As all good love affairs, mine started with a film. Midnight in Paris to be exact.
By the time the end credits began to roll, my fascination and love for old-school 1920s Paris kicked into high gear. The allure of Paris and all of its charm had me hook, line and sinker.
December 2013 was when my hubby and I visited Paris for the very first time. We spent a few days over Christmas meandering the streets of the City of Love, all the while admiring the Christmas markets and festivities at every turn, and eating hot dogs (a’la French baguette) under the Eiffel Tower on Christmas day. This was my first encounter with Paris and I honestly didn’t think it could get any better. Fast forward to March 2015, where my husband and I would return, but this time, there would be no Christmas bells ringing, no festive cheer in the air. It would be “just Paris.” Would my love affair with this city continue in spite of this? Yes, it would. Because this time, I explored Paris through a different set of eyes; those of Cedrik Verdure on a “Walking with Hemingway, a Journey through Literary Paris” tour.
Cedrik is a Context Travel docent (docents being first and foremost scholars or specialists, with MAs, Ph.D.s or other terminal degrees in their fields of study.) In our case, Cedrik was a gentleman exceptionally passionate and well-versed in all things Hemingway literature.
Hemingway wrote: “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.” Our three hour Hemingway Walk through Paris truly brought that quote to life, which was such a unique and interesting way of seeing a different side of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
We spent the better part of three hours tracing Hemingway’s path across the Left Bank, which started in a city square before heading on to where the young writer and his new wife, Hadley, first set up home in the rue Cardinal Lemoine. We made our way through the Latin Quarter, close to the bustling rue Mouffetard, tucked in behind the Panthéon and the Church of St. Etienne du Mont (the steps behind the church are the very steps that Owen Wilson found himself on, waiting for the midnight bell to toll in Midnight in Paris. If you’re looking for these steps when you’re next in Paris, search for Rue Saint-Étienne-du-Mont – one of the oldest streets in Paris.)
This was about halfway through our walk, where we then stopped for a coffee in a quaint Parisian coffee shop as Cedrik continued enlightening us with fascinating stories of café life for the artists in 1920s Paris. We made our way past the academic centre of the city around the Sorbonne, towards the site of Sylvia Beach’s original Shakespeare & Company bookshop, a real hub of Parisian literary life between the two world wars. Next was a walk past some of the residences and other favourite haunts of the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound, and Ford Madox Ford, before making our way on to the Luxembourg Gardens.
The beautiful thing about Context Travel is that they aim to take pieces of history and put it into context, while their docents engage with the intellectually curious traveller in stimulating conversation along the route. Seeing Paris through the eyes Hemingway, and that of a well-versed and passionate literary scholar such as Cedrik, was something that will stay in my mind for as long as I live. I’m already counting down to my next adventure…
Context Travel organises tours for the ‘Intellectually Curious Traveller’ and specialise in private tours and small groups (max 6 persons) – including following in the footsteps of Hemingway around Paris, feasting on modernista cuisine in Barcelona, taking art-historian led tours through Florence or visiting the hidden alleyways of Istanbul…