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High resolution map of St Germain des Prés

Eglise Saint-Germain des Prés
La Rue de Seine
Place Saint-Sulpice
Le Boulevard Saint-Germain
Les Jardins du Luxembourg
Le Pont des Arts
L'Institut de france
Les Beaux-Arts
La Place de Furstenberg
Rue Guénégaud

Saint-Germain des Prés : La Légende de Paris

In Saint-Germain des Pres, let's visit Studio Saint-Germain and Studio Mazarine


With the authorisation of Jack's Travel Guide     
 
Saint-Germain….once a legendary writers area, is now completely dedicated to tourism, shopping and clothing. As in many Parisian areas, the garment, clothing, junk food and banking is invading everything. But at such a heavy tempo, it's intolerable! Classic, traditional commerces disappear, failing to pay the crazy renting levels and have to leave the place to “grand capital” fashion boutiques.

Whether you like it or not, Saint-Germain is not any more the area where art and literature were the main preoccupations of the inhabitants. But there are still charming alleys between the Seine and the Boulevard Saint-Germain, with very good book, antique shops and art galleries!
The history of Saint-Germain des Prés starts in the 6th century. In the 9th its church as all churches in France are burnt down by the Normans and rebuilt in the 11th century. Until the 17th century the Benedictines of the abbey gave the place its village atmosphere. They were the masters. Behind the thick walls of their abbey (a kingdom on its own), their own laws prevailed. Laws where only the pope could intervene, not even the archbishop of Paris. The quarter grew away from the monastery in the 17th century, with the arrival of Reine Margot, settling down in a huge hotel on the rue de Seine with gardens extending from the river until the Invalides. When this immense domain was dismantled, the area began to urbanize. The medieval Saint-Germain, as the area was called was completely disfigured by the urbanistic works of baron Haussman when he traced the boulevard Saint-Germain and the rue de Rennes in the existing labyrinth of narrow streets. Until today some contrasts in this area can stun you often.

The area remained quite until the First World War and became a trendy place only because of its cafes. In the café Flore the fascist and anti-Semite group “l’Action Française” and the followers of Charles Maurras held their meetings before the group of friends of Jacques Prévert chose it as their headquarters soon joined by Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir who animate the area intellectually.. “Aux Deux Magots” you find a bit of everybody: Gide, Apollinaire, Breton, Giraudoux, Saint-Exupery…At café “Lipp”, decorated by the ceramist Léon Fargue, writer of “Le Piéton de Paris” (one of my sources for these essays) mots politicians have their table. After that the existentialists are to find in every café.
The German occupation, paradoxically, is a rich moment for the life in St.Germain. Indeed, the German didn’t like much this part of Paris and avoided it. Wasn't  her greatest pride , the quasi-absence of German soldiers during the Occupation, when the huns paraded fiercely on the Grands Boulevards, Opera, Champs Elysees. The intellectual and literary aura and prestige of St.Germain was sufficient to put them in discomfort!. An anecdote from the guide du  Routard, (I quote): “In the winter Simone de Beauvoir came always first thing in the morning to the " Flore" to have a seat near the stove. It was so bitter cold elsewhere! Sartre recreated the atmosphere of an English club.. Everybody listened to jazz, read poems or played little acts.”
 
It’s after the liberation that Saint-Germain became world known with its nightlife, its cave nightclubs, avant-garde music, jazz, and women in black pants and with long hair. The most representative of that period are Sidney Bechet, Claude Luter, Boris Vian and Juliette Greco (under the benevolent eye of Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus, meeting in “Le Tabou” (rue Dauphine), in the club of the “Vieux Colombier”. American be-bop is the absolute trend. The area was one of the most animated in Paris! Even if the memory of that period is long time gone, something still remains. And don't forget, on the Place Saint-Germain , the Deux Magots is still there, even if it's become the most expensive coffee or any drink in Paris. And if you see a man sitting on the terrace, wearing a black sweater with roll-collar, he might be a new Sartre or Jacques Prévert.  

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