A stroll in Saint-Germain-des-Près and French vocabulary related to this neighbourhood
There is no better way to improve your conversational French than walking around and immersing yourself in Paris. This morning, I meet up with one my Australian students Kerry in Saint-Germain-des-Près. Located on the left bank of La Seine river, it is a picturesque setting characterised by gorgeous centuries-old churches, high fashion boutiques and art galleries. In today’s blog, I will share with you French vocabulary and expressions related to this mythical neighbourhood. Also, at the same time I’ll help you discover the hidden gems of this legendary district. Read more and enjoy!
When we finished our Private French Lesson Tour, Kerry remarked: ” I live nearby and had no idea there were these hidden gems so close by! I now can easily say French phrases and picture in my mind these beautiful places you have showed me”. So lets share with you my off the beaten track secrets of Paris in the 6th Arrondissement.
First stop- Saint-Germain-des-Près church
You just can’t visit Saint-Germain-des-Près without visiting this historic church. It is in memory of Saint-Germain-des-Prés , and the oldest church in Paris. Originally built in the 6th century, during the late Middle Ages it became a powerful and respected Benedictine abbey, one of the largest and most important in all of France.
The exterior of the church is defined by its bell tower, one of the oldest in all of France. The interior shows a mixture of different architectural styles. Original 6th century pillars support the 12th century choir; Romanesque arches are combined with Gothic vaulting. There are even snippets of Baroque elements.
French adjectives to get you started to describe Saint-Germain-des-Près
“A la mode”: fashionable
“Chic”: chic – stylish
“Bohème “: bohemian
“Central” : central
Glance at Place de Furstemberg
I like to hear:”Whaou” ( wow in English ! ) from my students when I show them this gorgeous and tiny square. Its charm is undeniable. 4 Pawlonias (a tree originating from China ) have been planted in its centre. The place has a certain romantic feel along with elegant Parisian-style lamp posts, particularly at night time when the five globes are lit up. One can admire the Haussmannian architecture that defines Paris in this gorgeous square.
Find traces of the romantic painters at the Delacroix museum
A few steps from the Furstemberg place, you notice The Musee Eugene Delacroix, which was originally the last house in which this iconic painter resided. Delacroix moved here in 1857 mainly to make it easier to work on the frescoes he was painting for the church of Saint Sulpice, located nearby, until his death in 1863. I like to take my students in this museum especially for its workshop that overlooks a wonderful quiet and peaceful garden. Kerry loved discovering this peaceful hidden gem in the heart of bustling Paris.
Drop in to the Procope café
You may know that café culture has a great importance in France. The cafés are part of the cultural life of the French in general. Back centuries ago, they were also a place where intellectuals and politicians used to meet and debate. One of them, Le Procope, is the oldest cafe in Paris. In 1686 Francesco Procopio dei Coltell (what a mouthful!) opened here a coffee house. Celebrities like Napoleon, Robespierre, Balzac, Danton and Victor Hugo came there.
Atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Près in the 60’s
Juliette Gréco was very young when she discovered the charmingly chaotic world of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. She made friends with Vian, and Sartre.Known for her long black coats, pullovers and pants, Juliette became a regular at the Tabou in the 60’s, performing songs and engaging in philosophical discussions. Juliette embodies the spirit of Saint-Germain. Although a very old song, this YouTube video encapsulates creativity in “Saint-Germain-des-Prés” – by Juliette Greco. Listen here and tell me what you think!
Walk through Cours Saint André des Arts
Today, the Cour du Commerce is the epicentre of both small shops and cafés but at the 17th century it was connected to Paris’ turbulent History of the French revolution. At house No. 8 was a printing press that published L’Ami du Peuple, a newspaper headed by an extremist of the French Revolution – journalist and political theorist Jean-Paul Marat. At number 12 is where the guillotine was invented. Let’s forget the French Révolution for a moment and go back to the 17th century, and the start of the delicious Parisian foodies movement. In Cours Saint-André des Arts, also located here, is my favourite pastry shop Un dimanche à Paris, a place where I take my students when I do a chocolate and Pastry tour. We make a quick stop with Kerry to buy an Eclair caramel beurre salé. I know no better way to give us energy to continue our tour!
French expressions to describe the area of Saint-Germain-des-Près
“J’aime beaucoup Saint-Germain-des-Près”: I like Saint-Germain-des-Près a lot.
“J’aime l’atmosphère de Saint-Germain-des-Prés”: I like the atmosphere of Saint-Germain-des-Près.
“C’est un quartier qui a beaucoup de charme”: It is a very charming neighbourhood.
“J’adore flâner dans les rues de Saint-Germain-des-Près”: I love strolling in Saint-Germain-dès-Près
“Ce qui me plait dans le quartier de Saint-Germain-des-Près c’est le mélange entre le côté historique et le côté branché”: What I most like in the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Près is the mix between the trendy and historical aspects.
“Je trouve que Saint-Germain-des-Près est devenu trop touristique”: I find that Saint-Germain-des-Près has become too touristy.
“Je déteste ce quartier où il y a trop de boutiques de luxe “: I hate this neighborhood where there are too many luxury stores. (Not many would say this!)
“D’après-moi Saint-Germain-des-Près a perdu sa nostalgie “: I find Saint-Germain-des-Près has lost its nostalgia.
Enter in the Beaux-Arts school of Paris
You will see more art students than tourists in the Ecole des beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts). Most of the buildings date from the 17th to the 19th centuries, some are from the 20th. I take Kerry to the Cour Vitrée where we can admire the stunning glass roof and copies of antique sculptures. The mix of architecture here is very interesting. My students often take pictures of this gallery. No exception with Kerry, for her to share with friends on Facebook, and me for my blog.
Pay tribute to the French language at the Académie Française
Every time you scratch your head wondering why the French language has many oddities, this is the authority that determines such oddities! As you learn French, no doubt that you will hear about this institution which has been regulating the French language since the middle of the 18th century. The Académie Française has 40 members called “Les immortels” ( The immortals ). It is also part of the Institut de France, one of the gems of the Left Bank. It is normally difficult to get in to this hidden treasure but if you follow my next point, I will explain how I manage to take my students in.
Admire the Bibliothèque Mazarine
Located in the Institut de France, the Mazarine library, founded in 1643 by Cardinal Mazarin, Prime Minister of Louis XIII. Mazarin created this library to assure that his collection of books remained intact after his death. It is the oldest public library in France , still opened to students now. And it is absolutley not crowded. I often take my French students to visit this hidden gem which directly immerses you in the 18th century. Taking pictures is forbidden. However, I could not resist to take one discretely just to show you the remarkable Rococo chandeliers of bronze, the panellings and busts of Roman emperor. If you can’t see very well on this “clandestine” picture, just book a tour with me and my little team of private tutors for our walking tour of Saint-Germain-des-Près.
Learn French immersed in Paris: improve the French language and walk around at the same time
“When Paris becomes your classroom” : immersion in Paris
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Fashion, Gastronomy, walks in authentic Paris: make the most of your stay and try our off the beaten track program.
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See you soon! “a tout suite!”