As I have said before, I moved to Paris from Nice, after having lived in Nice for four years. Why did I not stay in Nice? There were a lot of reasons, but the main one is that I seem to thrive in a city. Nice was beautiful but more like a “resort” to me, like living in Palm Springs instead of Los Angeles. I could have stayed in beautiful Orange County in California, but I wanted to be in Los Angeles. Now, I think I have made the right decision to move to Paris from Nice. And, in 2019, when I made the decision to move, I had a friend in Nice who had properties in both Paris and Nice. I literally begged her to let me rent a Studio in Paris for a year to “look around” for an apartment for me. She owned a small Studio in the Sixième Arrondissement that she rented to visitors on Airbnb most of the time. She agreed. So, I moved to Paris with my cat and a Steinway piano after a major downsizing in January 2020. Needless to say, it was a tight fit. But, I did it and let go of many of my dearest possessions. But that was how much I wanted to get to Paris before it was too late. None of us could see the pandemic coming.
But, lucky me!!! I got to be introduced to one of the most charming areas of Paris with NO ONE on the streets. WOW! So, as I walked around empty streets, I had NO IDEA of what I was seeing. I would read signs, but I had no one to ask. The cat Missy did not like it at all. She still doesn’t. I had a patio in Nice where she would go outside and visit the neighbors. Eat grass. Lounge in the sun. Here, she is limited to one room and the bathroom. Nope. She does not like it. Many times, I have thought of getting rid of her and finding her a home where she can wander, but I love the company. So, we are better, but she needs more options. So do I.
I knew some French. I knew some French history, but not a lot of either. That did not stop me. I have ALWAYS seen myself as French, even though I am Anglo-Saxon from the British Isles. I don’t think I romanticized it. Maybe, but I, on the contrary, saw myself as a student at the Sorbonne and as a revolutionary of some sort. Alone and Joan of Arc ’ish. Forthright. Now, not so much. Haha. Now, I just want to be able to walk without a cane. I can. Sorta. But I don’t. Fear of falling. But I digress.
WELLllllll, here I am, in the middle of The Latin Quarter, without a good foundation. SO, in order to begin, I have begun my research in order to give a background to what I have seen, photographed, and posted on Jayspeak, Facebook, or Instagram by now. What???? One other note to this “Preface”. I had thought that my friend – who is now my “landlord” – would help me get adjusted, but that did not happen. Why? We managed to have a HUGE misunderstanding at the beginning and did not communicate much. So, I was on my own, adrift in a muck of my own making without a rowboat or a paddle. Still am, but things are better. I am into my sixth month in Paris and learning my way around a little.
As luck would have it, I have found myself in the middle of a historic center of learning, scholarship and artistic achievement in Paris. Unfortunately, the area is also a bit of a victim of its own popularity – much of which I managed to miss during Lockdown. This is a beloved neighborhood. It is an area in the 5th and the 6th arrondissements and is situated on the left bank of the Seine. Known for its student life because of the Sorbonne, it has a lively atmosphere and a lot of well-priced bistros. Students are always walking outside of my window. Young and enthusiastic. Also, besides the Sorbonne, the Latin Quarter is the home to a number of excellent high schools and other universities, such as the École Normale Supérieure, the École des Mines de Paris, Panthéon-Assas University, the Schola Cantorum, and the Jussieu University campus. You get the picture. Lot of learning going on here. I have considered enrolling in a class or two somewhere or trying to teach. I always considered myself a “professional student”. Thus, Law School at age 59. Oh, to be young again. Lots of other establishments such as the École Polytechnique have relocated in recent times to more spacious settings.
The Latin Quarter gets its name from the Latin language (duh), which was widely spoken in and around the University during the Middle Ages, after the twelfth century philosopher Pierre Abélard and his students took up residence here. I don’t know who Abélard is. Let’s look him up. A philosopher? WOW. His life and accomplishments are too numerous to list here. Just know that he was the father of scholasticism and the inventor of conceptualism, whatever that is. He was born in Brittany in 1072 and was a rigorous free-thinker and not a conformist. That was new at that time (the 12th Century). He died in 1142. His life is very interesting. I will research more of it at another time. As many of you may or may not know, I have been interested in philosophy for a lifetime, and this man’s life and pursuits are just my cup of tea. I wrote my master’s degree thesis about philosophers – “George Bernard Shaw’s Life Force Philosophy”, for sale on amazon.com.
