Saturday, February 20, 2010

Walk 10: Playing Hooky in le Quartier Latin

The Latin quarter, which is named after the primary language studied at the Sorbonne waaay back in the day, is by far one of my favorite areas of Paris (for now anyway--there's still so much to see!). It has a very simple yet intellectual, live and let live kind of vibe. A sort of Voltaire-meets-Bob Dylan thing that reminds me a bit of Portland.

I think this theatre, which has run Eugene Ionesco's La Leçon for the last fifty years, will give you an idea of the charm of the area.

Or, if that doesn't, maybe this cute little avenue will.

Life doesn't seem real a lot of the time in Paris. That is to say, I don't often feel like I'm encountering real, honest-to-goodness people. The guy on Rosiers just wants to hock his falafel, the women in pencil skirts on the metro just want to get where they're going. But in the Latin quarter, I feel like I can see a little bit of life in people, or a little bit of people's lives. The guy at the crepe stand looks like he's having problems with his boss, and the old women haggling over the price of scarves seem like they've had too much to drink. It's comforting, in a way, to know that, while I'm at the store struggling to count change in euros, the natives have problems of their own, and in that we are connected.

Among its attractions the Latin quarter can claim Le Procope, Paris' oldest café, the Académie des beaux-arts, where Renoir and Monet, among others, studied, and l'Acadmie Française. But even with all these assets, the Latin Quarter wouldn't be Paris-y enough without, you guessed it, a super old church, complete with two women rehearsing their stunningly beautiful chant arrangement. This is L'eglise Saint-Séverin, originally built in the eleventh century and renovated in 1495.

Elle est belle, non?

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