DE BEAUVOIR'S PARIS
Walking in the footsteps of her 17-year-old daughter’s literary heroine gives one mother a whole new insight into this chic capital city.
WORDS Diana Plater
My daughter, Amelia, is a great fan of Simone de Beauvoir, since first reading volume one of her autobiography, ‘Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter’.
The battered, fading book sat next to her bed and she dreamt of visiting the city of her heroine. So as a special treat after she did her final school exams, I took her to Paris.
The simplest way to enjoy the trip with a determined 17-year-old was to go with the flow. She had each day’s itinerary mapped out down to almost the last minute and in the end I found her excitement infectious.
“Shall we go to the Louvre today?” I’d ask. “No we’re doing that on Friday,” she’d answer.
We stayed in two totally different arrondissements of Paris. The first was Bercy, one of the city’s newest nightlife scenes, with 19th century wine warehouses turned into bars and nightclubs popular with locals.
Then our apartment on Ile Saint Louis overlooked the Saint-Louis Bridge with dramatic views of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower in the distance – and I was as excited as a teenager one morning to wake to snow on the rooftops. The charming area is full of ice cream sellers, intriguing gift shops and tiny restaurants, including one where our meal was topped off by glasses of flaming absinthe.
Amelia grasped the Paris Metro very quickly, and I followed along behind her like a well-trained puppy although at times she gave me looks as if to say: “Don’t dawdle, mother!”
Foremost in Amelia’s plans was to visit de Beauvoir’s old haunts, the cafes she frequented with her lifelong partner existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, and other intellectuals including the Surrealists. Many are in now upmarket Saint-Germain-des Pres which lines the Left Bank of the Seine, including Café de Flore, where de Beauvoir first met Picasso. But perhaps the most famous café is Les Deux Magots, opposite the sixth century church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres.
At Le Dome Café on Boulevard Mont-parnasse, we ate fish and inspected the walls covered in black and white photos of famous painters, writers, sculptors and thinkers, trying to ignore the slightly condescending waiters.
I also learnt to do as the Parisians do, and make the most of three-course lunch specials, a good idea with a hungry teenager.
Main image: Model viewing the Eiffel Tower from the river
Above: Models by one of Paris’ many fountains
" Amelia grasped the Paris Metro very quickly and I followed along behind her like a well-trained puppy. "
In the end, Amelia preferred the lively Latin Quarter, with students flowing out from the Sorbonne – where de Beauvoir came second to Sartre in her final philosophy exam – into bars and book shops.
We also both loved the Marais, the location of the ultra modern Pompidou Centre but also crammed with cute galleries and boutiques in medieval and renaissance buildings down narrow cobblestone streets. You can find vintage designer-wear including shoes, bags and leather jackets in ones such as Coiffeur Vintage, Plus que Parfait, Kiliwatch and chaotic bazaars like Aux Comptoirs du Chineurs.
Another day, I was sadly unable to find a cloche and made do with a beret from palatial department store Galeries Lafayette and Amelia found exquisite lingerie at Princesse Tam Tam.
I wanted to visit the multicultural area of Belleville, where Edith Piaf grew up and where markets selling ethnic food and clothes are held on Tuesdays and Fridays. Amelia was pleased it was also close to Père Lachaise, the most visited cemetery in the world and last resting ground of Piaf as well as many other famous people including Oscar Wilde, composers Chopin and Rossini and American singer Jim Morrison.
But of course we had to visit another cemetery – Montparnasse – where Sartre lies next to de Beauvoir, her grave adorned with notes of gratitude for the way she changed the lives of women, particularly through ‘The Second Sex’, one of her best-known works.
It was strangely peaceful with rays of sun coming out between the grey clouds and I was thrilled to discover the graves of artist Man Ray and playwright Samuel Beckett.
“Paris must have changed so much since Simone and Sartre were alive,” Amelia commented as we took photos of each other and the grand view from the 56th floor of the nearby Montparnasse Tower.
During our week there, we also spent time at nearly all the famous galleries including the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and the Musee d l’Orangerie, with its Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings. For me, gazing at Monet’s Water Lilies murals was sublime.
Two highlights of our visit were taking in the opulence of the court of Marie Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles, and meeting the Australian dancers backstage at the Moulin Rouge.
While enjoying the dancing, we both laughed in shock when a woman at our table stormed out during the can-can show, followed by her meek husband because, as she said, “this is not where I want to be on my 50th birthday.”
Clearly, de Beauvoir’s feminism lives on.
