.
In the early 20th century Paris had a reputation for open minds and lax morals. It was also cheap and the liquor flowed freely unlike Prohibition era America. The streets are chockablock with literary landmarks including the apartment where James Joyce completed Ulysses, the restaurant where George Orwell worked as a dishwasher as described in Down and Out in London and Paris and the hotel where Oscar Wilde spent his final days cursing the hideous wallpaper with his dying breath. Our hotel in the Left Bank on Rue de Les Princes was also known as “ Yankee alleyway” where Richard Wright, James McNeill Whistler and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow resided. The Polidor bistro on the same street was the location for a scene from Woody Allen’s homage Midnight in Paris and the haunt of Kerouac and Hemingway.
Here is a list of other must see sites with literary associations:
Shakespeare and Company is the reincarnation of the bookstore run by Sylvia Beach who dared to publish Ulysses when no one else would touch it. Henry Miller called it a “ wonderland of books” . It was and still is the refuge of struggling writers who can find a temporary bed in one of the many nooks and crannies of this utterly charming bookstore.
Notre Dame Cathedral Located across the Seine from the celebrated bookstore is the home of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Victor Hugo wrote the novel to raise awareness of the deterioration of the once splendid Gothic cathedral. His wildly successful novel ignited a restoration project and saved the cathedral from destruction.
One of the highlights of this museum is the cork lined bedroom of Marcel Proust. An asthmatic, Proust lined the room with cork which served to soundproof his room and absorb dust. Towards the end of his life he rarely got out of the bed where he wrote most of his magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time.
Café de Flore This café was the magnet for the lost generation the fabled meeting place for the likes of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre. Take a moment to savour the atmosphere and drink a cup of (highly priced) coffee.
Jardin du Luxembourg While not a literary site, this is the most popular park in Paris where you can’t help but want to spend an afternoon reading Colette on one of the sage green park chairs.
There is always Paris by Edward Rutherfurd. Read it on the banks of the Red River while savouring a croissant from a bakery in St. Boniface, our own petit Paris.