The Last Nude: More Paris Sights

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!

La Rotunde Montparnasse








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.

Shakespeare & Co., 2011









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.

Pont de Sully

Pont de Sully Houseboat





















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!




The Last Nude: A Literary Tour of Paris

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery is a perfect Paris read.

Set in the glamourous 1920’s Paris art world, it tells the story of the real-life Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka through the eyes of her lover, model and muse, the Italian-American Rafaela Fano. One of de Lempicka’s portraits of Rafaela (“The Dream”) graces the cover of the book.

For more about the book, check out the author’s interview with NPR and in Public Culture.


There are so many Paris treats in this book, from the original Shakespeare & Co., to houseboats on the Seine, to a character modeled after Ernest Hemingway, that I just couldn’t resist planning my own Last Nude Literary Tour of Paris. I’ll be sharing some of my photos and impressions from my tour over the next week, along with a sneak peek into a deleted excerpt from the book.

Tamara de Lempicka’s Fictional Apartment and Studio:

Tamara de Lempicka’s fictional apartment and art studio stands at 63 rue de Varenne in the 7th arrondissement on the Left Bank. Ellis Avery states that she selected this site because it would have had good northern light for painting. The address is directly across the street from the low-slung Hotel des Castries. It also happens to be down the street from one of the Paris homes of Edith Wharton at 53 rue de Varenne. What a lovely make-believe address for Tamara, a wealthy Russian aristocrat who enjoyed mingling with the champagne-sipping art collectors of Paris.

Corner of Varenne and Vaneau

Doorway to 63 rue de Varenne

Hotel de Castries

Edith Wharton Plaque at 53 rue de Varenne































Tamara’s Real Life Paris Home

In real life, Tamara de Lempicka moved from St. Petersburg to Paris with her first husband in order to escape the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. They had one daughter and were soon divorced. Tamara first lived at 5 rue Guy du Maupassant in the 16th, then at 7 rue Mechain in the 14th, in a building she herself designed. I enjoyed taking an afternoon to walk through the La Muette area of the 16th, a very posh area full of bustling bistros and beautiful apartment buildings. Check out the nice lines of the doorway to Tamara’s first building on Maupassant.

Doorway of 5 rue Guy Maupassant
















Stay tuned for more Paris scenes from The Last Nude. In the meantime, why don’t you pick up a copy from your closest independent bookstore and start reading along? I highly recommend it.



An Artist’s Weekend in Honfleur

Honfleur is an old harbor village in Normandy at the mouth of the Seine, just a two hour drive northwest of Paris. The perfect place to walk through the streets and scenes made famous in the paintings of Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin and many others.

La Ferme Saint-Siméon

Ferme St. Simeon Plaque


“Monet Slept Here.” If your budget allows, stay at La Ferme Saint-Simeon, a beautiful 19th century farmhouse that overlooks the estuary of the Seine. It was once the gathering place of the early impressionists – the St. Simeon art colony. Now a Relais et Chateaux property, you can check into one of the rooms in the main building – I recommend the “Monet Room” – or into the Pressoir, a separate building that once housed a cider press.




According to a plaque outside the inn, this place became the gathering place of the artists who would give birth to the Honfleur School, a movement in French art that fell between the Barbizon School and Impressionism. Artists such as  Courbet, Bazille, Boudin, Monet and Sisley frequented the farmhouse inn, where they enjoyed the apple cider of “old mother Toutain” and played dominos under the apple trees. It was here that Courbet painted the woods, Boudin painted his fellow drinkers sitting at the table, and Monet painted the road in the snow. Monet is quoted as having said: “Everyday I find more beautiful things, it’s crazy!”

Monet: The Road to the Saint-Simeon Farm (1864)















From La Ferme Saint Simeon you can easily walk or drive into town to visit The Boudin Museum, home to many lovely paintings set on the beach and harbor of Honfleur or the cliffs of Etretat.









