Around the corner from our hotel in Paris is La Rotonde, one of the most famous brasseries in the City of Light, and Gregory's most cherished haunt in our most cherished 6th Arrondissement. At the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail across the street from the Vavin metro stop, it was founded by Victor Libion in 1911, swiftly becoming a renowned gathering place for artists, writers, and intellectuals. The photo of the rather sad looking fellow in the role neck sweater is the famous absurdist dramatist, Eugene Ionesco; the bearded, distinguished looking chap is the French sculptor, Cesar Baldachini, the man who created the famous standing thumb located at the entrance to our favorite restaurant near Cannes, La Colombe d’Or in St. Paul De Vence. Like us, both men loved to dine at La Rotonde, frequently rubbing shoulders with the likes of Picasso, who had his studio nearby. In 1914, when the English painter Nina Hamnett arrived in Paris she visited La Rotonde. A smiling man at the next table graciously introduced himself as “Modigliani — painter and Jew.” Hammett once borrowed a sweater and trousers from Modigliani, then went to La Rotonde, later dancing in the street all night.
In this creative era the owner, Libion, would allow starving artists to sit in the brasserie for hours, nursing a ten centime cup of coffee, looking the other way when if they stole the end of a baguette. As at La Colombe d’Or, if an impoverished painter couldn’t pay his check, Libion would accept a drawing as payment, holding it until the artist made the money to pay their bill. Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, Gaugin, Hemingway, Henry Miller, Cocteau, Anais Nin, Vladimir Lenin — they all hung out here, and at the other iconic restaurant directly across the street, Le Dome, famous for its magnificent seafood.