We are headed to London later today on the Eurostar. After packing, we decided to return to Saint-Germain to have lunch and to see the Abbey Church. We rode through this area a couple of days ago on the hop-on/hop-off bus.
The Saint-Germain district of the city in Paris’ 6th arrondissement was home to existentialist movement in the 40s and 50s and it the current home to the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts, the famous school of fine arts. We started with a visit to the cultural center of this area of Paris on the Left Bank, the Church at Saint-Germain de Pres. Founded in the 6th Century, the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, sits just beyond the outskirts of early medieval Paris. In medieval times, the Left Bank of Paris was prone to flooding from the Seine, so much of the land could not be built upon. The Abbey stood in the middle of meadows, or prés in French.
The Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was the burial place of Merovingian kings of Neustria. The Abbey has seen its tragedies. During the French Revolution all the Abbey priests were killed. “An explosion of saltpeter in storage levelled the Abbey and its cloisters, but the church was spared… in a [later] fire in 1794 the library vanished in smoke.” The church was actually hit by a German artillery cell in 1918 and people inside the church were killed.
The abbey church remains as the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris. It is exceptionally beautiful. There are some very remarkable tombs to be seen inside and the glass work and decorated columns and ceiling are particularly lovely.
We emerged from the church in time for our lunch reservations. There are many famous cafes in the area. Two of Boris’ favorites are Cafe de Flore and Brasserie Lipp, both right next to the church. On one trip we had lunch in one and then crossed the street to have a drink at the other. One of the things that made this area of Paris popular were the annual fairs which began in the Middle Ages. It was at one such fair that the first cafe was started. When the fair moved on, the proprietor made the establishment permanent. And so it began.
Today Boris has chosen Brasserie Lipp for his final “timeless” Paris restaurant destination (5 of 5). One of the oldest brasseries in Paris, Boris loves this place because of the literary connections. Brasserie Lipp was a favorite of Earnest Hemingway (he along with William Faulkner are Boris’ two favorite authors) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (my favorite author). One of Boris’ favorite stories about this brasserie is when Faulkner saw James Joyce eating but was too shy to say anything. Boris wishes the two of them had sat down and had a conversation.
We started with champagne cocktails and added lunch fare and dessert. We had a noon lunch so we could make our train and it was pretty empty (again we are ahead of most of the locals) while we were there. I was underwhelmed with our seats, but we had a terrific waiter who had been there a long time. That along with the wonderful food and drinks made the meal memorable.
We will catch the Eurostar this afternoon and be in London this evening. Once we arrive there it is mostly work for Boris. I get to play. I am going to see quite a few shows. I have done enough shopping in Paris, so I am cutting myself off in London. Its been a wonderful birthday trip for Boris. Glad to have shared this with him. Until London…Natasha.