Les Deux Magots

ImageThe highlight of my senior year of college had nothing to do with college, though graduating was rather exciting. But the most incredible thing I did that year was travel to Europe for the first time. Emily and I stayed in London for over a week, taking day trips to Oxford and Paris. When we decided to go to Paris, we knew we had to eat in a quintessential Parisian café in order to get the true Parisian experience. And being the literature nerds that we are, we knew we wanted to find a café with literary significance. After all, almost every old café in Paris can boast that it has hosted more than one famous writer, both European and American. After diligent research—which is Emily’s gift—we decided that for our whirlwind day in Paris we would eat in a little café known as Les Deux Magots.

Les Deux Magots is a small café located in Saint-Germain. And before you begin to wonder, the name does not translate to “two maggots”, which would be a terrible name for a place that serves food. Rather, Les Deux Magots means the two Chinese figurine dolls, a name derived from a novelty shop that occupied the space before the café. Since it was founded in 1812, Les Deux Magots has served many famous authors, artists, and notable people, but I will mention two.

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This plaque stands on the street corner where the cafe is located.

Ever the classicist, Emily insisted that we find a café where Ernest Hemingway had frequented while he lived in Paris in the 1920s. Les Deux Magots is one of those cafes, and it was very excited for both of us to eat in a place where that hosted this great American writer. More exciting for me and less exciting for Emily, Simone de Beauvoir also ate at Les Deux Magots. A notable French existentialist, writer, and feminist, de Beauvoir is most famous for her book The Second Sex and her relationship with existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. While I wrote my senior thesis that year—you can read part of my musings on the heroine in British literature—I read The Second Sex and was duly impressed by de Beauvoir’s intelligence and talent in writing. Though as a disclaimer I should say that I disagree with her on many, many points, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way de Beavoir tied feminism into philosophy, psychology, and politics. Anyway, Emily humored my Simone de Beauvoir phase as she handles all my odd phases, and we went to the café of Ernest Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir.

But besides the historical and literary significance of Les Deux Magots, there is also the cultural atmosphere of a French café—a Parisian café. Emily and I sat at our small little table and ate our delicious sandwiches, soaking in the moment, pretending we were great writers ourselves. It was a wonderful experience; a required experience if you ever plan on visiting Paris. There are many cafés to choose from, and I’m sure they all serve delicious food and wonderful ambience, but Emily and I can personally recommend Les Deux Magots, 6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

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A shelf in the famous Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company that honors Simone de Beauvoir and her book The Second Sex.

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