Friday 7 June 2013

Paris: The Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Our very first visit to the City of Lights was an unplanned one, side trip actually. The big K was picking up a brand new airplane from the Airbus factory in Toulouse. So, here I was riding shotgun again! Oh la la! C'est la vie! 

We only had a short time to prepare and plan for the trip. Since we were only visiting for the weekend we wanted to stay right at the city center where most of the tourist attractions are. Luckily we found a place that was affordable (good luck getting an inexpensive hotel in the middle of Fashion Week in Paris!). The hotel's location in the Latin Quarter was perfect. It was also right by an RER B stop, pretty convenient if you are coming straight from the airport.

Below are some of the landmarks and attractions at the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Pres that the big K and I were able to see on that very short visit. 

The Latin Quarter 

Jardin du Luxembourg, the second largest park in Paris is perfect for picnics.

The Latin Quarter is located on the left bank of Paris. In the early years Latin was the language spoken by both students and educators who have settled in the area since most of the educational establishments were located here including the Sorbonne. Voila! The Latin Quarter was born. It still is a university area.

The Pantheon

Once a church it had been converted into the final resting place of some of France's national heroes, to name a few: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie CurieLouis Braille, Alexandre Dumas and the Pantheon's own architect, Soufflot.

"Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaisante" translated as "To the Great Men, The Grateful Homeland". Only men and women recognized as heroes by the French government are interred here.

Nearest metro: Cardinal Lemoine (10)
RER B : Luxembourg

Les Bouquinistes
You can find these second hand booksellers along both sides of the river Seine. Nowadays the bouquinistes not only sell antiquated books, magazines and posters but also modern-day souvenir items. 

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore   

The present day operation of the shop is run by Sylvia Beach Whitman, George Whitman's daughter.

The current Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris is actually the second one. The first shop was opened by an American expatriate, Sylvia Beach, in 1919. It became the gathering place of famous literary figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein to name a few. The bookstore closed in 1940 during the German occupation of Paris.

In 1951, another American George Whitman opened an English bookstore called Le Mistral where the present day Shakespeare and Company shop is located. It too became the watering hole of noted writers. Upon Sylvia Beach's death in 1964, Mr. Whitman renamed his bookstore to Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to Sylvia Beach's original shop (not to mention also naming his daughter Sylvia Beach). 

In case you buy a book, be sure to ask the cashier to stamp it with the Shakespeare and Company logo as a souvenir of your purchase because they don't always do.

Nearest metro: St. Michel (4), Cluny La Sorbonne (10)
RER B: St. Michel Notre-Dame 

Pont de l'Archevêché

This bridge near Notre Dame is adorned with locks placed there by lovers as a public display of their affection. This is just one of many bridges spanning the Seine with such adornments.


Adjacent to the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Pres is home to some of Paris' famous cafés like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. It is also where you can find two of Paris' churches made popular by a novel and a miracle.


Saint-Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris after Notre Dame. This church was featured in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code where the novel claims is where one can find the "Rose Line"

Nearest metro: St. Sulpice (4)

Miraculous Medal Chapel at 140 Rue du Bac

Or simply the Rue du Bac chapel. For devout Catholics this is one place where you have to visit. The little chapel is where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared before Saint Catherine Laboure, a Catholic nun belonging to the order of the Daughters of Charity. 
The chair where the Blessed Virgin Mary sat when she appeared to Saint Catherine is on display by the altar along with the incorruptible bodies of Saint Catherine and Saint Louise de Marillac, the founder of the Daughters of Charity. The incorruptible heart of the Daughters of Charity's co-founder St. Vincent De Paul is also kept in a gold metal plated vessel at the altar.

Nearest metro: Sèvres – Babylone (10, 12) 

I hope to get to update more of the attractions to be found at the Latin Quarter and the Saint-Germain-des-Pres areas after my next visit to Paris this time with the gorgeous H.  

Next post: Montmartre

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