One can walk the grand boulevards, the embankments along the Seine, the cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter, the tree-lined paths of the Bois de Bologne or the Luxembourg...
PARIS One can walk the grand boulevards, the embankments along the Seine, the cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter, the tree-lined paths of the Bois de Bologne or the Luxembourg Gardens and encounter ghosts from Voltaire and Henry James to William Faulkner and John Steinbeck trolling for words and ideas.
Washington Irving slept here, and Benjamin Franklin charmed the mademoiselles.
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Pause for “un sérieux,” a large beer, at the Brasserie Lipp, where Ernest Hemingway wrote at a corner table on the terrace and one night rolled a rather too-serious James Joyce home in a wheelbarrow.
A few blocks away, Boulevard du Montparnasse offers a quartet of liquid literary shrines: La Rotonde, where Edna St. Vincent Millay burnt a few candles at both ends; Le Dome, now an excellent seafood restaurant; and Le Select, where Hart Crane was hauled off to a successor of the Bastille after a punch-up with a waiter.
Dad’s old haunts
Strolling about Paris is like a graduate course in comparative lit, a fact we discovered while attending a seminar at the American University devoted to James Jones, the famed author of “From Here to Eternity.” Jones lived and worked in Paris for a decade and a half, beginning in 1958.
Jones was a regular at the Lipp, which figures in his Paris novel, “The Merry Month of May.” But he claimed “the best beer in town is served in stone mugs at Brasserie du Pont,” just across the foot bridge from Notre Dame cathedral and a short walk from his apartment. Like Hemingway nearly a half-century before him, Jones liked to roam the quays along the Seine, browsing the book stallss.
Jones recommended the Sûreté, police headquarters, where Georges Simenon’s fictional Inspector Maigret battled felons and bureaucrats.
‘Une dry’ martini
Hemingway apparently could write anywhere on a park bench beneath the statue of his hero Marshal Ney, at the finish line of the bike races at the Velodrome, at outdoor or window tables in several pubs bordering Boulevard Saint Michel.
In the pursuit of suitable writing dens, Hemingway taught dozens of bartenders to keep a light hand on the vermouth in concocting “une dry,” a gin martini, to his rigid 16-to-1 specifications. William Faulkner liked to sit on the terrace of the Cafe Esmerelda gazing up at the Notre Dame’s gargoyles. He often wrote while watching the old men playing petanque, a bowling game like bocci, in the Luxembourg Gardens.
It was only a short hop under the river to visit the literary sites on the Right Bank, like the Ritz Hotel, where a sozzled Fitzgerald was often seen being helped into a cab; and Harry’s New York Bar, which can count four Nobel Prize winners among the alumni of its “Society of International Barflies”: Hemingway, Faulkner, John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis.
American writers and artists still come to Paris to find themselves, or, like The Lost Generation of the ’20s, to lose and booze themselves. As it did for Hemingway and James Jones, Paris becomes both their university and mistress.