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The Roaring Twenties Paris: In The Footsteps Of Hemingway
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The Roaring Twenties Paris: In The Footsteps Of Hemingway

Picture of Barbara Boumaraf-Tissier
Updated: 2 August 2016
Did you ever dream of being part of this ‘Lost Generation’ (as Gertrude Stein called them) of incredible expats enjoying A Moveable Feast in 1920s Paris? Happily, this post-WWI Paris still exists and you can breathe the air of bohemian madness in some areas of the capital.This is how to be transported into the Roaring Twenties of Paris, following Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps.

The best way to soak up Hemingway’s way of living is meandering in the Latin Quarter, where Hemingway settled in 1921. First, you should begin at Censier-Daubenton metro station and climb the enchanting Rue Mouffetard towards the Place Contrescarpe. Rue Mouffetard is a ‘wonderful, narrow crowded market street’, with a very special charm. You can find fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and charcuterie and, above all, a captivating Parisian atmosphere. When you arrive at Le Café des Amateurs (now the cozy Café Delmas), act like Papa Hem and take the time to read a book and to relish the view.

Address: Café Delmas 2, Place de la Contrescarpe, 75005, Paris

Then, stop by Hemingway’s first address in Paris at 74 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, where he lived on the third floor with his wife Hadley. Next, head to 39 Rue Descartes where Hemingway rented a room on the top floor in order to have a space for serene and creative thinking. It was in this same house where French poet Paul Verlaine passed away in 1896.

Another important spot for Hemingway’s work is the Place Saint-Michel where he used to sit and write while enjoying fresh oysters and refined white wine. In this district, a stop at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop is highly recommended. If the original one, run by Hem’s friend, Sylvia Beach, was at 11 Rue Odeon, the store still has a unique and magical aura and is also a good shelter for English speakers. Ernest wrote: ‘In those days there was no money to buy books. I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare & Company, (…) On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place.’

Address: Shakespeare & Company, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005, Paris

Close to Saint-Michel, is the most representative district of the nostalgic 1920s in Paris: Saint-Germain-des-Prés. There, you will find a lot of mythical cafés and brasseries where Hemingway and his friends had their habits. Les Deux Magots was a literary café where the French-intellectual elite used to meet. Hemingway chose it as scenery in his novel The Sun Also Rises. He also wrote at Le Café de Flore. If nowadays these cafés are more touristic than literary, they still have lovely terraces from which to enjoy the ballet of Parisian streets.

Address: Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006, Paris

On the other side of Boulevard Saint-Germain is Hemingway’s favorite place for a comfort meal: the Brasserie Lipp. He used to order cervela, potatoes salad and a distingué (mug of beer). You can appreciate this noisy brasserie’s atmosphere and admire the beautiful Art Deco interior with mirrors, mosaics and painted ceilings. Ask for some Alsatian delicacies and you won’t be disappointed, but note that the legendary Lipp is no longer a cheap place to lunch.

Address: Brasserie Lipp, 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006, Paris

When money was lacking, Hemingway preferred to go to the Luxembourg Museum and as he said ‘all the paintings were sharper and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry’. The Jardin du Luxembourg is a must see in Paris in every season, especially when you want to experience Hemingway’s daily life, because this fancy garden was his companion of hunger, this was where he connected with art and nature and where he sometimes hunted for pigeons.

Finally, go to the Port-Royal area. Papa Hem later settled at 113 Rue Notre-Dames-des-Champs. The ultimate restaurant to stop by is La Closerie des Lilas. It is where Hemingway conceived most of The Sun Also Rises and where he read Fitzgerald’s manuscript of The Great Gatsby. About this place he wrote: ‘it was one of the best cafés in Paris. It was warm inside in the winter and in the spring and fall it was fine outside with the table under the shade of the trees’. At La Closerie you can sample snails of Burgundy or oysters, and in the gastronomic part, the famous ‘Hemingway black pepper beef tenderloin, flamed with Bourbon at your table’. Don’t forget at night to try a cocktail in the piano bar. In this same area, Hemingway was also a regular of Le Select, at 99 Boulevard Montparnasse, where he enjoyed eating breakfast. You can still meet some Parisian intellectuals and eat an appetizing beef tartare or a roasted farm chicken in its own juice.

Address: La Closerie des Lilas, 171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006, Paris

‘If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast’, said Hemingway. So if you have the fortune to stay in Paris, with all these tips, why not take the chance to make this a ‘moveable feast’ of your own?