Hemingway’s Bars (Boulevard Montparnasse)

by tiresomemoi

This is a non-post post, or maybe an evolving post. We’ll see. I don’t think I would have liked Hemingway but I like the idea of Hemingway. That said, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have liked me either. Anyway, next up on my Paris reading list is “A Moveable Feast”.  In preparation I thought I’d visit some of the local cafés he frequented and wrote about.

Here’s the list:

Le Select

Le Dôme

La Rotonde

La Coupole

La Closerie-des-Lilas

La Rotonde (with Bernarda), 5 Mars 2013, une noisette*, 2.50 €La Rotonde

Le Select, 16 Mars 2013, une noisette, 2.90 €Le Select

Le Dome, 30 Mars 2013, une noisette, 3.00 €Le Dome

La Couple, 31 Mars 2013, une noisette, 3.50 €La Couple

La Closerie-des-Lilas, 7 avril 2013, une noisette, 4.50 €Lilas

30 mars 2013

I’ve started my borrowed copy of The Restored Edition of “A Moveable Feast”. I’m about a third of the way in and enjoying it far more than I expected. My favorite line, so far, is the first: Then there was the bad weather. So true.

Today I visited Le Dôme. They’ve got a glassed in porch facing Bd Montparnasse for those not wishing to eat, which was perfect for a frigid spring day providing warmth and ample people watching opportunities. At 2:00 on a Saturday there were tourists, locals with visiting friends, and a number of habitués warmly greeting each other and the staff. I only had coffee but the food looked and smelled good. The woman in front of me was nibbling on perfect litte wild strawberries.

Hemingway on Le Dôme:

“…full of my evening virtue I passed the collection of inmates of the Rotonde and, scorning vice and the collective instinct, crossed the boulevard to the Dôme. …there were drinkers and characters, some of whom I knew and some that were only decoration.” p 83 (With Pascin at the Dôme)

31 mars 2013

Stopped by La Closerie-des-Lilas but decided to save it for a warmer day. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I headed up the street to La Couple. I should have gone straight home, the service was pleasant but infrequent and the coffee was undrinkable. Even the atmosphere was dismal. The cavernous, cafeterialike dinning room  has some interesting architectural details but the glassed in porch for non diners was cold (everyone had their coats on) and sterile. They did have free wifi.

Hemingway on La Closerie-des-Lilas:

“La Closerie-des-Lilas was the nearest good café when we lived down the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs…and it was one of the nicest cafés in Paris. … people from the Dôme and the Rotonde never came to the Lilas. There was no one there they knew, and no one would have stared at them if they came. In those days many people went to the cafés at the corner of the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Boulevard Raspail to be seen publicly and in a way such places anticipated the columnists as the daily substitutes for immortality.”  p 73 (Ford Maddox Ford and the Devil’s Disciple)

7 avril 2013

We finally had a bit of sun so I headed over to Closerie-des-Lilas.  It is the most expensive, by far, and the least accessible of Hem’s bars. For 4.50 € you get a little honey cake (nothing to write home about) and a surprisingly delicious sugar coated jelly candy (peach in my case) to go with your coffee. The courtyard is large and relatively easy to maneuver in but there is an old fashioned revolving door to enter the dinning room. There may be an accessible entrance but I didn’t see it. The service was friendly but the place has a special occasion vibe, not the kind of place you’d drop by after work to sip a coffee and ease into the evening.

More on La Closerie-des-Lilas:

“Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook. This was the worst thing that could happen. If you could keep your temper it would be better but I was not good at keeping mine then and said, “You rotten son of a bitch what are you doing in here off your filthy beat?”

“Don’t be insulting just because you want to act like an eccentric.”

“Take your dirty camping mouth out of here.”

“It’s a public cafe. I’ve just as much right here as you have.”

“Why don’t you go up to the Petite Chaumiere where you belong?”

“Oh dear. Don’t be so tiresome.”

Now you could get out and hope it was an accidental visit and the visitor had only come in by chance and there was not going to be an infestation. There were other good cafes to work in but they were a long walk away and this was my home cafe. It was bad to be driven out of the Closerie des Lilas. I had to make a stand or move. It was probably wiser to move but the anger started to come up and I said, “Listen. A bitch like you has plenty of places to go. Why do you have to come here and louse a decent cafe?”

pp 169 -170 (Birth of A New School)


Michel Ney, Mort 7 December 1815Ney

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were nor how it was changed nor with what difficulties nor what ease it could be reached. It was always worth it and we received a return for whatever we brought to it.” p 236

*Une noisette is an expresso with milk.