Posted by: reecejharley | January 9, 2010

Paris by night

Saint Germain des Pres & the Latin Quarter

Paris by night

As the sun drops towards the horizon (something which occurs depressingly early at this time of year) a blanket of darkness draws

across the city, and the lights begin to twinkle. Last night I found myself on the left bank, north of Boulevarde Saint Germain and south of the Seine (Saint Germain des Pres), as the day drew to a close.

Saint Germain des Pres is a maze of streets that have grown up west of the medieval Sorbonne University. This ancient part of the city was also the heart of Roman Paris and spectacular remains survive alongside cobblestone streets and alleyways steeped in the history of the French and American revolutions… but more of that later.

View towards Fontaine St Michel


Nagel’s guide offers this:

Between the quai de Conti and the quai Malaquais, opposite the Pont des Arts, the Palais de L’Institut de France forms a discreet and harmonious square dominated by the famous cupola. Mazarin, in his legacy, had left 2,000,000 in silver and 45,000 pounds in revenue for the foundation of a college of 60 noblemen from the 4 provinces annexed by France in the treaty of the Pyrenees.

The Institute of France consists of the five academies; the most famous, The Academie Francaise,  founded by Richlieu in 1635 and specially entrusted with the task of compiling the Dictionary of the French Language. (pge 212)

Further south, some of Paris’s most quaint and historic streets still offer the visitor a sturdy meal and respite from the cold. Cafe Procope, opened in 1686 by a Sicilian called propopio, was the city’s first cafe. Within a few years there were hundreds, and within a few decades, thousands of cafes had sprung up around the city.  It is the literary cafe par excellence and was the meeting place of philosophers, politicians, revolutionaries and… ambassadors. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson both dined here.

Cafe Procope

Shopfront at night

View north from the left bank


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