Welcome back to my Last Nude Literary Tour of Paris, based on scenes from Ellis Avery’s 2011 novel The Last Nude. Click here for Part I of the tour, where I shared photos of Tamara de Lempicka’s fictional and real-life Paris apartments.
Whether you live in Paris and can wander through these sites at your leisure, or you’re just an armchair traveler who dreams of France, I hope you enjoy this literary tour.
If you haven’t yet read the book, you should know that Rafaela, de Lempicka’s model and muse, is a new arrival to Paris, and is on the slippery slope of becoming a prostitute in order to survive. Early in the book, she heads over to La Rotunde, a classic French brasserie that has been at the corner of Montparnasse and Raspail since 1911. Rafaela is hoping to run into some people she knows from her early days at Alliance Francaise (a nearby French language school) who might be willing to buy her dinner. Instead, Rafaela meets a character named Anson Hall, who invokes the spirit of Ernest Hemingway. The two are fellow lost spirits, and strike up a wonderful friendship.
La Rotunde is a great place to have some spirits of your own, especially if it’s a nice day and you can sit outside with a journal or sketchbook. Maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with the starving writer sitting next to you . . . and who knows!
From La Rotunde, you can follow Rafaela’s Left Bank wanderings to the site of the original Shakespeare & Co, which as of 1922 was located at 12 rue de l’Odéon. In the novel, Rafaela meets and befriends Shakespeare & Co. owner Sylvia Beach and her partner Adrienne Monnier. For a great collection of photographs of Sylvia Beach and her bookshop, check out author John Baxter’s website, johnbaxterparis.
After you swing by the site of the old Shakespeare and Co., you really do need to stop in the “new” one. Today, Shakespeare & Co. is located at 37 Rue Bûcherie, just along the left bank of the Seine. The bookshop is still mourning the loss of George Whitman, who owned the bookshop from 1951 until his passing in December of 2011. There are some great historical photos on their website.
Once you’re there, you really do need to stay awhile. Buy more books than you intend and enjoy the spirit of the place. It’s a treasure. In addition to their quirky and delightfully haphazard selection of books, they have super cute tote bags. And don’t forget to ask them to stamp the first page of your books with the official “Shakespeare & Co.” seal. You can’t get that from Amazon.
Finally, it’s an easy enough walk from Shakespeare & Co. to Pont de Sully, the bridge that connects the Left Bank to the far east end of Ile St. Louis. Toward the end of The Last Nude you will learn that Rafaela is living in a houseboat on the Seine near Pont de Sully. I can totally picture Anson and Rafaella having lunch on the deck of the houseboat pictured below. (Of course there’s a nice French tablecloth!) There is also a critical scene in the book that takes place on a bridge – I can picture it happening here.
If you’re too tired to keep walking, the good news is that there is a terrific little brasserie on the Right Bank of Pont de Sully called Le Sully at 6 boulevard Henri IV in the 4th. Try their Crepes de Maison with some coffee, and between the sugar and the caffeine, you should recover quickly.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos from my Last Nude Literary Tour. There’s nothing better than exploring a city through the lens of a really good book. Especially one that honors the history, the art and the spirit of Paris.
In a future post, I’ll give you an exclusive peak at a deleted scene from The Last Nude, and maybe share some additional photos. In the meantime, you could always go pick up the book and start reading!
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