As I was researching jazz music, I saw references to Langston Hughes’ autobiography The Big Sea. 1
In it, he describes his arrival to Paris in February 1924. He details finding work and housing, discovering the jazz scene and the city, and finding love. Using his accounts, I’ve mapped out Langston Hughes’ first night in Paris below:
During this time in his life, Hughes was working on ships sailing throughout the world. In 1924 Paris, he made his way to France.He arrived in Paris at the Gare du Nord and set out to find food and lodging for his stay. After exiting the station, he opted to take a bus to the Opéra, knowing that it was at the center of the city.
Hughes details his surroundings saying “To the right and left of me stretched the Grands Boulevards. I looked across the street and saw the Café de la Paix. Ahead the Vendôme. I walked down the rue de la Paix, turned, and on until I came out at the Concorde. I recognized the Champs Elysées, and the great Arc de Triomphe in the distance through the snow.”(145)
He chose to walk down the Seine all the way to the Louvre.
After spending time in the museum, he searched for someone to guide him to a place to stay and a way to make money. He found a doorman who directed him towards Montmartre. Once in Montmartre, he stopped in a café (perhaps the Moulin de la Galette), and was directed to a nearby hotel (perhaps the Hotel Becquerel) where he paid one night’s lodging. After getting his bags from the train station, he settled in for his first night in Paris.
He concludes saying, “Even with the damp and the slush- for the snow had turned to a nasty rain- I began to like Paris a little, and to take it personally (146).”
Having recently studied in Paris, it is easy to understand why Hughes was able to fall so easily in love with the city after just one night, even despite the cold snow and the long, ambitious route.
Follow Hughes’ path in the map below: