A Burgundy diary – 20 October 2021

La Cave de Bourgogne

I was first in this part of Paris – at the foot of the rue Mouffetard – nearly 30 years ago. I stayed in a hotel which had been recommended. Early every morning I used to wander around, anonymously, absorbing the autumn early morning, the streets, the people. I discovered a part of Paris I’d not known at all before: les Goblins, place Monge, Boulevard de Port-Royal. I sat in the Cave de Bourgogne – not knowing then how much Burgundy would later mean to me – in a sort of back room (too blurry in the photo below: sorry). I drank coffee and ate a croissant (I am sure I did: I was truly a tourist then). I inhaled the smell of Gauloises and Gitanes, the true and ubiquitous smell of French bars at the time.

In those days the bar was narrow, with the room I sat in at the back, and another room behind the bar. Now the bar is along the side of the room formerly behind the bar, and where was the bar are tables for people to drink an eat. The lavatory is no longer a la turque, no one smokes, I expect it’s all a bit cleaner; but to me it has echoes of the bar I knew those 30 years ago.

Outside in the rue Mouffetard is a reminder – which I learned when I was first there – that Paris is not all boulevards and formal gardens – as I had thought until then. (True, now I have found out so much more of the varied Parises: the Marais, St Martin Canal, the parallel older streets which run from the Gare du Nord to the river, and all those varied streets around Le boulevard St Germain and La rue de Cherche Midi.) The street – rue Moffetard – rambles up a gentle hillside still keeping its medieval plan. Mostly it is flanked by small – and very varied – shops. The buildings must span a period of eight hundred years or more.

And at the foot of this ancient narrow street is La Cave de Burgogne, surrounded by a book-shop (still in business), a green-grocer and one of Paris’s evergreen chemists.

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