December 11, 2011
Paris of the 1930s is the backdrop for the new Martin Scorsese 3D film, Hugo. Based on the Brian Selznick book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the story unfolds around the 12-year-old orphan Hugo and the Montparnasse Railway Station where he lives and maintains the clocks.
Montparnasse in the 1920s and 30s was a Bohemian enclave to what was known as the Lost Generation. Writers, artists and American expatriates shunned the popular Montmartre and flocked to the Left Bank’s Montparnasse with its cafes and nightclubs. A Who’s Who list of the era included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Picasso, William Faulkner, Isadora Duncan and Ernest Hemingway, just to name a few. Montparnasse also plays a part in two of Hemingway’s books, A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises. If the glory if its former days are just a memory, you can still enjoy the cafés and nightclubs that remain today. One such café is la Closerie des Lilas which claims to be the first café to put Montparnasse on the map as “La Closerie was the place to be before and after the (Bullier) ball,” the most famous ball in Paris.
“I had thought of telling Scott (Fitzgerald) about... what good friends we all were and had been for a long time at the Lilas.’ (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast.) The Closerie des Lilas is one of my favorite places to drink and dine in Paris and a must for each visit. I have some good company in this opinion, in addition to Hemingway, Ford Maddox Ford, Sartre, Picasso, and Apollinaire also frequented the piano bar, brasserie, restaurant and patio.” -- from StudioZola
Photo of Montparnasse Cemetery from Montparnasse Tower by Zhebiton
Of particular interest are the Tour Montparnasse (Montparnasse Tower) and the Montparnasse Cemetery. IgoUgo member Rucas noted that “Everyone has their own opinion on this, but I'm adamant: the best view of Paris is from the rooftop terrace of the Tour Montparnasse. From this windy open space you actually look down on the Eiffel Tower. And only from here can you understand the aesthetic and geometric logic of the planning of the Montparnasse Cemetery below.”
Travelprone’s guidebook worthy impressions complete this visit to the neighborhood: “The Montparnasse Cemetery is surrounded by the contrasting lofty Montparnasse Tower and the bustling Gare Montparnasse. For ardent feminists, a map at the left of the main entrance shows where Simone de Beauvoir is buried next to her existentialist partner Jean Paul-Sartre, for whom Montparnasse Cemetery became his mortal No Exit. For lovers of literature, this cemetery offers abundant opportunities for "celebrity grave sighting," as Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, Eugene Ionesco, and Guy de Maupassant are also buried here.
View from Montparnasse Tower by Zhebiton
Today, the once-controversial height of Tour Montparnasse affords stunning vistas of the city from its top, yet even a visitor has to admit it sticks out all too prominently from its rather lovely middle-class Parisian neighborhood Wisely in my opinion, a city ordinance enacted after the Tour’s completion bans the erection of any other edifice of that height in Paris. Montparnasse is a delightful residential area that offers cheaper accommodation and excellent public transportation to the city’s main sights as well as to sites in nearby Ile de France locations.”
Posted by Nik’sMom (Terre Grilli)