Etretat is a small seaside village about 45 minutes from Honfleur, across the big bridge to Le Havre and then up through quiet farm-lined roads along the northern coast. It was cold and blustery the day I was there, but I still couldn’t resist climbing to the tops of the cliffs that I have seen in paintings ever since I was a young girl. I tried to picture Monet climbing up there himself, with his paints and easel under his arm, fighting the wind. It was a cloudy day, but the air was never still. The clouds chased across the sky and the wind whipped up waves in the sea. It made for a very dramatic setting, and as a painter, it just makes you want to try to capture its spirit in paint.

The impressionists certainly did.




































I would love to go back with my paints and my easel in the summer to try a little en plein air painting of my own. It won’t look anything like a Monet, but still. . . . I’d have a lot of fun trying.  And if not, well then I can always go drink some calvados at Le Ferme Saint Simeon.





Monet in Honfleur: A Guest Post by Author Stephanie Cowell

I am pleased to welcome Stephanie Cowell, award-winning author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet to the American Girls Art Club in Paris. 

Claude & Camille is one of my favorite recent art history reads, and Stephanie is a real expert on Monet and his circle of French artists. When I told her that my husband and I were planning a weekend trip from Paris to Honfleur, she did some research for me and wrote this lovely piece about Monet’s early days in Honfluer. Enjoy, and stay tuned for a follow-up post with news and photos from my amazing trip.                                                                                


HONFLEUR in Normandy, where Claude Monet first began to paint.

Claude at Twenty

If you walked along the port in the town of Honfleur in 1859 or thereabouts, you might pass two men strolling with portable easels over their shoulders, deep in conversation: the older of the two would be the landscape artist Eugène Boudin and the eager adolescent with dark burning eyes, Claude Monet. They were likely talking about the joy and difficulties of painting the sea and the light above it.

A hundred and fifty years have passed since then and Honfleur remains the same charming seafaring town with its narrow, cobbled backstreets, old houses and ancient wooden church.  It is located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine across from le Havre. The Seine had always in inspired artists and by the early nineteenth century they were coming steadily. It was the years when painters were discovering the constantly changing effects of weather on the landscape. Boudin who had been born in Honfleur was making a reputation as a painter when he discovered Claude Monet: a seventeen-year-old-with an attitude who hated school.

At that time Claude had no thought of oil paints or canvases; he made making a great deal more than pocket change sketching witty caricatures. Boudin persuaded the young man to come with him at dawn to paint outdoors. From that morning, Claude threw himself into a life of art. He went to Paris to study where instead of making money he almost starved. He never ceased to try to capture the light. He searched for it all his life and ended up painting its reflection in his water lily pond sixty years later. And he returned again and again to the towns of Normandy and medieval Honfleur.

Claude Monet: Entrance to the Port of Honfleur (1870)

First mentioned in history a thousand years ago, Honfleur had long been a trading and seafaring town. Now tourists come from all over the world. With its population of around eight thousand (rather more intimate than Paris!), it is one of the of the most charming little towns in Normandy with many little shops and seafood restaurants.

Boudin: the Entrance to the Port of Honfleur (1865)

There are interesting things to see and do. An old chapel houses a museum dedicated to Boudin.  Wander to the Vieux-Bassin (old dock) in the heart of the town, and stroll by the high, narrow houses which overlook the harbor on three sides. Visit St. Catherine’s Church, built entirely of wood or the vast stone salt granaries dating from 1670 which could store up to 10,000 tons of salt, but are now used for exhibitions and concerts.

But the best thing is to spend dreamy hours watching the light on the water. Sit in a café by the dock. Stay in a hotel overlooking the boats. Better still, bring some water colors or a small box of oil paints and discover for yourself what Monet found when he was very young and never forgot.


Stephanie Cowell is the author of CLAUDE & CAMILLE, the story of the young Claude Monet’s struggling years to prove himself in the art world and the elusive model Camille whom he loved and married. She has published five novels and is the recipient of an American Book Award. Follow her on Twitter at @stephaniecowell.