Four years ago, my first full year of literary walks, Bill Collis and fellow Australians took the walk I call “A Band of Outsiders". This stroll takes place in the colorful Place de la Contrescarpe-rue Mouffetard neighborhood of the Latin Quarter, home no less to the likes of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell in the 1920s and other very great writers earlier. Bill liked it so much that he wrote about it when he returned home. His article ran in the Sunday Australian newspaper and subsequently Bonjour Paris. He called it “A Literary Pilgrim Goes to Paris.”
What follows are Bill’s article, pictures of him and others on the walk, and Patti Miller, the literary mentor of my Australian walkers and outstanding writer whose latest book is the memoir Ransacking Paris.
A Literary Pilgrim Goes to Paris
Walking along the boulevards of Paris, becoming a flaneur, is an essential Parisian experience – more so if you have a passion for the literary history of the city. For the ‘The Band of Outsiders’ Literary Walking tour in Paris, I met the expatriate American writer, David Burke, with my fellow walkers at Place de la Contrescarpe. He began by explaining that just as writers were enriched by living in Paris, our appreciation of their lives and work is heightened by following them from place to place in our imaginations or, even better, in our walking shoes.
In spite of the snobbish idea that tourism is not really travel I was hoping, as I arrived in Paris, that it was still possible to have a life-enhancing, even life-changing, experience in a short time away from the humdrum world of daily life. Like everyone else interested in literature I had read that Paris in the first half of the twentieth century was a haven foreign writers and artists, attracted by its great artistic and social freedom. I read Being Geniuses Together 1920-1930, by Robert McAlmon and Kay Boyle, about expatriate American writers and artists living in Paris, which had inspired me to read Hemingway, Fitzgerald and many others. Gertrude Stein wrote: “Paris was where the twentieth century was.”
I also had a fascination with the vast series of novels, La Comédie Humaine, by Honoré de Balzac. When I started reading them in my twenties I found it all so different and foreign from anything else I had read. My acquaintance with this city seems to have spanned my whole adult life; in my dreams and in my reading.
So, now I stood with David and our group at the centre of the ancient Fauberg Saint Medard, an area which in the Middle Ages lay outside the city walls. He described how wine was cheap and untaxed then and this area teemed with traders and travelers. Francois Villon and later, Rabelais were known to have caroused at the taverns there.
In 1922 the young Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, moved into an apartment around the corner in rue du Cardinal Lemoine. The old building is still there with a plaque indicating their stay there. David reminds us of Hemingway’s character, Harry, in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, thinking about this area: “And in that poverty, and in that quarter…he had written the start of all he was to do. There was never another part of Paris that he loved like that.”
And it is a rich quartier. Down the hill a block from Hemingway’s we stopped at Valery Larbaud’s apartment where James Joyce finished writing Ulysses. Then we strolled on through the colorful market street Rue Mouffetard to Rue du Pot-de-Fer where George Orwell once was living a life of poverty that he described in such detail in his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London.
It was beginning to rain as we stopped outside the house Balzac used as a model for Mme Vauquer’s pension bourgeoise in Le Père Goriot. For shelter we ducked into a nearby art gallery, and David took the opportunity to entertain us with the stories about characters Balzac used in his novels, like the young law student Rastignac and the evil Vautrin. Paris is a tangible mix of the past and present, and the longer we stay in Paris we will come to agree with Balzac when he claimed: “while searching the dead I only see the living.”
Our walk concluded at the 15th century church of Saint Medard, where Jean Valjean is pursued by the evil Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. We then adjourned to a nearby café where we relaxed over a glass of wine, un vin rouge, trying to absorb what our afternoon had given us.
That is where their true legacy lies.
Eye Prefer Paris Postcards
I am thrilled to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Postcards, a 6 or 12-month subscription service where the subscriber receives three physical postcards of my iconic Paris photos every month. Each month will have a specific theme, from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens to unique shots of iconic monuments. Each mailing will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, beautifully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder with a custom designed seal.
Each 6” X 4.25” traditional size postcard is printed on thick matte coated card stock, similar to traditional vintage postcard stock that enhances the vibrancy of every image.
I am running a sale this month for the the postcards.
A three-month subscription is now $25 instead of $30 plus shipping.
Click here to order.
A six-month subscription is now $50 instead of $60 plus shipping.
This offer is good until February 29, 2016.
Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more. In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.
Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.