Lined with restaurants, quaint cafés, bakeries, as well as cheese, wine and flower shops, picturesque Rue Montorgueil was once a popular rendezvous spot for celebrities such as Marcel Proust, Sarah Bernhardt, Honoré de Balzac and even Casanova.
A place about which famous French writer, Émile Zola, said: “It’s like a taste of the countryside right in the heart of Paris.”
As an attractive extra-curricular activity outside the workshops and activities we have already prepared for this October’s Paris writing retreat, participants can enjoy not just wandering around the cobblestone streets of this historic neighborhood but also a Sunday morning conversational get-together in the elegant Café Montorgeuil near Les Halles, the largest indoor shopping mall in central Paris, organised by Terrance Gelenter, charismatic raconteur-cum-author-cum-tour-guide.
They can also delight in a special singing performance by Terrance in Duke’s Bar inside Westminster Hotel, decorated in the style of Westminster Abbey, with a majestic gothic chimney and leather seats.
Terrance performs hit songs by such luminaries of the music world as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
Sitting in the intimacy of Café Montorgeuil on the Right Bank of the Seine on a recent Sunday under Terrance’s leadership, like-minded people discussed subject as diverse as movies, books and the merits of various Parisian museums. A most memorable experience ensued with conversation flowing easily from one end of the table to the other.
Transplanted from the US, Terrance is a movie buff and former columnist and has penned a number of books, including ‘Travels in France with Terrance,’ ‘Terrance’s Fifty Favorite Bistros and Restos’ and his memoir, ‘From Bagels to Brioches – Paris per hazard’ – all reflecting his love for the City of Light.
About his memoir, former columnist and editor for the New York Post and The New York Daily News Pete Hamill says, “…this compact book is filled with secret streets and splendid boulevards, legend and lore, the present and the past, along with passionate talk at café tables, the breeze off a great river, the charm of bookstores, the majesty of galleries and museums….It’s like an evening with M. Gelenter himself, walking, dining, laughing, learning.”
Conceived in Casablanca and born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, Terrance has overcome many difficulties during his life thus far, beginning as a young boy being moved from home to home. His French mother, a young 17-year-old, knowing very little English, met his father, an American GI, and they returned to the US.
Adjusting to life after war is never easy as indicated in Hilary Kaiser’s book, ‘French War Brides in America’ and Terrance’s father slipped into alcoholism, his young son having to stay with his grandmother and other family members.
From the tough coal-mining country of western Pennsylvania to the streets of Brooklyn, then San Francisco and ultimately Paris, Terrance has weaved a path through life with his love of the arts, including music, film and literature, guiding his way forward.
Among his many accomplishments is launching of literary salons in San Francisco and New York where he interviewed luminaries such as Peter Mayle author of ‘A Year In Provence.’ A highlight for him was meeting film director Billy Wilder who himself lived in Paris in the early 1930s.
Having succeeded that side of the Atlantic, Terrance promptly moved across the Pond and achieved the same in Paris, where he also leads diverse walking tours and sings at local Parisian music clubs and hotels.
His memoir, ‘From Bagels to Brioches – Paris per hazard,’ is filled with colorful anecdotes from lively Parisian landmarks, particularly Les Deux Magots café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, once frequented by writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht and Ernest Hemingway. Such is his enduring love for cinema, Terrance even lists his own favorite Paris movies in his memoir.
Following several visits to the City of Light from the US, Terrance recalls it wasn’t until 1994 that he started to feel ‘chez-moi’ in Paris, adding, “I began to appreciate her serenity, her beauty, her civility and her seasons.” His appreciation has only gotten stronger over the years.
His lifelong exploits even earned him a fictitious ‘role’ in ‘Murder in Montmartre’ by author, Cara Black, his character being someone he describes as “a blue-eyed, mad Moroccan.”
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