The Paris Left Bank is where I grew up, right near the Rue Moufftard in the 5th section near the Jardin de Plantes, the Pantheon, the Sorbonne. This little neighborhood was very artistic with a plaza with restaurants and cafes and if you turned left to go down the street this area was filled with small cheese shops, butchers, bakers and typical French family owned businesses. Watching my mother shop in her schoolgirl French for the night’s dinner and we knew each of the shop owners. They really enjoyed how she was trying to blend into the culture. Many of our shopkeepers were those that survived the war and occupation in Paris so they were always respectful of us, the ‘neighborhood Americans’. My father, a French teacher (who also spoke 4 other languages) didn’t accompany us on these adventures, as he was busy at the college. At dinner time, we would re-tell our day’s adventures, and it made the food delicious. My mother is a wonderful cook, having taken all the instructions from Julia Child and Simone Beck, authors of the now classic cookbooks*.
Like all things in Paris, time passes and things change. But all is not lost; there are sections around the Montparnasse area that are reviving as is the 17th and 18th areas. Typically these areas are not full of tourists, as residents. The heart of Paris is living, and breathing in its outskirts and is where the new chic areas of the future will be. I stayed here one week in 2013 and marveled at how the area reminded me of classic Left Bank Paris, with its neighborhood shops and specialties like the Charcuterie, the Fromagerie, the Boucherie and Patisserie just as I remembered from the 5th arrondisement off the Rue Moufftard. Paris time in the 18th district stopped somewhere between 1958 and 1998. Quiet streets and a few good cafes are located near the gates of the infamous graveyard, Pere La Chaise famous for its illustrious dead. A market bag with goodies from these local shops make for a delicious luncheon complete with your favorite bottle of wine with some fruit, cheese and perfect cold meats like ham or a country pate or slice of spicy sausage. Why not eat with Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison, all buried there. A seat near the grave site or just outside the gates works for your pre-tour walk through the most famous cemetery in the world. Just beware that the gates close promptly at 6, a fact I ignored when I was locked in for the night…until a couple of night watchmen let me (and my companion) out of the gates.