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Hemingway's Steps Through Paris
It seems that everywhere I go, the ghost of Hemingway follows me. I was born in Idaho where Hemingway died; I feel a tug at my heart. My father to this day has vivid color dreams of him and Ernest hunting and playing! In Cuba, at a bar, I was told, that is where Hemingway used to sit. In Spain I was informed, that is where Hemingway used to drink and write. Now living in Paris, I can't shake the urge to write, never have I written before, always an artist accomplished with the brush, but never with a pen.
So I decided to meet the legendary man head on and take some walks throughout Hemingway's Paris, to stroll in his steps and feel some of his hope, suffer his artistic ways (we are very poor in this extravagant city, and he is right, that hunger makes you more imaginative) but mostly to see my new ville through his eyes!
This walk can be done easily in four hours, but I like to savor it all, and take pictures along the way, so it takes me longer. I have made this walk numerous times so as to find his true footsteps in the cobble stone streets. My old copy of his book "A Movable Feast" has the addresses that he mentioned scribbled on the inside of the front cover. That list created this walk.
Start at Censier Daubenton (Metro line 7), in the 5th arrondisement and begin your walk on Rue Mouffetard. It is a small narrow street with smells of fresh baked bread, cheeses, coffee, and crepes. Fruit and legume stands flow with market life. The street inclines steeply as you trek up towards La Place Contrescarpe. This is where the Cafe des Amateurs was. Hemingway described it as the "cesspool of the rue Mouffetard"; now it is a large airy restaurant with a Haagen Daas next door!
Between these two is the rue du Carnidal-Lemoine, and it is just a brief walk to No. 74 where on the third floor the 22-year-old Hemingway and his wife Hadley found their first teeny tiny Paris apartment. It was the "poorest of addresses" he lamented in "A Movable Feast". As you look up at the freshly painted building you picture their shabby room with the bed on the floor, books scattered around, their cat, watching the baby as they often did, saying that their cat was so possessive of the baby and slept with him in his crib that they left him as the baby sitter!
Hemingway did not do his writing here, he took a room in a hotel round the corner at 39 rue Descartes. He climbed to the top floor. He has been upstaged by Paul Verlaine, whose death in this same building in 1896 is commemorated by a large wall plaque, while Hemingway is inaccurately described on a sign squeezed in by the door as having lived here between 1921 and 1925. This is were he built fires and ate tangerines while writing the perfect paragraphs.
Boulevard St. Michel
In "A Moveable Feast," he recalls writing a story in "a good cafe on the place St-Michel." To get to this location of the mysterious cafe that doesn't exist any more, take a left off Descartes and along past the impressive Pantheon, entombed in grandeur Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Zola were urging him on as he is now influencing me. Take rue Cujas past the back of the Faculty of Law.
Past the place de la Sorbonne, one of Paris most prestigious universities, then right down rue Champollion, face the noisy boulevard St-Michel. The streets are lined with book stores, souvenir shops and clothing stores for the many college students that live and go to school in this area.
Shakespeare and Company Books
Turn right towards the Seine for a few blocks past the book and hip clothing stores. When you are almost at the Seine, take the rue de la Huchette east off the place and follow it across rue du Petit Pont into rue de la Boucherie.
Here, squished in-between sixteenth-century houses, leaning at all angles, is Paris' most interesting foreign bookshop, Shakespeare & Company. Though it isn't the original shop run by Sylvia Beach throughout the 1920s and 30s, it continues the tradition of personal and idiosyncratic service. George Whitman, the current owner, who I meet one day, is a stanch Communist and runs the store at about zero profit. I traded in some advanced copies of Fiction that I had finished and for one euro more got four more books to read!
The store is for artists and writers; a safe haven for the English speakers of France. He has surrounded himself with tons of books, on every subject, crammed on shelves so precariously balanced you feel that if you took the wrong book it could bring the entire shop crashing down around you. He has sleeping accommodation for visiting writers and serves tea on Sundays and a cute black library cat!
Riana in front of Shakespeare and Company bookshop
Quai des Grands Augustins
Walk across to the Seine and turn west along the quai des Grands Augustins. Hemingway liked to browse here among the bouquinistes, the second-hand booksellers whose aging green metal boxes are fastened to the stone walls of the embankment. They have old damp copies of French manifestos and art books, posters, line drawings and knick knacks, that have stood the test of time and storage!
Turn right on St-Andri-des-Arts, and cut through to rue Jacob, a long straight street full of elegantly displayed antiques. At the junction with rue Bonaparte is the Cafe Pri aux Clercs, a Hemingway favorite, which is only a few doors down from the Hotel d'Angleterre where he spent his first night in Paris, in Room 14.
Up rue des Sts-Pires, passing on your left the Faculty of Medicine. Boulevard St-Germain is equally busy, but wider and accommodates the traffic better. Along to the left is the well-visited cafe of Les Deux Magots (6 place St-Germain-des-Pres, 6th, open 7:30am-2:00am daily). Though the street side tables are the most popular, you must go inside for the period atmosphere and best-looking decor.
Take a right on boutique-lined rue Bonaparte up to St-Sulpice and then go left along rue St-Sulpice. This is an unusually arid stretch for refreshment of any kind, but relief is at hand if you can make it to l Odion. At the end of the street is a excellent fish restaurant, part of a tiny curve of buildings that faces the elegant columned portals of the Odion, Thiatre de l Europe. Take a right down rue de Vaugirard.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Throughout the whole seven years he lived in Paris, Hemingway's favorite refuge was the incomparable Jardin du Luxembourg. He loved to look at the Cezannes in the Musie de Luxembourg and he came through there when he was very poor because "you saw and smelled nothing to eat from the place de l'Observatoire to the rue de Vaugirard."
Rhubarb in the Gardens of Luxembourg
And, above all, he came through here on his way to visit his greatest single artistic influence in Paris, Gertrude Stein, who lived at rue de Fleurus. You will be seeing pretty much what Hemingway saw as he made his way along to Stein's apartment at No.27. "It was easy to get into the habit of stopping in at 27 rue de Fleurus for warmth and the great pictures and the conversation," he wrote.
As you walk in off the busy rue de Vaugirard you enter a serene and calming world created by a series of artfully constructed vistas. Immaculately trained avenues lead to low, dark, out over the elegant pond and the Palais du Luxembourg. The gardens are dotted with nineteenth-century park furniture, little pavilions and shelters, all beautifully kept. In 1924 Hemingway moved to an apartment at No.113, above a sawmill. Nowadays the concrete-coated block is part of the Ecole Alsacienne. Much of the area is home to schools and colleges.
Boulevard du Montparnasse
The front door of the Patisserie Grascoeur opens on to the boulevard du Montparnasse and a final massed climax of Hemingway sites.
Turn left for Librairie Abencerage at No.159, an upmarket travel bookshop that was once the Httel Venitia, where Hemingway carried on an adulterous affair with Pauline (who became the second Mrs. Hemingway in 1927). Carry on to the junction of rue de l'Observatoire where you will find La Closerie des Lilas (171 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6th, 01.40.51.34.50, open 11.30am-1am daily), one of Hemingway's favorite writing, eating and drinking spots. Past the statue of Marshal Ney across the road, is the sign of the Hotel Beauvoir, where Hadley Hemingway and their young son stayed after Hemingway left her for Pauline.
This is the walk the way Hemingway liked it, no metro, no buses. I took pictures along the way and compiled them into a book which I sent to my father in Idaho so that he could see Hemingway's Paris through my eyes.
www.lesdeuxmagots.com: Les Deux Magots, cafe in Paris
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