If there’s one place that has both inspired and enchanted writers, it would be Paris. So for my first Five Literary Sites post of 2016, I thought I’d begin with Paris, a city I love and a city I could return to time and time again. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wilde, Eliot-they all came here at some point in their lives, some staying longer than others, but all having the city of Paris forever stay with them.
-Les Deux Magots
While today all you will find at the Left Bank cafe Les Deux Magots are scores of tourists and typically indifferent Parisian servers, back during the heyday of the Lost Generation, it was THE place to go. Everyone from Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus to Hemingway and Picasso hung out there and memorabilia lets visitors know this. For any literary die-hard, it’s a must stop.
On my second trip to Paris, the first thing I did was visit the Palais Garnier, Paris’ opera house which was built during the mid-19th century. Although most people are aware of the story of the Phantom of the Opera thanks to a certain musical theater genius, the story actually dates back to the turn of the last century when French writer Gaston Leroux penned his most famous novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The building itself is an architectural wonder, both inside and out, and of course if you’re familiar with the story, you will be able to spot the infamous chandelier and imagine the phantom skulking around on the rafters above the stage.
One of the things I love most about Paris is the timelessness of its cafes and brasseries. Unlike in America where modernity rules in terms of the look and demographic of workers serving customers at cafes and coffee houses, in Paris, it’s still black waistcoats, bow ties, and long white aprons. For any Hemingway fans, they will know Brasserie Lip as the Paris dining establishment immortalized in A Moveable Feast, his posthumously-published memoir. His go to order was typically a liter of beer and pommes à l’huile with sausage (potato salad). This is definitely a spot I hope to visit and dine at on my next trip to the City of Light.
–Cimetière du Montparnasse
When it comes to Paris cemeteries, Père Lachaise gets all the acclaim (I also have repeatedly talked here on the blog about wanting to visit it). However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other equally enchanting cemeteries there. Cimetière du Montparnasse happens to be one of them. Some of the reasons that make it more appealing to visit is that it’s less crowded and some say even prettier than its more famous rival. And lest you think there are no famous people interred there, it still features Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, and Guy de Maupassant. Pictures I’ve seen definitely confirm that I would enjoy visiting.
-27 rue de Fleurus
In case you’re wondering what a street address is doing on the list, this street address is probably the most important of all the sites I featured on this list due to what it was at one time. 27 rue de Fleurus was none other than the home of Gertrude Stein, a literary genius and mentor to so many of modern literature’s “greats.” Her home was host to a weekly Saturday evening gathering of writers and artists for four decades. Everyone from Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Fitzgerald, Henri Matisse, James Joyce and more congregated here anxious to share ideas and learn from others. I’ve seen the marker that notes the house she was born in here in Pittsburgh and so I would like to see the same for the house she lived in most of her adult life.
Have you ever visited any literary sites in Paris? Any that you would add to the list?