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Hemingway Adventure

Paris, France (second day)

Paris, France 
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Climbing the stairs to Hemingway's apartment in the then highly unfashionable are of rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureI try to ignore the February drizzle as I walk, early on a Saturday morning, along one of the streets, huddled in by apartment buildings, that runs up the hill from Notre Dame and the River Seine to the once poor and anonymous area which was the Hemingways’ first permanent address in Paris.

Thanks to A Moveable Feast we know quite a bit about their home at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine. We know it was on the third floor, and was what they called a cold-water flat, with a squat toilet outside on the landing. This was not connected to a main drainage system and the sewage had to be pumped into a horse-drawn tank and taken away. Coal-dust bricks called boulets had to be carried up the stairs for heating and cooking. It had a view on to cobbled streets along which goats were led by a goatherd with a pipe, with which he alerted those wanting fresh milk.

There are no cobbles any more on the rue du Cardinal Lemoine, or goats, as far as I can see, but the tall, plain murky white façade of Number 74 is still there. It’s no longer anonymous. A sign hangs above a ground floor doorway announcing the presence of ‘Agence de Voyages - Under Hemingway’s’ (Under Hemingway’s Travel Agency). There is a plaque on the wall marking Hemingway’s presence here, though it was not put up until 1994, thirty-three years after his death.

We’re admitted by a stout old concierge with wispy hair, a floral apron and a tired old dog. She says her parents knew the Hemingways, and produces a photo. Then she indicates a steep corkscrew of a staircase, on which we, like Ernest and Hadley before us, toil up to the third floor.

The Hemingway apartment is once again occupied by an American in his twenties. John, a Bostonian who works for the business consultancy firm Arthur Andersen, is friendly, if a little weary of welcoming devotees. He says that around a dozen people ring the doorbell every week and the Tokyo Broadcasting System has beaten us to it by three days.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Paris, France (second day)
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Paris
  • Book page no: 77

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