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Walk like the Man:
An Englishman trails an American in Paris

By Michael Palin

Excerpted from "Time Out Book of Paris Walks"

If you ever find yourself in Paris, follow this handy guide to see all the Hemingway sites the city has to offer.

Start: Métro Censier Daubenton, 5th arrondisement
Finish: Métro Edgar Quinet, 14th arrondisement
Time: 4-5 hours
Distance: 8km (5 miles)
Getting there: Line 7 to Métro Censier Daubenton
Getting back: Métro Edgar Quinet (line 6)
Note: The market on rue Mouffetard closes for a siesta.

I’ve a great fondness for the Paris Métro system — not just because it is efficient or because it smells of caramel or even because I’ve rarely been as moved by music as I was hearing a busking harpist play a slow, infinitely sad version of Pachelbel Canon in one of the pedestrian tunnels at Chatelet station, but because I’ve become obsessed by station names.

Which is why I make no apology for starting my Hemingway walk at the collectable Censier Daubenton station on line 7. Public information of all kinds is abundant in Paris and within moments of emerging from the station I learn from a street sign that rue Daubenton was named after a naturalist who lived from 1716 to 1800. Follow in the steps of the naturalist, left out of the station, until they meet the rue Mouffetard.

A copy of "A Moveable Feast," a memoir of his Paris days written 30 years on, is obligatory for Hemingway pilgrims and you will find that it begins here in this wonderful narrow crowded market streets. Which is pretty much the way it still is. A working neighborhood, not yet a tourist ghetto. To prolong the pleasures of the rue Mouffetard, I suggest you turn left first of all and begin at the bottom of the hill by the church of St-Médard, which has an unusual arrangement of fluted columns inside and was briefly associated with the activities of the Convulsionnaires, not Elvis Presley’s backing group, but Protestant hysterics who believed miracles were effected here. Opposite the church is an old house with a painted facade depicting country scenes. I don’t know of another one quite like it anywhere in Paris.

Most mornings there is a street market in the rue Mouffetard and the smells of fresh-baked bread, cheese, coffee, crepes, roasting chicken, almonds, herbs, sausages, shellfish and everything the French find so important in life induce a series of small olfactory orgasms as you start to climb the steeply sloping cobbles. A little way up the hill is a cafe called Le Mouffetard. It’s modest and plain and family-run and a very good place to watch the ebb and flow of market life.

Follow the road up past a clutch of bars, clubs and inexpensive, often Greek, restaurants until it opens out into the place de la Contrescarpe. There was a Café des Amateurs here, which Hemingway described as ‘the cesspool of the rue Mouffetard,’ and which even he avoided. Now it’s reincarnated as the café La Chope, a cheerful, unselfconscious place popular with students from the local lycées. The day I was last in there a group of French girls was singing a terrific close-harmony version of "Happy Birthday" into a mobile phone.

To the right as you look at the cafe is rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and it’s not far to No.74, where on the third floor the 22-year-old Hemingway and his wife Hadley found their first Paris apartment. He remembered it as having cold water and a squat toilet on the landing, the contents of which were pumped into a horse-drawn tank wagon at night. The toilet is inside the flat now, but that’s about all that’s changed, except that, at the time of writing, it was on the market for a million francs.

Though Hemingway initially came to Paris as a journalist for the Toronto Star, he was determined to become a proper writer and to this end he took a room in a hotel round the corner at 39 rue Descartes. He climbed to the top floor, taking with him twigs and bundles of wood to start a fire on cold winter days, and wrote about North Michigan. 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.

In "A Moveable Feast," he recalls writing a story in "a good café on the place St-Michel." We can retrace his steps there. Left off Descartes and along past the mighty Pantheon, where the remains of the Great and the Dead can be found, entombed in splendor. Perhaps the spirit of occupants such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Zola might have spurred Ernest on as he hurried across the windswept place du Pantheon clutching his notebook and pencils and the rabbit’s foot he used to carry around for good luck.

To the right there is a first glimpse, down the side streets, of the river and the towers of Notre Dame. University buildings and colleges proliferate. Take rue Cujas ("1520-1596, Jurisconsulte") past the back of the Faculty of Law and catch the political mood of the students from the fly-posters on the walls outside the union. When I last passed they read "Non à l’Europe Socialiste. Oui à l’Europe des Etats," which was quite a shock to one brought up on the Red riots of 1968.

Take a right on rue Victor-Cousin ("1792-1867, Philosophe et Homme Politique"), noting the civilized Les Trois Collèges cafe on the corner. This will take you past the main gates of the famous Sorbonne, opened in 1253, and the site of the first printing press in France in 1470.

