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Hemingway Adventure

Paris, France (sixth day)

Paris, France 
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Hemingway, wounded by a falling skylight, left Paris in 1928 but returned to 'the city I love best in all the world' when it was liberated from the Germans in 1944.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureOnce Hemingway had been in a place where he was happy and had worked well, he regarded it in some sense as his property. So, in August 1944, not long after he’d suffered another mangling car accident in the London black-out, he was back in Paris under contract to Collier’s magazine to play his part in liberating what he called ‘the city I love best in all the world’.

Whilst more conventional Allied troops were busy flushing out the remaining pockets of German resistance, Hemingway and an ill-assorted guerrilla band went on to conduct his own personal liberation of Paris, including the Café de la Paix and the Brasserie Lipp, as well as Sylvia Beach’s bookstore and the Ritz Hotel, where the barman asked Hemingway what his men would like and received the answer, ‘Fifty martini cocktails!’

In the interests of historical research I have been given a chance to experience my own liberation of Paris. We have permission for me to ride up one of the approach roads to the Arc de Triomphe in a World War Two American tank.

Unfortunately the tank is stuck in rush-hour traffic. A chilly, insidious drizzle has descended, as we look in vain among the Renaults and Peugeots of the commuters for the reassuring sight of a gun barrel. When, an hour later, our tank does arrive, it’s smaller than I expected - the sort of tank you might use to do the shopping.
An anxious bespectacled face peers apologetically from one of the forward hatches. This is Patrick, the French owner of the tank, an M8 Greyhound with a stubby 37 mm cannon, made by Ford in 1944. After introductions all round, I climb aboard, inserting myself like a shell into a mortar barrel at the hatch next to Patrick. Choosing our moment, we make a slow but spectacular pull-out into the traffic.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Paris, France (sixth day)
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Paris
  • Book page no: 87

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  • Around the World in 80 Days