The Artist’s Way
Follow the footsteps of literary and artistic icons on an itinerary that traces Paris and London’s most storied streets. By Elizabeth Frels
irginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso are known not only for their groundbreaking work in the creative canon, but also for their membership in two distinct circles — London’s Bloomsbury Group and Paris’s Lost Generation. Fortunately, for all stripes of explorers seeking inspiration, their memory doesn’t simply live on in print or on canvas. Their presence is still felt in their old haunts and homes — all places that are uniquely accessible to Ker & Downey travelers.
Begin in London, the former stomping grounds of the Bloomsbury Group, a legendary assembly of artists, writers and philosophers who shed the bourgeois ideals of their parents and eventually became known as the intellectual aristocracy of the early 20th century. Their early work paved the way for The Lost Generation.
The best way to catch a glimpse into the lives of these illustrious writers in London is on a walking tour of Bloomsbury accompanied by a literary historian, who will retrace their steps among the various garden squares where they lived.
As Dorothy Parker observed, the Bloomsbury Group "lived in squares, painted in circles, and loved in triangles." Perhaps the most important square is Number 46 Gordon Square, the home of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. It is here where the Bloomsbury group gathered for the first time in 1905.
Take a day trip to Sussex to visit Monk’s House, home to Leonard and Virginia Woolf from 1919 until 1969. En route, stretch your legs at the magnificent Kew Gardens, also the name of a short story by Woolf. Her view of the trees in the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew from her second home in Richmond inspired this work.
Also in Sussex you’ll find Charleston’s Farmhouse, the home of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and David Garnett from 1916 until their deaths. Together, the three transformed the house with art, furniture and decoration, and frequently welcomed the rest of the Bloomsbury Group as guests. Today, it is a time capsule of their lives.
Check into the Charlotte Street Hotel in the heart of Bloomsbury. The spacious Woolf Suite is named after Bloomsbury Group member Virginia Woolf, and the downstairs drawing room boasts three original works by members Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry.
Eat & Drink
Take tea at Maison Bertaux in London’s Soho. It is the UK’s oldest pastry and tea shop and was a frequent hangout for the Bloomsbury Group. At the Bloomsbury Club, enjoy pre-dinner crafted cocktails named after members of the group. Its finely crafted cocktails are named after members of the Bloomsbury group.
End with dinner at Boulestin. The original restaurant opened in 1927 in Covent Garden and was frequented by the Bloomsbury Group. Now located near St. James Palace, it pays homage to its history in a new location with a selection of dishes inspired by the original restaurant’s menu.
Following World War I, some of America’s now-famous authors and artists migrated to Paris to escape expensive costs of living and Prohibition. Known as the Lost Generation, this group of creatives included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Cole Porter and Josephine Baker. Their living was large, and their influence even larger.
Check in to the Fitzgeralds’ first Parisian abode, Hotel St-James & Albany, or opt for the flashier Hôtel Ritz Paris. This legendary hotel appears regularly in Fitzgeralds’ novels and is home to the Hemingway Bar, where Cole Porter is said to have composed “Begin the Beguine” and where Hemingway and Gary Cooper would meet for hours of conversation.
Eat & Drink
Order Hemingway’s favorite dry sherry at Deux Magots café, also frequented by Oscar Wilde. Spend time at Dingo Bar — now Relais de Venise — for a Long Island Iced Tea, first invented by Hemingway. Or head to Harry’s New York Bar that lays claim to inventing the Bloody Mary, and was a frequent meeting place for Stein, Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford and Fitzgerald.
Dine at Le Pré aux Clercs, a restaurant frequented by Ernest and Hadley Hemingway that still exists today. Or go to Hemingway’s daily spot, Closerie des Lilas, where he wrote The Sun Also Rises and first read the manuscript for Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. For an extra special occasion, venture to the rooftop restaurant of Theatre des Champs Elysées. This theater is famous for having welcomed American dancer, Josephine Baker, whose fans such as Picasso, Kees van Dongen, Jean Cocteau and Fernand Léger contributed to her worldwide renown.
Set the tone with a chauffeured drive through Paris in a 1940s Vintage Citroën. Along the way, gain private entry into the select Travellers Club, where Hemingway drank champagne on the way to “free the Ritz” in 1944.
In the company of a dedicated art historian, explore the Montmarte Museum and the Bateau Lavoir, where you will find a portrait of Gertrude Stein painted by Picasso.
Next, follow Hemingway and Hadley to Shakespeare & Company, Sylvia Beach’s bookshop. When they first visited this institution in 1921, Beach was in the throes of correcting the last chapters of Ulysses with James Joyce.
Enjoy access to 27 rue de Fleurus, formerly the home of Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice Toklas. This beautiful apartment near the Luxembourg gardens was intimately detailed in A Moveable Feast and is still filled with works by Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne. Conclude your ramblings with a stroll in the Luxembourg gardens, where Hemingway frequently sat searching for inspiration.
Pro Tip! Grab a bottle of wine and watch the tango enthusiasts dance until twilight in the mini amphitheatres along the Seine in the 5th arrondissement.
- Elizabeth Frels, Luxury Travel Expert