Paris: Literature Hub from the Cafés to the Sewers

Paris is a literature hub, where there are centuries of amazing writers who were native or who moved there to be inspired.  Here are a couple other places to visit if you so wish….  Know that this is only a short list of endless possibilities to explore the literature world of Paris.

 

Transformed into a café around 1885, Les Deux Magots located at 6 Place St. Germain-des-Pres is a must stop for literary enthusiasts.  During the 19th century the symbolists, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé used to meet here.  Since then, it has been frequented by authors such as Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Hemingway, Picasso, and Prévert, among others.  Check the tables and you will notice plaques where these authors used to sit as well as pictures of these authors that line the walls.

 

 

 

Visit one of the homes of Victor Hugo where he lived from 1832-1848, located in the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris.  He moved here when he was thirty years old with his wife and their four children.  Here he wrote some of his major works including Les Misérables, Ruy Blas, and Contemplations.  It was turned into a museum in 1902, it is free of charge to the public and open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

 

 

On the corner of rue Vielle du Temple and Rue St. Croix in the area of the Marais, you will find a little bookstore/café: La Belle Hortense.  A literary legend where Balzac and Baudelaire used to frequent.  The cafe has remnants from its 19th century history, including a small bookstore and reading room.  Don’t be surprised to find art exhibits, readings, and book signings in this treasure of a place.

 

 

 

Other places to visit that are not necessarily on the to see list are the cemeteries of Paris.  They are beautifully maintained, and many famous people are buried in them.  Following is a short list of some graves you may want to visit.  At the entrance of each site, ask for a map that will give you the names and locations of each grave.

Cimetière Père Lachaise established by Napoleon I in 1804:

  • Guillaume Apollinaire
  • Honoré de Balzac
  • Paul Eluard
  • Jean de La Fontaine
  • Molière
  • Marcel Proust
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Oscar Wilde

For those who enjoy music…

  • Frédéric Chopin
  • Jim Morrison: the most visited grave
  • Edith Piaf
  • Rossini

 

Cimetière Montparnasse established in 1824:

  • Charles Baudelaire
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Marguerite Duras
  • Joris-Karl Huysmans
  • Eugène Ionesco
  • Joseph Kessel
  • Guy de Maupassant
  • Jean Paul Sartre

 

Cimetière de Montmartre established in 1795:

  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Stendhal
  • Edgar Degas (for you art enthusiasts)
  • François Truffaut (for you cinéistes)

 

The Pantheon was originally built as a church in 1789 and has now become a famous burial ground:

  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Victor Hugo
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Voltaire
  • Emile Zola
  • Scientists Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie are also interred here.

 

Along with the cemeteries, do not forget to visit the catacombs, which used to be situated right outside the city.  At the end of the 18th century, the most important cemetery of Paris was closed due to sanitation issues.  The bones were transferred to the catacombs beginning 1785.  Millions of bones followed thereafter.

Now, here lies the resting place of millions of peoples bones and it is open to the public to visit.  It is not for the fainthearted.  Not only is it 2 km of underground tunnels, 130 steps down and 83 steps up, there are endless caves and caverns filled with real human bones arranged in eerily beautiful sculptures throughout the damp tunnels.  Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the metro stop Denfert-Rochereau.

 

 

“Paris has beneath it another Paris, a Paris of sewers, which has its own streets, squares, lanes, arteries, and circulation.” -Victor Hugo

Meet at the Pont D’Alma on the left bank for a tour of the sewers.  Entitled “Les Egouts de Paris”, you learn about the entire history of the Parisian sewer system- from the Middle ages, to the Renaissance, to today.  You will be surprised at how important a working sewer system is and just how much work it is to create and maintain.

Open every day except Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (in the summer) and from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. (in the winter).  Tickets are 4.10 euros and 3.30 euros for students.  Metro stop is Pont de L’Alma.

 

 

 

I hope you have as much fun visiting these sites as I did!  Here I am in Les Deux Magots hoping that some of the inspiration and talent seeped into my pores- even just a little.

 

 

 

 


A Moveable Feast

I love books. I love them. I love browsing for them in the library, I love the excitement before beginning a new book, I love the way the covers change based on what country you are in, I love the feel of them in my hands, I love the smell of the pages, and I love the quiet silence you have at the end of finishing a great book. Most of all, I love where the stories take me…

Then I often wonder, what was the author inspired by? Where were they writing from? What was their view? Where did they set the story?

