January 31, 2020
Sidonie Gabrielle Colette and Audrey Hepburn © Hulton Archive - Getty Images
France’s literary sensation Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, simply known as ‘Colette,’ may have experienced a renaissance in recent years but she’s always been a beloved Paris icon. Whether you’re an avowed Colletite or literary curious, take a tour of the city she called home via the glamorous haunts she used to visit.
Now a luxey shopathon of high-end boutique after boutique, Palais Royal has been home to many a famous resident, from Cardinal Richelieu to Jean Cocteau, who was a friend and neighbour of Colette’s. Colette lived at no.9, rue de Beaujolais between 1927-29 and again from 1938 until her death in 1954; look up you will see a plaque next to the window on the first floor, where she was often to be seen leaning over her balcony, surveying the pretty jardin.
After a thoughtful amble around the garden, duck under the bordering archways where Galeries Montpensier and Valois are chock-full of renowned craftsmen and designers: browse kitschy figurines at Les Drapeaux de France (pl Colette), collectible military medals at Bacqueville (#6-8), vava-vintage couturier Didier Ludot (#24), and artisan gloves chez Maison Fabre (#128).
A few steps away from Colette’s apartment is the city’s oldest restaurant Le Grand Véfour, an historic, gilded, gourmet institution that has pulled in the Parisian elite from Napoleon and Josephine to Hugo, Sartre, and, of course, Colette. Nowadays, it’s the style set that swans beneath its glittery, gold-leaf chandeliers where, under the guidance of culinary doyen Guy Martin, fine French fare shines as brilliantly as the neoclassical decor.
In her 20s, Colette lived with her first husband, known as ‘Willy’, on lovely rue Jacob in Saint Germain des Prés. This charming neighbourhood has the city’s pick of terrasses and antique troves; rue Jacob is a particularly pretty wander for its rummage-worthy jumble of pre-loved treasures and decor stores; be sure to stop at the temple to the handbag Jérôme Dreyfuss (#4).
Colette was the first French woman of letters to be given a state funeral when she died on 3 August 3, 1954. You can visit her grave at the starry Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris’ leafy, crowd-free answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, home to the graves of Édith Piaf, Frédéric Chopin, Honoré de Balzac, and Oscar Wilde among others. Be sure to buy a map from one of the kiosks outside – it's nigh on impossible finding all the big names without one.
Discover more of Paris’s best-kept secrets…
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