After World War II, Saint germain des Près became synonymous with the intellectual life of Paris centered on the open bars and charming cafes. Philosophers, writers, actors and musicians mingled in the cellar nightspots and brasseries, where existentialist philosophy coexisted with American jazz.
The area is now wealthier than in the heyday of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, or enigmatic singer Juliette Grécot and the new-wave film makers (such as Godard and Truffaut).
However, the writers and wannabe poets are still around, enjoying the pleasures of sitting in Les Deux magots, Café de Flore and other haunts, or in the Jardins du Luxembourg, just behind the Odeon Theatre.
Most of the 17th century buildings have survived, but signs of change are evident in the number of affluent shops dealing in antiques, books and fashion. Somehow, Saint Germain has become an up-to-date place, through which runs it's namesake Boulevard Saint Germain.
The boulevard is the most celebrated of the entire left bank, and curves across three districts from The Ile Saint Louis to the Pont de la Concorde. The architecture in the area is quite homogeneous because the Boulevard was another of Baron Haussmann's bold strokes of 19th century urban planning.
Jardins and Palais du Luxembourg
With its statuary, formal gravel paths and benches, the Luxembourg is the quintessential Paris park. Usual sights can include an apiary, joggers and martial art practitioners.
Tennis courts, pétanque pitches, basketball courts, pony rides and puppet shows add to the fun. During summer weekends, the octagonal pond in front of the palace is surrounded by smartly dressed Parisian children bearing batons to guide the progress of their sailing boats.
Fronting rue de Vaugirard, the Palais du luxembourg was designed by Salomon de Brosse in the early 17th century for Queen Mary de Medicis, the florentine wife of Henry IV. Today, the palace houses the French Senate.
The main entrance to the Luxembourg gardens is at the corner of bd St. Michel and rue de Medicis, 6th. Open daily, dawn until dusk.
Image: Empty seats at the Jardins du Luxembourg.
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