Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Paris Tour--Part 2

It was already on my second day in Paris that I'd discovered my "outside office": a café on la Place Saint-Michel, presided over by an impressive fountain of Saint Michael slaying the Devil.

Located on the Rive Gauche off the Pont Saint-Michel to Ile de la Cité, the square has a perfect view of Notre Dame and the spire of Saint-Chapelle behind the Palais de Justice. Place Saint-Michel is a crossroads for several major boulevards and colourful narrow alleys which spill a constant flow of tourists, pilgrims and locals into the open square.

By the third day, I'd already acquired my obligatory scarf (90% of Parisiennes wear them, along with gorgeous shoes, being stylish dressers) and was getting very comfortable in this beautiful city. I had settled in my corner of the café with a pastis (an anise-flavoured liqueur) and café creme and was reading le Monde when a gaggle of tourists from Rhode Island swept into the café. As one bumped up against my chair, she excused herself in broken French. I had a revellation: they thought I was a local! I responded in English, which ended in a wonderful conversation and this picture of me, where I confess I have done some of my best work... (that pastis was very nice!).

It is here that our young rogue hero, François, brings our medieval heroine, Vivianne, to meet his eccentric uncle; it is also here where calamity befalls them all.

Boulevard Saint-Michel (called Boul'Mich by the locals) is one of two major streets of the Latin Quarter and connects the Sorbonne (founded in 1257 and one of the first significant colleges of the medieval University of Paris) with the Luxembourg gardens. As the central axis of the Latin Quarter, it was (and still is) a hotbed of student life and activism. Old bookstores abound amidst cafés, cinema and clothing shops. Major bookstores include Gibert Joseph and the Gibert Jeune.

Shakespeare & Company, located on Rue Bucherie, just off the Petit Pont, is a bookstore with lots of character and a view of Notre Dame Cathedral. More on that bookstore later.

Rue Mouffetard (affectionately referred to as le Mouffe by the locals) is one of the major market streets in the Latin Quarter. Toulouse and I strolled along le Mouffe one morning past several fromageries, boulangeries, charcouteries and patisseries--wait, I stopped at those! Actually, we stopped at most of the shops and I returned to my apartment with a bounty of two fromages, a sharp but creamy coeur Neufchatel and a Chalaigner; a fresh bagette; a paté de foie and a rich Bordeaux wine. Mmmmm...

According to Wikipedia, the origins of this thoroughfare are ancient, dating back to Neolithic times. As with today's rue Galande, rue Lagrange, rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève and rue Descartes, it was a Roman road running from the Roman Rive Gauche city south to Italy. From the Middle Ages a church along this section of roadway became centre of a "bourg Saint-Médard" (Saint-Médard village), and from 1724 was integrated into Paris as the main artery of the "Faubourg Saint Médard". The area remained relatively unchanged because of its location on the Saint Geneviève hill, which protected it from Baron Haussmann's redevelopment during the reign of Napoleon III.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

I can see you're doing a lot of research, not forgetting to have a good time as well!

sfgirl said...

Thanks, Jean-luc! Ah, the research must go on...

sfgirl said...

The existentialist, Friedrich Neitzsche acknowledged Paris as an important centre for art: "As an artist, a man has no home in Europe save in Paris."