ISSUE 4  |  The Rustic Life

A Parisian Cafe with a Past

January 27, 2012 9:30 PM

BY Christine Chang Hanway

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A visit to the Hôtel du Nord is a trip back to the Paris of the 1930s: Prepare to be utterly charmed.

Immortalized by Marcel Carné's famous 1938 movie, Hôtel du Nord, the lodging is in the picturesque neighborhood of Canal Saint-Martin, where Parisians flock in the spring for a stroll or a bicycle ride along the canal. In 2005, the current owners decided to restore the restaurant to its historical past; albeit a notional one. The zinc bar, velvet curtains, low lamplight, and an extensive upstairs library imbue the premises with a retro charm.

Above: In 1938, Marcel Carné put the hotel on the map with his film of the same name. Today, the Gallic illustrations on the Hôtel du Nord's website sum up l'esprit du lieu: As you scroll over the drawings, a cat screeches, a motorbike zooms off, and a man plays his violin, taking us straight back to the Paris we recognize from black-and-white cinema.

Above: The classic zinc-topped bar.

Above: The tiled cafe is a stalwart of Parisian life.

Above: Wooden bistro chairs sit on a Moroccan-inspired tiled floor.

Above: In keeping with French intellectual life, the hotel has an extensive library for its guests.

Above: A dimly lit room with a smoky mirror and a black piano conjure up Paris in the 1930's.

Above: And of course, like any proper cafe, there are outdoor tables for people-watching.