It’s a strange reality of living in cities that neighborhoods where you spent most of your weekdays or weekend nights are relegated to places you once went, bars whose names you struggle to remember. You move to a new apartment, a different neighborhood attracts your attention, and subconsciously, you have moved on from that place and that time.
Prompt: Pick a cozy café or place where you can lean back and reflect for a while. We chose Nuage Café, a co-working space in the 5th, where you pay for the time you spend there (4 euros per hour) with unlimited coffee, tea and snacks. The upstairs nooks (where you’re required to take your shoes off) with floor cushions are a great place to write and work.
Think back on a neighborhood that had some significance to you (we picked the 5th arrondissement in Paris). Write a list of places (including bars, restaurants, apartments, spots where you kissed someone or broke someone’s heart) that hold meaning to you or that you simply like in that neighborhood. Map out your memories, on a piece of paper or a map-based application, so you don’t forget that time and place.
1) Abbey Bookshop – 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie: one of my favorite used/new English bookstores with shelves and shelves piled with books, and always a warm welcome and complimentary cup of coffee
2) Au Vieux Cèdre – 187 Rue St. Jacques: a go to hole in the wall Lebanese food place
3) View of the top of the Eiffel Tower (Rue Soufflot): one of my favorite spots to catch the sparkle
4) The steps from Midnight in Paris (on the side of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, 53 Place du Panthéon): that famous spot where Owen Wilson sits over and over again waiting for the car to pick him up in Woody Allen’s film
5) Sugarplum Cake Shop – 68 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine
6) Rue Mouffetard (Le Vieux Chêne 69 Rue Mouffetard): many, many bars always filled with French and American students. You never know who you might meet…
7) Tea room at La Grande Mosquée de Paris – 39 rue Geoffroy- Saint-Hilaire: a peaceful place to drink mint tea and eat traditional pastries
8) Jardin des Plantes – 40 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire: one of Paris’ many charming public gardens
For me, going to the 5th arrondissement of Paris – the Latin quarter – is like going back in time. Everything about it, the sights, smells, feelings, bring me back to the winter/spring of 2012 and my semester abroad. As a naïve American student the bars, cafes, and small winding streets of the 5th seemed like the natural place to start. Many of my favorite memories revolve around the Latin quarter: working on homework at Sugarplum with a slice of carrot cake, drinking cup after cup of sweet mint tea at the Mosque, and talking to silly French boys at bars on rue Mouffetard over a pint of Delirium…
Now when I go back there I am filled with nostalgia for those people, places and that very particular time in my life when every day was an adventure. It’s an interesting exercise to visit that former self as I wander through the 5th almost four years later. But now a trip to that neighborhood is not only a walk down memory lane, but also an opportunity to discover new things and make new memories in one of my favorite areas of Paris.
1) Maoz Falafel (Rue Xavier Privas)
2) Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bûcherie)
3) Quai de la Tournelle – Famous spot where Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn danced (in the air) in “Everyone Says I Love You” and Owen Wilson walked with Marion Cotillard in “Midnight in Paris” (Woody Allen really loves this place apparently). Also one of the few places that you can walk and sit right along the Seine and watch the bateaux mouches float by.
4) Finnish Insitute Café (60 Rue des Ecoles)
5) Nuage Café (14 Rue des Carmes)
6) Best boulangerie for sandwiches (try the foie gras one!), right near Cardinal Lemoine metro
7) La Parisienne (48 rue du Cardinal Lemoine) Best boulangerie for croissants (white chocolate and hazelnut ones are my favorites)
8) My first apartment in Paris
9) Sugar Plum Cake Shop (68 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine) – A friend of mine described this as the real-life version of “Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop” in Harry Potter. Indeed, you will find many girls who have dragged guys on dates here (just like Cho did with Harry), but more importantly, lots of delicious American-style baked goods.
10) Place de la Contrescarpe – A picturesque polygon that is home to Ernest Hemingway’s first apartment in Paris. Go to La Contrescarpe to read/write/people-watch and stare at the beautiful bookshelves behind you.
11) Maison des Trois Thés (1 Rue Saint-Médard) – I have actually never drank tea in this secret tea shop, but have walked by it countless times and stared at it in wonder. Tastings start at 20 euros per person.
12) Au P’tit Grec (68 Rue Mouffetard) – Best galettes in Paris
13) Grande Mosquée de Paris – Mint tea and pastries
14) Jardin des Plantes
I spent my first year in Paris teaching English and living in the 5th on Rue Monge. To me, the 5th has always been how I imagined “Paris” — tiny bookshops, cobble-stoned streets, beautiful university buildings tucked between museums and parks. It is the neighborhood where I met my closest friends in Paris, at the Shakespeare and Co weekly writing workshop and an accidental run-in at Sugar Plum café, where I went on a couple good and several very bad dates, where I spend many weekends writing over Scandinavian cappucinos at the Finnish Institute. The 5th is too packed full of memories for me now — I can’t go there often without feeling a sort of sadness creep up. But when I do go, I like to linger around Place de Contrescarpe or just outside the Musée National du Moyen Âge and watch people come and go and imagine what they have found in the neighborhood, what winding alley or staircase they will take next.