Christina Henry de Tessan’s Hemingway Walk in her book Forever Paris (see my posting here on my favorite Paris books) starts with the apartment on Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine where Ernest Hemingway lived with his wife Hadley during the early 1920s. I started Part Two of our walk at Place Edmond-Rostand near the east entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens and when I reached 74 Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine I turned around and retraced my steps. The entire walk took about an hour.
Ernest and Hadley arrived in Paris in December 1921 and moved into their apartment on Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine in January 1922.
Hemingway describes in great detail in A Moveable Feast some of the events that happened during this time in Paris but entirely skips major periods, too. He never mentions, for instance, that during this period the couple moved to Canada (August 1923) and Hadley had her baby (October 1923) and they didn’t return to Paris until he was three-months old (January 1924). That’s when they moved to a new apartment above a saw mill on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. But Hemingway does describe the place where they lived for 20 months between January 1922 and August 1923 and many other interesting places nearby, some of which are close to the route Christina has us follow. Right down the street is the Place de la Contrescarpe where they must have spent a lot of their leisure time. Most of the current stores and restaurants, however, were not there when they were around. The popular Cafe Delmas, for instance, was then called the Cafe des Amatuers and Hemingway called it “a sad cafe” and “a cesspool.” Hemingway does mention several of his favorite places on Rue Mouffetard which crosses Place de la Contrescarpe and continues southward. Above Rue Thouin, however, Rue Mouffetard changes its name to Rue Descartes and this is where Hemingway rented his room for writing.
Stop # 2 in Christina’s walk is the Luxembourg Gardens back where I left my wife. To get there she has us walking west on Rue Blainville to Rue Thouin and then onto Rue de l’Estrapade until we reach Rue Saint-Jacques. Then we turn right for one block and then turn left on Rue Soufflot and walk down to Boulevard Saint-Michel and Place Edmond Rostand. I made one deviation from this walk: I saw no need to walk all the way to Rue Saint-Jacques when we were walking one block south of the Pantheon and I decided that visiting the Pantheon again would be more interesting than anything on Rue Saint-Jacques. So I turned right one block early on Rue Clotaire which took me directly to the front of the Pantheon.
I found the route down Rue Blainville and Rue de l’Estrapade very interesting and quite scenic. The Place de l’Estrapade is especially pretty with its park-like setting that draws crowds. I guess Hemingway actually walked this way a few times on his way from home to his Luxembourg haunts via the Place de la Contrescarpe. But in A Moveable Feast he describes in detail the route he usually took to get to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Christina’s route took us on a parallel walk one block south of the Pantheon. But Hemingway preferred to walk along Rue Clovis which ends on the north side of the Pantheon at Place Pantheon which then merges into Rue Soufflot.
I’m not sure why Christina has us walk her way instead. Maybe it is because it is a more scenic route. Most days Hemingway would start his walk not from his home on Cardinal Lemoine but from the attic room he rented on Rue Descartes. This room is about halfway between Rue Clovis and Rue Thouin which runs close to his home. There would be no need to walk south to Place de la Contrescarpe and pick up Christina’s route. The route with the shortest distance would be to walk all the way west on Rue Clovis to Place Pantheon and Rue Soufflot. Rue Clovis goes straight west between the north side of the Pantheon and the south side of Saint Etienne du Mont.
Christina doesn’t ever mention Hemingway’s writing room on Rue Descartes. Her book is very small and she can’t mention everything in the four pages she allocates to each of her walks and that’s OK. And I don’t know if she ever read about this route that Hemingway preferred. But I can tell you you Woody Allen knew about it. A Moveable Feast came out in 1964 and shortly afterwards Woody inserted a lot of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein jokes in his stand-up comic routines. I bet you that over the years he memorized Hemingway’s book until he finally wrote Midnight in Paris which was released in 2011. The most famous scenes in the movie occur when Pender sits on some steps waiting for the stroke of midnight when a car will come by and whisk him back to the 1920s. And where does Pender sit, you may ask? Well, Woody probably couldn’t find an interesting spot on Rue Clovis. So he probably walked around to the other side of the church, to the steps of the north entrance to St Etienne at the end of Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont just across from a British pub called The Bombardier and found his midnight scene!
Well, I eventually got back to Place Edmond Rostand and found my wife waiting for me at the bus stop where we hopped on the l’Open tour bus a few days before. We decided to have some lunch before embarking on Christina’s walk again and backtracked to the last block of Rue Monsieur le Prince where we noticed at least a dozen Asian restaurants. We picked one of the small Japanese ones and each of us had a nice lunch (I had a bowl of rice, a meat dish and a beer; my wife had tea and mostly vegetables. Some of our friends and relatives can’t believe we traveled all the way to Paris to have Japanese food!).
We then began the final leg of our Hemingway Walk, which will be the subject of my next posting.