This is my neighborhood. Winding cobblestone streets, flower-adorned balconies and arthouse cinemas: these are only some of the features that contribute to the Saint-Michel neighborhood’s charm. It is located on the west side of the Latin Quarter. I took these shots of the St. Michel fountain and the Notre Dame Cathedral, situated just across the Seine River on the opposite bank.
This popular neighbourhood is home to the Pantheon mausoleum. I have not been inside, yet. It was closed during Lockdown. What is the Pantheon Mausoleum? “Sitting atop Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the heart of Paris’ lively Latin Quarter, the Panthéon is a mausoleum for celebrated figures in French and Parisian history, including Victor Hugo, Marie Curie and Voltaire.” – google.com
And with the Sorbonne University,
speciality bookshops and famed old cafes like Le Lutece also cluster in the area.
And the Jardin de Luxembourg,
and the Senate, and the area of Saint Germaine, and the Seine, and The Cluny Museum, and the Odeon National Theatre, and the Cinema, and ……..
That means that it isn’t all touristy. Despite its popularity, it still manages to reserve quiet nooks and places that seem curiously untouched by modernity.
Orientation and Main Streets:
St. Michel Boulevard is situated mainly in Paris’ 5th arrondissement with the Seine River to the north and Montparnasse to the southwest. It’s roughly sandwiched between the Jardin du Luxembourg to the west and the Jardin des Plantes to the east. Meanwhile, the fashionable, rather posh St-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood is tucked just west of St-Michel Blvd. The Gibert Jeune and Gibert Joseph bookshops are rare booksellers across the street from my apartment. I have not gone inside because most of the books are in French. But, I have a lot of places to go inside before I leave the area.
I have browsed inside at Shakespeare & Company Bookshop in the shop’s narrow, uneven shelves and carefully curated tables. I need to spend more time there. (I did not take this photo. But, all the others are mine.) I have gone inside of this one. LOTS of books in English. Duh.
You may have noticed that this entire district is something of a book lover’s dream. There are few places more iconic in the Latin Quarter than this beloved bookshop. Opened in 1951 by consummate Parisian beatnik George Whitman—who passed away in 2011—it’s now owned by his business-savvy daughter, Sylvia. Originally opened as “Le Mistral,” this is not the original S&Co shop in Paris: George Whitman renamed it in 1964, in honor of the legendary bookshop opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919 just down the street. Under Beach’s helm, the first shop was famous for hosting and publishing literary greats such as James Joyce. The more recent location is still a literary epicenter and a comforting refuge for English-speakers and readers. And for those living in Paris, the shop also regularly hosts workshops and talks with great writers; it hosts aspiring writers and poets, charmingly referred to as “tumbleweeds,” by exchanging lodging upstairs for work in the shop. This place is simply timeless and essential. I plan to attend functions like these in the future.
The Sorbonne is a Parisian badge of pride as one of Europe’s oldest colleges— it opened in 1257 as part of the medieval Université de Paris. The institution that gave the Latin Quarter its name (after the theology students, mostly monks and other religious figures, who occupied the then-Christian institution and worked exclusively in Latin,) it retains a genuine air of prestige. Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to gain admission inside the hallowed walls of the old college to take a peek, but a visit to the pretty traditional square, lined with cafes and trees, is still worth a bit of time out of your day.
In conclusion, I am pretty fortunate to be in this neighborhood for a while even if I move into another arrondissement (because that was the deal) and this one is pretty pricey. But, that is OK. I am glad that I am in Paris and beginning an interesting sojourn for the next few years, if my health maintains.
And, as a final observation, in The Latin Quarter, EVERYTHING seems in disrepair, including me. Most things are being worked on in some way. Resurfaced, reconstructed, repaired, torn up or fixed. All of it is worth saving in some way. In Nice, entire buildings would disappear with an entirely new structure going up. Not here. It is probably my imagination, but I can feel the ghosts from ages past surrounding me in the Jardin and on many of the streets. I have so much to learn and so much to experience. It is an exciting time for me. I pray for good health, energy, money and time left on the earth. So, all of it will be, “God (the Universe) willin’ and the crick don’t rise…..” (a Southern expression). If I had to make one suggestion, come to Paris when you are young. LOTS of fun steps and nooks and crannies everywhere. This was a fun one to write! My sign off picture is recent and au natural sorta. No one here seems to care ((except me when I want to take a selfie!!! (sigh) Mother would be horrified.))
Donation – Beginning Again in PARIS)
Thanks for helping me afford where I am going AGAIN in Paris. I will do my best! Thanks, Jay