If you turn into place de la Sorbonne, then right down rue Champollion, you will be aware of one of the most important features of Parisian culture, along with books, jazz and clothes — the cinema. There are three of them in this narrow street alone, and between them an excellent cinema bookshop. We’ve run out of ways of avoiding the main roads and must now face the noisy boulevard St-Michel. Turn right towards the Seine.

In place St-Michel you will search in vain for Hemingway's "good café" where he sat and wrote, drank Rum St James — "smooth as a kitten’s chin" — caught the eye of a pretty girl and then ordered oysters and crisp white wine to celebrate finishing a story.

Today this is a place of high-volume eateries, bookstores and souvenir shops. Main north-south and east-west routes meet here at the river crossing. It’s a concentration, a hub, a thrombosis and apart from an original set of Guimard Art Nouveau railings on the east-side Métro entrance, there is no reason to dawdle.


Auberge de Venise
10 rue Delambre, 14th
(01.43.35.43.09)
Open noon-2.30pm,
7-11.30pm, Tue-Sun.

Cozy Italian restaurant
with fine food.

Aux Assassins
40 rue Jacob, 6th
(no phone)
Open 7pm-midnight
Mon-Sat. Closed Aug.

A lively bistro for bawdy sing-song and trad fare.

L’Avant-Scène Café
53 rue Notre-
Dames-des-Champs, 6th
(01.45.48.91.10)
Open 11am-2am Mon-Fri; 3pm-2am Sat.

Le Bar Dix
10 rue de l’Odeon, 6th
(01.43.26.66.83)
Open 6pm-2am daily.

Trendy venue that was a
hotbed of activity in the
1968 riots.

Brasserie l’Escorailles
29 rue des Sts-Pères, 6th
(01.42.60.25.35)
Open 6am-9pm Mon-Sat.

Café de Flore
172 boulevard St-Germain, 6th (01.45.48.55.26).
Open 7am-1.30am daily.

Expensive café that used to be a Surrealist haunt, and now hosts filmmakers and café philosophique sessions.

Café Pré aux Clercs
30 rue Bonaparte, 6th (01.43.54.41.73)
Open 6.30am-2am daily.

La Chope
2-4 place de la Contrescarpe, 5th (01.43.26.51.26)
Open 8am-2am daily.
Basic salads and café fare.

La Closerie des Lilas
171 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6th (01.40.51.34.50)
Open 11.30am-1am daily.

Better value in the brasserie than the restaurant. Get a
‘Hemingway’ cocktail here.

La Coupole
102 boulevard du
Montparnasse, 14th
(01.43.20.14.20)
Open 7.30am-2am daily.

Reliable French food in this legendary art deco brasserie.

Les Deux Magots
6 place St-Germain-des-Prés, 6th (01.45.48.55.25)
Open 7.30am-2am daily.

Expensive and classy one-time haunt of Sartre, Beckett and de Beauvoir.

Le Dôme
108 boulevard du Montparnasse, 14th (01.43.35.25.81)
Open noon-2.45pm,
7pm-12.30am, daily. Closed Mon and Sun in Aug.

Legendary Montparnasse fish house, also an upmarket café-bar.

Horse’s Tavern
16 carrefour de l’Odéon, 6th (01.43.54.96.91)
Open 8am-2am Mon-Sat; 8am-1.30am Sun.

La Méditerranée
2 place de l’Odéon, 6th (01.43.26.02.30)
Open noon-2.30pm, 7.30-11pm, daily.

Stylish types enjoy excellent fish in beautifully renovated surroundings.

Le Mouffetard
116 rue Mouffetard, 5th (01.43.31.42.50)
Open 7.30am-9pm Tue-Sat; 7.30am-8pm Sun. Closed July.

Lively venue with fine brioches.

La Rotonde
105 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6th (01.43.26.68.84)
Open 7am-2am daily.

A classic café-brasserie offering oysters, and sandwiches

Le Select
99 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6th (01.42.22.65.27)
Open 7am-3am Mon-Thur, Sun; 7am-4am Fri, Sat.

Large, grand and historic self-styled ‘American bar’.

Les Trois Collèges
16 rue Cujas, 5th (01.43.54.67.30)
Open 10am-7.30pm Mon-Fri.

Tearoom with fine selection of interesting teas and handmade patisseries.


Text excerpt: Excerted from the "Time Out Book of Paris Walks" (April 2000). Used with permission of Penguin books and Time Out. Its companion volumes are the "Time Out Book of London Walks" (also published in April) and the "Time Out Book of New York Walks" (to be published in October).

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