Updated: Dec 8, 2022
A Flaneur's Guide to Paris The Right Bank is now published and available here: https://www.aflaneursguide.com/product-page/paris-the-right-bank
The story goes that the young Johannes Gutenberg got the idea for the printing press at a good old fashioned knees-up in the late 1400s. Apparently he had been drinking at a local harvest festival for several hours (or maybe days) when he fixed his sights on a nearby wine press pushing juice through the muslin screen and so the idea came to him that the same mechanism could be used for repeatedly applying ink to pages (skeptics of the story would do well to consult the full account in Arthur Koestler’s seminal work The Act of Creation). The rest, as they say, is an awful lot of history and ink spilled. And so surely it must be a wonder why more people do not sell books in bars, considering it is an absolute marriage made in heaven. Leave it, then, to Xavier Denamur (of Petit Fer à Cheval fame) whose Belle Hortense stands out amongst his mini-constellation of watering holes in this part of the Marais as both magical and unique. Managed by the ever charming and mysterious Brigitte (often shawled à l’Arlésienne), La Belle Hortense offers hours of endless book browsing and aperitif sipping amongst a constantly changing cast of characters as you watch the unending show which is the rue Vielle du Temple passeggiata outside. Conversation at the bar is convivial and open to commentary from all and sundry, and on the contrasting quiet times of day you will be accompanied by Brigitte’s select choice of music courtesy of Deezer. So pick a book, grab one of those wide and comfortable red leather tabourets, order a Poire Williams (bien glacée bien sûr) and settle in for an hour of contemplation and high learning. (If you are peckish, Brigitte will discreetly present you with a menu and have food brought over from the Fer à Cheval so that reading can continue uninterrupted.) Although only 25 years in existence, La Belle Hortense is timeless for the very same reason that it is worth visiting: because it uniquely brings together those two great inventions of humankind – wine press and printing press – in a way that even Gutenberg would be proud of.
La Belle Hortense, 31 rue Vielle du Temple, 75004. Tel: 01 48 04 71 60.
For information on the Launch of A Flaneur's Guide to Paris The Right Bank at La Belle Hortense on November 19th, see here: https://shoutout.wix.com/so/1dOGrWUAK?languageTag=en&cid=617cca3c-077b-4748-a8c2-de23bf173331#/main