Today has been 5 years in the making. Mark Pryor and I had agreed to meet at the famed Les Deux Magots at 11:00am. Mark is a successful crime writer from Austin Texas although he is a native of Hertfordshire, England. We met through this very website when he contacted me whilst researching The Crypt Thief which was to be his second book in his famed Hugo Marston Murder Mysteries. Mark kindly acknowledged me in this book and a lasting friendship was forged.
Les Deux Magots situated at 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés was an appropriate choice of venue and I was mindful of the history when choosing the place to meet. Mark would be following in the footsteps of fine writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Rimbaud and other patrons such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce plus others.
Tom and I arrived early at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Metro Stop and so took the opportunity to look inside the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés which is pictured below. If you want to know more about this abbey then the internet/guidebooks is the place for you.
Having left I crossed the road to take a couple of distant photos of Les Deux Magots and the equally famed Café de Flore another Hemingway haunt which are in close proximity to each other. Having taken my photos I looked around to be met by Mark and his family and after greeting each other we made our way to Les Deux Magots.
Mark was accompanied by his wife and mother so we made quite a group and conversation flowed freely as did the Kronenbourg Beer. As a group we discussed Mark’s books, characters within, plots and observations made by readers and what inspires him. We chatted about American gun laws, differences in employment laws and naturally all things politics from both sides of the pond. The time seemed to fly by and after exchanging gifts (Mark presented me with a signed copy of The Reluctant Matador – Book 5 in the Hugo Marston Series and I presented Mark with 2 Books by Claude Izner: Murder on the Eiffel Tower and The Pere Lachaise Mystery) and taking some photos to capture the moment we went our separate ways. Mark and family to the Rodin Museum and Tom and I towards the Seine to check out the boquinistes stalls along the quay side with a view to taking a boat cruise down the Seine.
Incidentally, the boquinistes are the subject matter for the first Hugo Marston novel The Bookseller.
It was a gentle walk along the Seine and I always enjoy the boquinistes stalls but the heat of the day was starting to take its toll on the two of us and the sooner we boarded an excursion boat the better.
We managed to locate our stop and paid for the tickets but had to join a queue to get on the boat for about 20 minutes. We’re effectively being crushed together as the numbers queuing grew and added to the heat this was becoming unbearable for the both of us. When the boat eventually docked and the gate was opened all manners and courtesies were left behind as a stampede ensued to ensure the best seats were captured and secured. We didn’t so much as walk on the boat but instead pushed onto it. Anyway, we survived and found ourselves at the front of the boat with plenty of room to breathe and to cool down a little with the gentle breeze being offered up by the gods.
If you are arriving in Paris for the first time I would always recommend a relaxing boat cruise to get ones bearings and get a sense of where some of the major tourist traps are situated. However, for me this is just a perfect opportunity to put my feet up for an hour and enjoy the sites without necessarily thinking too much about the commentary being offered. I’ve heard them a few times now so just let it go through me. I love passing under the bridges and returning waves being offered from those above and to other passing boats – why not?
Naturally the highlight is passing Gustave Eiffel’s Tower which I never ever tire of seeing and always take the opportunity to take a few snaps. She is rightly the symbol of Paris and has been for 126 years, not bad considering there was serious talk of dismantling it after 10 years and was only saved when it was proposed that it be used as a communications tower. You can’t go anywhere without seeing the Tower and I don’t mean the real thing, I mean simply the amount of Eiffel Tower tat you can buy from the streets and souvenir shops and stalls. That’s fine with me it doesn’t take any thing away from the majesty of Gustave’s masterpiece.
We headed back to the Hotel to chill out for a couple of hours before deciding on our location to have dinner. We opted for the Tavern Montmartre at 25 rue Gabrielle right up the hill.
“No way, am I walking up that hill again.
“Ok, so what are you proposing?”
“Fair enough Tom, my feet could do with a break.”
So, off we went walking to the funicular which was totally rebuilt in 1991 and takes 1 minute 30 seconds to take you from the bottom of the hill right up to the Sacré
Cœur which beats taking the 300 or so steps. The idea once we were at the top was to walk down the steps on the other side to get us to our destination. Lazy but most effective!
The Tavern Montmartre is no stranger to Tom and I as we have had the experience on our 2 previous visits here. The rustic appearance, the hard wooden benches and the small interior seems to combine wonderfully with the magnificent food, drink and service that is provided. It has never disappointed and didn’t so on this occasion.
I love walking the streets of Montmartre especially up the hill and around Sacré
Cœur but tonight I had a destination in mind for Tom and I, the famous Montmartre cabaret Le Lapin Agile (nimble rabbit) situated at 22 Rue des Saules. I wanted a taste of the real Bohemia or as close to it as I could get and since this place hasn’t really changed much over the years it seemed a good place to try out.
We entered and were met by the host who enquired where we were from and after paying the entrance fee (drink included) we were invited into a darkened room surrounded by old wooden furniture that had engravings that had been there for decades and on the walls hung the paintings dating back to the 1920s and before. This place has had many famous former patrons including Picasso, Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo.
It was a truly wonderful evening as different singers performed their set in front of a red curtain over a solid 4 hour duration. As I understand it some of the songs they sang date back to the fifteenth century. The singers were accompanied by talented accordionists, guitarists and pianists and they all encouraged audience participation which I thoroughly enjoyed even if I didn’t understand a lot of what they were singing.
I counted the numbers in the room and it came to 35 which seemed to be the right number to create a positive atmosphere. It isn’t designed to hold too many and is certainly a contrast to the Moulin Rouge.
One particular singer caught my attention she had a slight frame wore a long black dress possessing dark long black hair. She sang beautifully and expressed her lyrics through her facial and body gestures. I could have watched and listened to her all night. She mixed it up with both French and English appreciating her audience. Her performance will live long in the memory.
The time came to leave as it was the early hours of Thursday morning and we both enjoyed the walk back to the hotel looking forward to a good nights sleep.
Day 4 to follow: The Musee Montmartre, Elysee Montmartre and Le Chat Noir.