La Rotonde renovations, June 2020 – still a sign of the times.
There is no direct mention of James Joyce visiting La Rotonde brasserie on the Boulevard du Montparnasse, nor is it mentioned in any of his books. It is on the edge of the 6th arrondissement, where the 14th arrondissement begins. Facing La Rotonde is La Coupole, where James Joyce definitely visited, rather frequently. Lucia certainly danced there. And so, it is likely that James Joyce, along with other creatives and artists dined and drank at La Rotonde.
La Rotonde is distinctive with it red canopy, large gold sign, and street tables. People dining there, on the corner of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Boulevard Raspail, gain more than a glimpse of the traffic because it is a busy intersection with the Metro Vavin providing a steady flow of pedestrians too.
Victor Libion founded La Rotonde on Montparnasse in 1911, so it pre-dates La Coupole of 1927, but not Le Dome restaurant, on the corner, which opened in 1898. All three restaurants fed many notable artists during the interwar period – between the first and second world wars – and continue to do so.
La Rotonde closed for an extended period during the 2020-2021 pandemic, but made use of the government enforced closure by renovating it. Interior and exterior renovations took place in June 2020, resulting in the red awning looking redder and the gold sign looking golder – well, I mean more more golden.
The golden sign was always huge and always easy to read – easier than the cursive La Coupole, Le Dome, and Le Select signs. Large, looming, letters that led the Art Deco designs of the Paris 1920s and 1930s. Art Deco fonts were geometric, and usually only available in capital letters, but they have endured the test of time.