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Party Like a Fitzgerald in Paris

05/07/2013 at 12:00 pm

The Jazz Age is undeniably an enduring époque in literature, with author F. Scott Fitzgerald successfully chronicling a now iconic period of lush festivity and overall excess. He traveled often, but his most glorious years were arguably spent in Paris, where he lived with his wife Zelda from 1924 to 1931.

Though Fitzgerald’s antics have become synonymous with his lifetime, copious drinking, strolling, and intellectual hobnobbing can easily be implemented in Paris today—the good, the bad, and the over-the-top! Let’s take a step back and look at exactly how to recreate the lifestyle and mindset of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

1. Hotel Saint James & Albany 202, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, + 33 (0)1 44 58 43 21.

Fitzgerald Hotel Saint James Albany Untapped Paris
The Fitzgeralds first visited Paris in the spring of 1921 and stayed at Hotel Saint James & Albany. The couple decided to travel when they learned Zelda was pregnant that May, but they were not typical homemakers by any means. In her piece, F. Scott Fitzergerald: American Expatriate of the Lost Generation, Sarah Krauss reports that the Scott and Zelda were kicked out of the hotel for eccentric misbehavior, ultimately finding Paris very lonely with no friends in the city. Despite their antics (or perhaps due to them), the hotel still functions today, so you too could visit a hotel in a friendless city. Maybe don’t leave what Krauss calls a  “pungent goatskin” in the room though, or tie the elevator to the floor so you don’t have to wait for it—unless you want to be thrown out, and maybe arrested, as only a truly fearless Jazz Age enthusiast would do.

2. L’Opera Garnier

963px-Opera_Garnier_Grand_Escalier
The Fitzgeralds returned to Paris in 1924 for a second trip, and stayed at the Hotel des Deux Mondes on rue de l’Opera. While the hotel closed in 1940, the very-nearby, historic Opera Garnier is still a tourist destination. Tours are available, as are tickets to ongoing performances. Whether the Fitzgeralds visited the Opera itself is not clearly documented, but feel free to view the beautiful showings! That the second trip was housed at the ‘Hotel of Two Worlds’ holds poetic significance, in that the travelers were fully straddling two cities and cultures. As the Fitzgeralds grew more comfortable with Paris, the two worlds fused into their own, individualized Jazz Age.

3. Auberge de Venise, 10 rue Delambre, 75014 Paris, +33 (0)1 43 35 43 09

Fitzgerald Auberge de Venise Untapped Paris
Auberge de Venise, or Venice Hostel as it translates, may seem like a nondescript Italian restaurant chain at first glance (with a pretty fantastic website). But did you know that it is located in the same place as the infamous Dingo Bar, where F. Scott Fitzgerald met Ernest Hemingway in 1925? Eat some pizza and soak up the aura! Who knows? Maybe you’ll run into a friend there, you’ll both get famous, and in a hundred years, people will be flocking to eat the same spaghetti.

4. Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées

Champs-Élysées_from_Arc_de_Triomphe
The facts of the legend aren’t entirely clear, but Art Info recounts that flushed with trademark inebriation, F. Scott Fitzgerald left his apartment at In May 1925, while living in an apartment at 14 Rue de Tilsitt, stole a baker’s bicycle and baguette, and pedaled down the Champs Elysées. We suggest finding a Monoprix (and there is indeed a Monoprix on the Champs Elysées), purchasing the cheapest possible wine and baguette, and renting a vélib right outside the Etoile metro stop for the full effect.

5. Centre Jean Favreau, 187 Rue Saint-Jacques, 75005 Paris, +33 (0)1 43 29 31 40
By 1930, even the notorious Fitzgeralds were exhausted from their extreme lifestyle. Zelda Fitzgerald, who had a history of mental illness in her family, suffered her a major breakdown, and entered a mental hospital outside Paris called MalMaison. The following year, a conglomeration of French psychoanalysts formed the Société Psychanalytique de Paris. Their current center is listed as Centre Jean Favreau.

The center is definitely not a tourist destination for the sights, sounds, and festivities of a French getaway. However, to party like a Fitzgerald was not all fun and games. Scott had a long and open struggle with alcohol, as he publicized in the New Yorker after he’d left Paris in 1929, and Zelda spent the last years of her life institutionalized. Noting Centre Jean Favreau serves a tragic homage to the dangers of over-the-top festivities.

6. Harry’s Bar, 5 Rue Daunou street, 75002 Paris, +33 (0)1 42 61 71 14

Harrys Bar-Paris-Fitzgerald

Harry’s Bar is as American as a macaron is French—it just happens to be in Paris. Opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1911, the structure was literally dismantled and rebuilt from New York to Paris. In fact, it was originally called New York Bar. The name was changed when Harry MacElhone took over the bar in 1911, and the website boasts the Bloody Mary was first created on site in 1921. Although the origins of the cocktail have been hotly debated, needless to say, the bar was a hangout for Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway alike. Betting on the American presidential elections has been a tradition at Harry’s Bar since 1924.

3 Comments

  1. Gayla says:

    Great information here on the histories of Parisian establishments. Paris is a favorite destination and always it’s interesting for me to see it with new perspective. I imagine it as being a more enticing and intriguing city during the Jazz Age, but that’s likely romanticizing it just a bit.

  2. Michael says:

    One more place to check out is “Polidor” on 41 rue Monsieur-le-Prince right up the hill from the Odéon metro stop. This is where Hemingway and Fitzgerald frequently met and had drinks and is in fact the same restaurant/bar used in Midnight in Paris. Beware they don’t take credit cards, the food isn’t amazing (not terrible either) but the decor hasn’t changed in 100 years. It’s like being in an old world historic Paris right out of the lost generation years

  3. Jayaram says:

    A very well written article, but for the photo of the erstwhile Hemingway Bar in the Ritz, and the hotel being mentioned as well.

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