Above: The River Seine
View of Eiffel Tower
Fly: Singapore Airlines 13 10 11 www.singaporeair.com
Stay: Pullman Paris Bercy 33 (0)144 673 400 www.pullmanhotels.com www.accorhotels.com • Distinctive holiday homes www.distinctiveholidayhomes.com/en/destination/paris.html
Play: Moulin Rouge www.moulinrouge.fr • France Tourism www.francetourism.com.au au.franceguide.com
Info: www.gogoparis.com au.franceguide.com • Bercy www.bercyvillage.com • Our Paris City Guide www.holidayswithkids.com.au/five_star_kids/Paris
LUXURY APARTMENTS IN PARIS
A La Carte Paris Apartmentswww.alacarte-paris-apartments.comThese apartments have been hand picked by an interior designer for their excellence in practicality and sophistication. The Marais Deluxe is perfectly suited for the travelling family as the bedrooms are situated on their own levels, acting as independent suites. Teenagers will love the Marais district with its funky cafes, open markets, art galleries, traditional bakeries and charming gardens. Just around the corner, the Marais Excellence property provides the perfect mix of luxury with comfort and warmth. Younger children will be comfortable in this cosy setting. Haven in Pariswww.haveninparis.comHaven in Paris considers itself a luxury service provider, able to arrange private dinners, massages, language lessons and cooking classes all in the comfort of their stunning apartments. St Germain Luxe is minutes from the Luxembourg gardens, bike rentals, theatres/cinemas and many other child-friendly attractions. Four comfortably sleeps 6 and is perfect for families with children – cribs and strollers are provided. Holiday Velvetwww.holiday-velvet.comHoliday Velvet enables families to book luxury accommodation online, from anywhere in the world. Their St Germain Duplex sleeps a family of six and is nestled amongst art galleries, the Seine river, open air markets and some of Paris’ top fashion shopping.
Lodgiswww.lodgis.comLodgis specialises in large furnished apartments that do not compromise on luxury. Apartment No. 7159288 boasts 270m2 of elegance with panoramic views of the Seine, the Eiffel tower and Montmartre. Your children will love the huge windows, bike storage, sound system and home cinema. Apartment No. 90810225 excels with 400m2 of unparalleled decadence. 8 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms make this the perfect retreat for a large family or group. The hydrotherapy bath is perfect for children of all ages and they are sure to enjoy the courtyards and home cinema. Loving Apartmentswww.lovingapartments.comLoving Apartments endeavours to provide simultaneous luxury, privacy and freedom for travelling families. They provide baby cribs and are happy to arrange nannying services, massage, hairdressing, laundry and more. Marceau #4 is walking distance from the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, removing the stress of sightseeing with children. Paris For Rentwww.parisforrent.comParis for Rent’s Marais Penthouse is the epitome of luxury. This three bedroom apartment, split across 2 floors, boasts an unrivalled rooftop courtyard with panoramic views of Paris. A crib is also available upon request. Their St Germain Romance, which sleeps 6, has a picture window overlooking a typical Parisian courtyard which your children will love. Also great for kids is the short walk to Luxembourg Gardens.
Paris Luxewww.parisluxeapt.comParis Luxe boasts a boutique selection of apartments located around Paris, perfectly catered to travelling with children. Their apartments are spacious and include all the necessities; Laduree macaroons, a private butler, fresh flowers, a private chef and complimentary local mobile phones. Baudelaire even boasts a private elevator and indoor swimming pool which your children are certain to enjoy. Paris Luxury Rentalswww.parisperfect.comParis Perfect have gone above and beyond to create luxurious havens for you and your children. Saint Emilion is located across the road from Grand Dame de Paris and the four playgrounds that surround it. Your children will also love the view of the Eiffel Tower from their window. Bordeaux is minutes from the Champs de Mars gardens and has a twin room perfect for children. Cribs are also available on request. Beaumes de Venise will comfortably sleep 6 guests, making it the perfect haven in the centre of bustling Paris. With open markets on your doorstep and a view of the Eiffel tower, this apartment is perfect for travelling with children. Paris Vacation Apartmentswww.parisvacationapartments.comParis Vacation Apartments have a selection of stunning properties that are perfect for a stay with children. Alongside all the luxury amenities, management are able to organise babysitting services, cribs, high chairs and are happy to give advice on fun family activities around Paris. The Paris Royal Luxury apartment will sleep a family of 6-8 and is a short walk from Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre.
Trips Europewww.tripseurope.comTrips Europe apartments provide the convenience of a hotel with the comforts and luxury of home. St Germain Chateau boasts an open fireplace, 3 bedrooms (all with ensuites) and a wonderful view of Paris. A convertible twin room and cribs upon request will make your stay with children effortless.