8) CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE HUNTING: This is Paris, and indulgence is a virtue no less. It feels at times that there are more fromageries and boulangeries than people in this area, so choose wisely. For cheeses, Rue Mouffetard is the only street you need. While Androuet (androuet.com) offers up a gorgeous selection including Bethmale du chèvre and Le Bambois, it’s Mouffetard’s blissful al freso Sunday market that gives you a large selection of charcuterie, runny cheeses, and an experience worth savouring. Also, Laurent Dubois (www.fromageslaurentdubois.fr) brings you treasures such as the Camembert stuffed with Calvodos-soaked apples, but make sure you’re loaded with euros!
To sate your sweet tooth, Marie-Hélène Gantois’ Mococha (89 rue Mouffetard) packs flavours from three master chocolatiers, while Maison Georges Larnichol (19 rue de la Harpe), invites you to create customised gift boxes filled with artisanal creations.
9) SPIRITED ESCAPADES: Given the heady vibe and the large student presence, it’s but natural that the Quarter would be overflowing with bars and wine shops. Its throbbing heart lies in the quadrant between La Sorbonne and the Panthèon, with a celebratory atmosphere pervading rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, rue Mouffetard, and the crowded, student-heavy terraces on place de la Contrescarpe.
Rock up at Bar Tabac (7 place de la Sorbonne) for its sun-kissed terrace and a 19th century spirit; la Closerie des Lilas (171 Boulevard du Montparnasse) is your address for classic cocktails and a piano-bar setting with memories of Trotsky, Picasso and Hemingway floating around; at the enigmatic Curio Parlor meanwhile (16 rue des Bernadins), a quirky, velvet-crushed ambience comes laced with thunderous Japanese whiskies; a little further along, dalliances and drinks mingle well at the candlelit, jazz-infused Le Petit Café (6 rue Descartes); staying with the jazz fix, Caveau des Oubliettes (52 rue Galande) brings you more of the heady stuff across a series of vaulted medieval cellars; but if it’s rock that your heart craves, Le Piano Vache (8 rue Leplace) throbs with a wild heart and loud hedonists; leaving you with Le Bistrot des Artistes (6 rue de Anglais) for an exuberant collage of Afro-Cuban sounds and arguably the best mojitos in all of Paris.
10) BONJOUR SHAKESPEARE: I’ve saved the best for last. Lying all raggedy and romantic on the cobblestoned half-road that is rue de la Bûcherie, Shakespeare & Company welcomes the free-spirited soul with a wealth of second-hand editions, rare books, French classics in English, and an abundance of folklores. This is, in my rather biased opinion, the most charming little bookstore in the world. As ghosts of Hemingway and the Lost Generation and oft-repeated stories of Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation mingle through the ceiling-high bookshelves, an intellectual clientele, an air of poignancy, and that fabled green and yellow visage, life and literature appear as willing bedfellows in an enduring love affair.
Later, having a glass of deep red on one of the houseboat restaurants flanking the Seine, I reflect on Quartier Latin with a mixture of fondness and happiness. I’ve spent quality time with some legendary sidewalk cafés, I’ve immersed myself in the intellectual ambience pervading these spaces, I’ve waded through atmospheric bookshops; I’ve dived headfirst into all the bohemian lure on offer, I’ve gotten happily lost within the medieval maze of winding streets; and above all, I’ve flirted with a romance that could only ever be Parisian.
A few weeks hence, mired by the sadness that has engulfed the city, I still know with surging certainty that the devastation and the trepidation is but temporary. For this is a city that revels in its identity, that flourishes through its unity… that rises on the wings of its audacious beauty. I remember that as I’d taken that last sip by the Seine, I was certain that the phrase I was going to leave Paris with wasn’t “Adieu” but “Au Revoir’. Switch to now, and it’s a thought that rings true with even deeper conviction.
Author Bio: Siddharth Dasgupta is an Indian novelist. He also articulates travel horizons and cultural experiences for the likes of Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, the Dharamshala International Film Festival, and the Tibet Foundation. His twitter handle is @Siddha3th while he can be found on FB at www.facebook.com/leavesfromabook