On her recent visit to Paris, traveler Amy ventured to the places where her grandfather lived and worked. Here, she shares the moving experience she had on our tour of the French capital.
While discussing the Paris & Rome tour with my parents, my mom told me that my grandfather lived in Paris while he was in his early 20s. He stayed there for several years after taking part in a French immersion program as a high school exchange student. I decided this was the perfect time to retrace his steps and see if some of the places where he lived and worked were still there.
After reviewing the Paris itinerary, I realized I had enough free time during two of the days to follow his path on my own. This became a wonderful project for my family. Mom gathered all the old documents she could find and gave me copies, which I placed into my journal that I was bringing with me. We found several addresses of two hotels that he lived in, as well as a bookstore in which he worked during the 1930s. Before I left, I mapped out walking routes from my hotel to these locations, separating them into two days as they were located in two different arrondissements (districts).
Once in Paris, I couldn’t contain my excitement and told everyone in our tour group about my adventure to follow my grandfather. I even had assistance from two waiters and a bartender from the restaurant across the street from the hotel to find the locations! One evening I was having dinner alone and writing in my journal when the waiter noticed the letter from my grandfather’s employer in French and asked me about it. The letter was dated 1933 and after I told the waiter “mon grandpère,” he was flabbergasted. He repeated the year in French, saying “mille neuf cent trente trois! Mille neuf cent trente trois!” He brought over the other waiter and after reading the letter, both were overjoyed at my desire to find these places.
The first day of my search, I went looking for the hotel in the 8th arrondissement, at 24 Boulevard Malesherbes. On my walk there, I got lost a few times, ending up at a gorgeous church and a beautiful fountain before magically somehow finding the hotel! It is now a Hyatt Paris Madeleine, but the original beauty is still there and it looks like the building hasn’t changed in decades.
The second day of the search brought me to 4 Rue Félibien in the 6th arrondissement. It was a bit difficult to find, as the “road” was tiny and connected to two very small side streets. Sadly, the bookstore that my grampy once worked for is no longer in business. It is a very modern building that is currently under construction, but I did find it!
Next, I was off to the 4th arrondissement in search of 65 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. It was incredibly easy to find and surprisingly the SAME exact hotel where my grandfather used to live! It is still Hôtel de Lutèce, a cute boutique hotel that hasn’t lost its charm. What an amazing find! I took some time to sit at the Café de Lutèce, watching people go by and wondering if my grandfather sat right here one morning, had coffee, read the paper and watched people in his neighborhood. I felt so connected to him at that moment. I had come to Paris for my birthday and the gift I received was more than I could have ever hoped for. Now I know why Paris feels like home to me, more than any other place I’ve visited. Because it was home to my grampy, too.
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