Montparnasse has been immortalized in literature and film… and for very good reason. It’s a place of history, peace, and inspiration. As far back as the 17th century, students of poetry came to study. In the 1920’s, it was known for its various adult activities (nicknamed Années Folles, or The Crazy Years). In the 1930’s, it became the center of artistic and intellectual life in Paris. These days? It’s yet another amazingly fascinating Parisian neighborhood with a glorious history, a million things to see, and beauty around every corner. You must visit. You must!
Rue du Montparnasse
You guys. Rue du Montparnasse? It’s a street of creperies. I am not kidding. The crepes are delicious and abundant. Go here. Indulge. And be very, very happy.
By the way, my favorite stop was La Creperie de Josselin, which was recommended to me and which I now highly recommend to you.
The Catacombs are tunnels beneath Paris where bones are taken to be buried after a time in a cemetery, because of limited cemetery space. The remains of more than six million people are stored within. Visitors are allowed to tour it. There are walls and walls (and walls) of bones stacked carefully, sometimes even in patterns. There are monuments, too, and maze-like paths. It’s pretty cool.
This historic wonder is fascinating and worth a visit, but be aware it’s not for the claustrophobic among us. I’ve been through the Catacombs twice in my life, and both times, I had to move through quickly. You go very far down beneath the city, with no way back up until the end of the path, and you walk through a mile and a half of low, narrow tunnels. You should do this once in your life, as a bucket list thing, but if it makes you anxious, I wouldn’t do it a second time. Why did I?? Foolish pride, my friends. Foolish pride.
Jardin du Luxembourg
This park is serenity embodied. Peacefulness manifest. Beauty’s natural evolution. Love’s true metaphor. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic, but it is, truly and objectively, a little piece of paradise. The wooded area at the entrance is beautifully kept and full of happy, relaxed people thinking, making music, and creating art. I passed one group of young people having a philosophical discussion and another harmonizing, composing music together on the spot. There are famous sculptures throughout. People were painting en plein air. There’s inspiration everywhere.
Then you turn a corner, pass into a clearing, and the gardens and Palace du Luxembourg appear before you, stretching into the horizon like an impressionist painting, with statues, colorful flowers, a fountain the size of a pond, and the palace itself rising like the home of a benevolent god.
There’s plenty to do: rent a toy boat to float along the fountain, or try to get photos of the gulls. There are plenty of magazine-ready photo opportunities. Fly a kite. Or, simply sit and enjoy the scenery and the breeze. You will be happy you did, I promise.
If you’re curious, please read more about this outdoor garden and museum in my post on Museums. The short version: it’s Ossip Zadkine’s former home and studio, and his art and sculpture are displayed throughout the house and garden. It’s peaceful, inspiring, and thought-provoking. I hadn’t heard of Zadkine before I visited, and now he’s one of my favorite artists. His work is dark but hopeful cubism.
There’s plenty more to do in Montparnasse, but that’s about a day’s worth. I hope I have a chance to visit again and write a second blog post about it someday.
If you visit any of these places, comment and let me know what you think! And if you’re curious for more, see my other posts on Paris.
~Page Light Studios