The time is come to complete my memory tour of old Paris with an account of my walk around the sixth arrondissement, but let me respond quickly to comments on earlier accounts. First, I referred to the chorus in the Place des Vosges as the Gay Men’s Chorus because that is how they refer to themselves. Second, Eric’s lovely story about his restaurant experience called to mind an embarrassing visit Susie and I paid to a restaurant recommended by my sister. The restaurant, in the fourth, is called Les Philosophes – clearly I had to try it. To start my dinner I ordered filets d’hareng – herring in short. An entire fairly large crock of herring arrived. I was supposed to take an appropriate amount from the crock, place it on my plate, and eat it. But I thought the whole serving was for me and I certainly was not going to let the restaurant down by leaving some of it uneaten so I set to it. The waiters courteously and tactfully said nothing as I wolfed down the entire crock of herring. They did not even charge me extra! I thought that last was a touch of real class.
On to the sixth. You will recall that each arrondissement is larger than the one preceding it and since I live in the fifth I would have to walk a bit even to start my circumnavigation. This was clearly going to be an adventure. I started by walking up to Place Maubert and turning east along Boulevard Saint Germain until I reached the eastern flank of the sixth, Boulevard St. Michel. As I was completing my circumnavigation of the fifth, I walked along the east side of that north – south boulevard but this time I crossed over to the west side and started walking south up the hill. I passed Place de la Sorbonne and the entrance to the Jardin du Luxembourg and kept walking uphill until I finally reached the southernmost tip of the Jardin, where, as you will recall, I saw the Port Royal RER station. Then, turning right I set out on the very long southern flank of the sixth, the famous Boulevard Montparnasse. If you look at the map you can see that this is a really long straight stretch. I knew from having consulted a map that I wanted to turn onto rue de Sèvres, and every time I crossed a big intersection I checked the street signs on the sides of buildings to see whether I had reached it but no luck. At long last I came to rue de Sèvres and turned north – or more precisely northeast because the street angles in, making the southern flank of the sixth much bigger than the northern flank.
After passing the tiny Vanneau Metro station and the large discount department store, Bon Marché, where Susie and I bought a pair of little night tables 17 years ago, I came to the big Sèvres-Babylone station, at which point the street bears even further toward the east. Almost immediately I took a left onto a very small street with the lovely name rue des Saints-Pères. This street would have taken me all the way to the river but once again I cut my circumnavigation short by turning right on Boulevard Saint Germain. Walking now on the southern side of that street I passed through Place de l’Odéon with its three movie complexes and continued on to the corner of Boulevard St. Michel. Crossing the street, I left the sixth and entered the fifth, walked past Cluny - the Museum of the Middle Ages – and made my way home.
My fondest memory of the sixth comes not from this walk but from a restaurant Susie and I went to that is just off the route of the walk. When the long stretch from Boulevard Montparnasse is almost done, I pass the little street called rue du Cherche-Midi. There you can find a small restaurant with the odd double name Josephine Chez Dumonet. We went there because the restaurant was reputed to have the best boeuf bourguignon in Paris and it is indeed wonderful (although pride forces me to say not quite as wonderful as the dish I cooked in my little apartment over the course of two days one time.) The portions are so large that the restaurant actually offers you on the menu the option of a half portion, which turned out to be more than enough. When Paris reopens and we are finally able to return one more time before selling our apartment, that is one of the restaurants I plan to revisit.
There are actually one or two more walks I have taken but I think this is enough of reminiscences and strolls down memory lane. Tomorrow in a complete change of tone and subject, I plan to launch on a multi-day sequence of posts in which I will attempt to capture once and for all my extremely complex and quite distinctive interpretation of Das Kapital.