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Paris is Always a Good Idea

Written by Alessandra

Just for you, I did a little digging around the internets to discover and confirm that no, the title of today’s post is not in fact a quote from Audrey Hepburn and the 1954 film, Sabrina. It was en fait, uttered by Julie Ormond in the ’95 remake with Harrison Ford. At any rate, I know what I’m doing this weekend. I’ve got some movies to catch up on.

With confinement, part deux at the forefront of many people’s minds, Paris isn’t in it’s usual tip-top shape. Stricter rules may be putting a bit of a damper on the usual sidewalk-café-and-people-watching routine, but that doesn’t make the streets of Paris any less enchanting or the restaurant terraces any less charming. 

Today seemed like a good day to shine a quick spotlight on some of Paris’ most well-known cafés of Saint Germain des Près (just a hop, skip, and a jump away from our 5ème headquarters). These establishments have been tried and tested by just a few noteworthy thinkers and writers over the years and are likely first on the list to visit (or re-visit) come de-confinement.

Café de Flore

172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6ème

One of the oldest coffeehouses of Paris and a hub for nearly 50 years, Café de Flore has been frequented by the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, George Bataille, Picasso, Albert Camus, and Raymond Aron. 

The cafe has it’s own literary award Le Prix de Flore, which was started by French writer Frédéric Beigbeder in 1994 and is awarded annually every November. If you’re a fan of Emily in Paris, you may have even seen this famous spot featured in Season 1, episode 6 !

Les Deux Magots

6 Place Saint Germain des Près, 6ème

Another one of Paris’ most famous cafés and a popular meeting place of the Golden Age literary elite, Les Deux Magots was a favourite of  Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Ernest Hemingway and Jacques Prévert, and was also frequented by American mid-century writers like Chester Himes, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright.

This café-restaurant also has it’s own literary award, Le Prix de Deux Magots, which has been awarded every January since 1933. 

Café Le Select

99 Boulevard du Montparnasse, juncture of the 6ème and 14ème

The first restaurant in Montparnasse to remain open all night long, Le Select opened in 1925 and became an instant success because it served alcohol 24 hours a day. It was a favourite of Henri Miller, Hemingway, and F. Scott. Fitzgerald (apparently the place where the latter read an early draft of Great Gatsby to the former), and was frequented by a myriad of artists including Calder and Matisse. 

Le Select was also where Chester Himes wrote his 1959 novel A Crazy Kill and was one of the primary Parisian settings for Hemingway’s novel The Sun also Rises

La Closerie de Lilas

171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, just down the street from Le Select

Cited as Hemingway’s “home cafe” (though at this point, it sounds like this guy lived in every café in Saint Germain and Montparnasse), La Closerie des Lilas is another one of Montparnasse’s famous brasseries, steeped with old Paris charm. 

A favourite of Paul Verlaine, Guillaume Apollinaire, Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Cézanne, Amedeo Modigliani, Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola, and André Gide. 

The only decent café in our neighborhood was La Closerie des Lilas, and it was one of the best cafes in Paris. It was warm in the winter and the terrace was lovely in the spring and fall,” Hemingway – A Moveable feast

La Palette

43 Rue de Seine, 6ème

Another hotspot of bohemian Saint Germain, La Palette was originally a popular gathering place for students of L’École National Supérieure des Beux-arts and nearby gallery artists, frequently visited by Cézanne, Picasso, and Braque (Hemingway also discovered it eventually). 

I’ve actually been to this café and can tell you that the interior of the café-restaurant is really something to explore. It’s dimly lit, full of paintings, old mirrors, tile-art, and altogether very charming. I got to enjoy a very long apèro on the terrace (that would be wine and a whole lot of cheese) with friends who were visiting Paris, last fall. 

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