‘A magnet, a Mecca, an incubator, a hothouse for writers. No other city has attracted so much literary talent or produced such a wealth of enduring literature. Paris has nurtured countless poets, novelists and playwrights who were among the most intriguing personalities of their times.’
So said David Burke in the introduction to his excellent book, ‘Writers in Paris.’
And that’s why we chose this beautiful European capital for one of our leading writing retreats - your last chance to join one of our retreats this year. There’s probably no better place to be artistically inspired than this majestic city in the heart of Europe that has hosted so many wordsmiths over the centuries.
In Woody Allen’s delightful movie, ‘Midnight in Paris,' viewers are swept back in time to the dazzling era of the 1920s and 1930s when writers from around the world flocked here for the promise of creativity among fellow literary travellers.
That’s exactly the exhilarating experience we intend for our participants at our week-long retreat in the dynamic City of Light this October.
Under blue skies and amidst broad leafy boulevards and cobblestone streets, we‘ve discovered some unique places to help re-create that tingling sense of magic and nostalgia. Our very own time-travel capsule. Or, to use Ernest Hemingway’s words, ‘A Moveable Feast.’
Just as Hemingway and James Joyce and many others were enriched by living in Paris, your appreciation of their accomplishments - and indeed of the city itself - will be heightened by following them from place to place in your imagination. Or, even better, with us, in your walking shoes alongside experienced tutors and guides.
Here are just some of the delightful places we’ll visit during our week-long retreat beginning on October 9.
With its ornate fountains, elegant statues, towering lime and oak trees and dazzling flower designs, this idyllic haven in the centre of Paris has been a quiet retreat for artists of all kinds, from Marcel Proust and Victor Hugo to Van Gogh and Picasso.
Such is its immense attraction, novelists such as William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald rented apartments overlooking it so they could stroll here at their leisure observing the to and fro of life all around them.
Today one of the enchanting pleasures of being in Paris is sitting at an outdoor patio in these lush gardens watching local people indulging in friendly games of boules or seeing others enjoy the challenges of chess on special tables set out exclusively for this timeless pastime.
Add to that, the taste of an exquisite dessert known as Montblanc and our special excursion together to Luxembourg Gardens is transformed into an unforgettable treat.
As was the case more than a century ago, the Left Bank, or Rive Gauche as its known, near Notre Dame Cathedral, remains a bustling place, richly alive with echoes of the past, the traditional riverside home of booksellers and artists alike.
Here also is the famous Latin Quarter, buzzing with charming cafes and restaurants of all kinds. It’s here our participants this October - (one of the best months to be in Paris) - are in for a wonderful surprise. An evening of live music. But not just any music.
Ahead of the upcoming retreat, our resourceful Sherlock Holmesian cultural detectives discovered a rare gem - an out-of-the-way place offering the most eclectic genre of jazz music, a genre forever associated with Paris but often hard to find. That’s Manouche, also known as Gypsy jazz, the brainchild of violinist Stéphane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt, a vibrant brand of music that gained widespread popularity in the 1930s.
Bistros and Bars
No place captures the renowned French ‘joie de vivre’ (enjoyment of life) better than the iconic bistros and terraces of Paris. Indeed they’re such an integral part of everyday life there, UNESCO is incorporating them into its Cultural Heritage program.
Honoring this designation and reflecting the city’s illustrious literary history, ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ has selected a series of classic cafes-cum-bistros once frequented regularly by such writers as George Orwell, Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and many more.
Under the watchful gaze of these ghostly literary legends, participants will enjoy creative writing workshops in these places followed by spirited discussions over delicious complimentary lunches, wines and pastis.
Exclusive Literary Salon
A popular aspect of life in 18th century Paris was what became known as ‘salon littéraire,’ or literary salons, at which people gathered together to discuss the world of books and share their opinions on topics ranging from travel to science, literature to politics.
‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ will host an exclusive salon for its participants in the company of one of the leading lights of Parisian literary circles today, at the Paris Writer's Atelier. Complete with lunch and drinks, in an apartment beside the Seine with views over Notre Dame Cathedral, participants will have the opportunity to meet author and professor, Mary Duncan, who started her own publishing house and created the Paris Writers Group. Actively involved in the literary community, Mary is now writing a new book “the literary and cultural life on a Paris street.” Mary will host a special guided walk of this intriguing street and talk about its history and those who live there.
To say Mary has led a colorful life would be a severe understatement. Not only did she spend time at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills but she also travelled to war-torn cities such as Belfast, Tehran and Managua as part of her Doctoral research. She also lived in Russia for a time and founded the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Moscow. Mary will reveal her secrets in person.