If you’re a writer, Paris tends to be a very special city. The Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris, captures the heady days of the 1920s in Paris when the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and many others gave the city a literary mystique that persists to this day. I’ve visited Paris six times and can’t imagine ever tiring of the experience.
My wife and I have just returned from Paris where we stayed in the heart of the Latin Quarter. It was quite simply wonderful in every way. We didn’t visit a single art gallery or museum as we’d done all of those touristy things on previous trips. This was a visit just for strolling the streets, writing in cafes, gorging on French food, and simply immersing ourselves in one of the most amazing cities in the world. In short, it was a very memorable trip.
Here’s the view from our hotel room on Rue de Buci.
On Friday, we took a Hemingway walking tour where we visited several places in the area where Hemingway lived and wrote. Here’s where Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, lived in Paris. (Pardon my classy use of the red arrow, but I wanted to be precise.)
One morning I awoke earlier than expected and slipped out by myself to write for an hour or so in the famous Les Deux Magots cafe where Hemingway spend many hours writing back in the 1920s.
I snagged a spot right next to the seat Hemingway always sat in when he wrote there. In fact, there’s a photo of Hemingway hanging on the wall to mark his favoured table. In the photo below, I know it looks like I’m battling a migraine, but I’m actually writing notes about some of the characters who will populate my fourth novel, which has a Paris/Hemingway connection.
I also visited the celebrated Shakespeare and Company, the famous English bookstore that has been a fixture of literary Paris for over 60 years. I’ve been in the store on each of my trips to Paris and it’s always a wonderful experience. After donating a copy of Up and Down to their lending library, I was invited to attend their weekly Sunday afternoon tea. You can read about this ritual and much more in Jeremy Mercer’s memoir about this time at Shakespeare and Company Time Was Soft There, a great read.
I also hit the other English bookstore in the area, The Abbey Bookshop, (in fact, it’s owned by a Canadian) and was thrilled to stumble upon a copy of The Best Laid Plans in their considerable Canadian Fiction section.
I returned to Toronto this past Monday inspired by the literary history and sites of Paris. You’ll find a few more photos on my Facebook page
Now, back to outlining novel #4. I hope to be starting to write the manuscript early in the new year. No doubt, memories of Paris will sustain me through a long winter of writing.