Me Before You by Jojo Moyes begins in a quaint English town, where the protagonist Louisa has spent her entire life. However, the story ends in Paris, which I’m sure you’ll all know by now is my favourite city in the world! Paris is only mentioned a few times but Will Traynor captures the magic of Paris so perfectly that the last time I was in the city I took it upon myself to visit all the Me Before You book and film locations to see whether Jojo Moyes had based these passages on real places. I will be publishing another post specifically about filming locations shortly, but this post focuses on extracts from the book. I’ve researched all the times Paris was mentioned in Jojo Moyes’ book Me Before You and now I’ll help you separate fact from fiction…
The first time Paris is mentioned is about half way through Me Before You. The ice has thawed between Lou and Will and he’s now willing to leave the house in order to allow Lou to experience more of the world. The topic of travel comes up and Lou asks where Will would go if he could go anywhere in the world. His answer is… Paris.
Paris. I would sit outside a cafe in Le Marais and drink coffee and eat a plate of warm croissants with unsalted butter and strawberry jam.
It’s a little district in the centre of Paris. It is full of cobbled streets and teetering apartment blocks and gay men and orthodox Jews and women of a certain age who once looked like Brigitte Bardot. It’s the only place to stay.
Le Marais is the third arrondissement in Paris and has long been a favourite amongst tourists and residents alike. It is a historic district in the centre of Paris previously known as home to many Parisian aristocrats.
As such, it boasts numerous museums, hotel particuliers, galleries and more. It’s where authors such as Victor Hugo lived in the nineteenth century and where celebrities such as Vanessa Paradis live today.
Although Paris is known for it’s Haussmann architecture, the medieval buildings found in the Marais could give Haussmann a run for his money!
Rue des Francs Bourgeois
Whilst Lou is incredibly excited that Will has finally shared a memory that is dear to him and reminds him of happier times, Will is less than enthusiastic about a return visit to Paris. It just wouldn’t be the same. Here’s why…
No. No, we couldn’t. Because at the moment I can shut my eyes and know exactly how it feels to be in the Rue des Francs Bourgeois, cigarette in hand, clementine juice in a tall, cold glass in front of me, the smell of someone’s steak frites cooking, the sound of a moped in the distance. I know every sensation of it.
Rue des Francs Bourgeois is a very, very long road that cuts right through Le Marais. It’s lined with chic Parisian shops as well as loads of food and drink establishments. It’s certainly a lovely street, though Will’s depiction of it is somewhat overly idyllic. It is an incredibly busy street, especially at the weekends, so don’t expect to be able to take a quiet, peaceful stroll down Will Traynor’s favourite street in Paris!
At this point in the story, Will and his family have taken their trip to Switzerland, and Lou is left all alone. She takes herself to Paris, Will’s last instructions to her, and is about to open the last letter he ever wrote.
I sat in the shadow of the dark-green cafe awning, staring down the length of the Rue des Francs Bourgeois, the tepid sun of a Parisian autumn warming the side of my face. In front of me the waiter had, with Gallic efficiency, deposited a plate of croissants and a large cup of filter coffee. A hundred yards down the street two cyclists stopped near the traffic lights and struck up a conversation. One wore a blue backpack from which two large baguettes poked at odd angles. The air, still and muggy, held the scents of coffee and patisserie and the acrid tang of someone’s cigarettes.
On the front of the envelope, in typed capitals, it said, under my name: ONLY TO BE READ IN THE CAFE MARQUIS, RUE DES FRANCS BOURGEOIS, ACCOMPANIED BY CROISSANTS AND A LARGE CAFÉ CRÈME. I had laughed, even as I wept, on first reading the envelope – typical Will, bossy to the last. The waiter – a tall, brisk man with a dozen bits of paper sticking out of the top of his apron – turned back and caught my eye. All okay? his raised eyebrows said. ‘Yes,’ I said. And then, a little self consciously, ‘Oui.’
The letter was typewritten. I recognised the font from a card he had sent me long ago. I settled back in my chair, and I began to read.
“Clark, A few weeks will have passed by the time you read this (even given your newfound organisational skills, I doubt you will have made it to Paris before early September). I hope the coffee is good and strong and the croissants fresh and that the weather is still sunny enough to sit outside on one of those metallic chairs that never sit quite level on the pavement. It’s not bad, the Marquis. The steak is also good, if you fancy coming back for lunch.
Much to my disappointment, the Café Marquis does not actually exist. The photo of croissants taken above was taken at Le Voltigeur at 45 rue des Francs Bourgeois, as they were the only croissants I spotted out in the open on that street. There are numerous other restaurants and cafés you can visit on rue des Francs Bourgeois, but unfortunately you won’t be able to sit in the exact metallic chairs that Will describes because they simply don’t exist!
Then towards the end of his letter…
And if you look down the road to your left you will hopefully see L’Artisan Parfumeur where, after you read this, you should go and try the scent called something like Papillons Extrême (can’t quite remember). I always did think it would smell great on you. Okay, instructions over. There are a few things I wanted to say and would have told you in person, but a) you would have got all emotional and b) you wouldn’t have let me say all this out loud. You always did talk too much.”
I paid the bill, and tucked the letter carefully into my pocket. And stepping out from behind the table, I straightened my bag on my shoulder and set off down the street towards the parfumerie and the whole of Paris beyond.
With delight, I realised that L’Artisan Parfumeur does exist, though if you try to find it via the book’s instructions from the fictitious Cafe Marquis, you will find yourself incredibly lost. You cannot access the road L’Artisan Parfumer is on straight off the left of rue des Francs Bourgeois and you definitely wouldn’t be able to see the perfume shop from there.
Perhaps if you used a combination of X-Ray vision and a very good pair of binoculars you might just be able to spy it in the distance. However, it is a short three minute walk away down some winding roads so you may as well go and explore the beautiful store!
L’Artisan Parfumeur boasts beautiful and minimalist stores but this isn’t just another example of Instagrammable interior design. The shop design is actually inspired by the workshop of founder Jean Laporter, where he created his first perfumes.
The perfume they stock is called “La Chasse aux Papillons Extreme” so Will was almost there. A 100ml bottle costs a whopping £115 though so it’s a good thing Will left Lou all that money!
The closest branch of L’Artisan Parfumeur to Le Marais is located here:
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