What this has translated to, for me, are my own personal themed destination vacations based on literature.

So, if you have ever read a book and was breathlessly transported to that place where it was written, we can plan a vacation/celebration/tour around that author and book.

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“You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and pencil.”- Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast beginning in 1957 about the days he spent in Paris from 1921 and 1926 as a young man.  It is about his Paris, full of cafes, writing, his compatriots, and poverty.  He was part of the expatriates, a group of writers who moved to Paris in the 1920’s and who symbolized the struggles and rewards of a writer’s life.  These writers were who Gertrude Stein coined as “the Lost Generation” and included literary greats such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Henry Miller.

If you are interested in this era at all (literature and art), see Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris.  You’ll love it!  I couldn’t stop smiling through the whole thing- then again, as you’ll read, I’m a big nerd about this stuff.

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Many of Hemingway’s haunts were in the 6th arrondissement, or the left bank.  One of these were the Luxembourg gardens and Palace  (today the seat of the French senate).

Today it is a wonderful place to read and relax, and many Parisian’s take their lunch in these gardens.

“You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food.  When you had given up journalism and were writing nothing that anyone in America would buy, (…) the best place to go was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the way from the Place de L’Observatoire to the rue de Vaugirard.  There you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were the belly-empty, hollow-hungry.  I learned to understand Cézanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry.  I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted; but I thought possibly that it was only that he had forgotten to eat.” -Hemingway

You can still visit the Luxembourg museum for 11 euros (9 euros for students and art instructors).  It is open daily.

 

“But if the light was gone in the Luxembourg I would walk up through the gardens and stop in at the studio apartment where Gertrude Stein lived at 27 rue de Fleurus. (…) It was easy to get into the habit of stopping in at 27 rue de Fleurus late in the afternoon for the warmth and the great pictures and the conversation.”

The building where Gertrude Stein resided still stands and there is a plaque in her honor.

“I thought that all generations were lost by something and always would be and stopped at the Lilas to keep the statue company and drank a cold beer before going home to the flat over the sawmill.”


 

Unfortunately, Hemingway’s flat over the saw mill is longer there. It has been replaced by a modern apartment complex, which you can still visit at 113 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. The picture to the left is his street, and on the right side of the street is where his apartment used to be.

Follow the street south and you will find yourself directly at the Closerie de Lilas, his home cafe at 171 Boulevard Montparnasse.


 

 

“The Closerie de Lilas was the nearest good café when we lived in the flat over the sawmill at 113 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and it was one of the best cafés in Paris.  It was warm inside in the winter and in the spring and fall it was very fine outside with the tables under the shade of the trees on the side where the statue of Marshal Ney was, and the square, regular tables under the big awnings along the boulevard.”


 

Inside the Closerie de Lilas, at the bar, there is a small gold plaque with Hemingway’s name, there to remind us of where he used to sit and write.  Make sure you go in and visit.  Have a beer or café crème in his honor…or even stop and eat their most delectable food.

“I sat in the a corner with the afternoon light coming in over my shoulder and wrote in the notebook. The waiter brought me a café crème and I drank half of it when it cooled and left it on the table while I wrote.”

 

 

12 rue de L’Odéon was the location of Sylvia Beach’s library entitled Shakespeare and Company.  This building to the left is where is used to be.  Today, the Shakespeare and Company is located near the Notre Dame Cathedral (I know it is there, though I have yet to find it after 2 attempts- please post if you have easy directions).  Once again, there is a plaque to commemorate this once literary spot.

“In those days there was no money to buy books.  I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, which was the library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 rue de L’Odéon.  On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living.” -Hemingway

 

These were the places I visited in relation to Hemingway, though there are many more places he wrote about.  This was my destination theme, and I loved every moment of it.  Though I’m pretty sure my husband did not love it as much as I did, he was great at trying to be excited about it all.

Check out my next post for more literature fun in Paris, France.

 

 


 



 

“I sat in the a corner with the afternoon light coming in over my shoulder and wrote in the notebook.  The waiter brought me a café crème and I drank half of it when it cooled and left it on the table while I wrote.”
“I sat in the a corner with the afternoon light coming in over my shoulder and wrote in the notebook.  The waiter brought me a café crème and I drank half of it when it cooled and left it on the table while I wrote.”