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A Walking tour of Simenon's Liege

Joe Richards

April 2003

I did the walking tour in Liege last week. It was a nice day for it. The tour starts out at the Place St. Lambert and goes to a number of places related to Simenon's early life in Liege. His birthplace was just behind the city hall, which is near the start of the tour. Between the two is the Place Commissaire Maigret, which got that name on 13 February, 2003 on Simenon's birthday. From there you don't go far before crossing the Meuse river. After a couple of blocks is the church of St. Pholien and just after that is the church of St. Nicolas where Simenon used to go. Later on come the three places — all close together — where he lived as a boy. One of these was right across the street from his primary school. After passing all this we find our way across the river again and go towards the cathedral. There are a few more sights to see before returning to the starting point, but nothing fantastic. The former hat shop of his grandfather is now an optical shop and I'll probably buy my next pair of glasses there.
Oddly enough the rue Pot d'Or was left out of the tour even though it would only add a few extra minutes to see it. This is where the Gai Moulin nightclub was. There's nothing with that name there today but the far end of the street is full of bars and the like. One of them could have easily been the model. This is now a teeming pedestrian area. Jean Chabot supposedly lived at 53, rue de la Loi. This in fact was one of the houses where Simenon himself lived, the one across from the school. In the story, Chabot's mother rented rooms to foreign students just like Simenon's mother did in the same house.
Joe Richards


1. The Simenon Expo site on the place St. Lambert. To the left is the palace of the prince-bishops. On the right, the tall brick structure is the town hall.

2. Memorial plaque on the rear of the town hall, which is also the police station, for Liege policemen who died resisting the Germans during WW2. Notice the name of Arnold Maigret. I believe that Simenon and Maigret knew each other when Georges was a reporter in Liege. There's a similar plaque for the police victims of WWI as well.

3. This sign identifies the newly-named Place Commissaire Maigret in the center of Liege. It sits between the Town hall and Simenon's birthplace.

4. A recent addition to Place Maigret is this large poster of young Simenon.

5. An enlarged view of the poster.

6. The front of the town hall seen from the center of the Place Maigret.

7. The view of the square in the opposite direction towards Simenon's birthplace in the background.

8. Simenon was born here just above the word "Georges" at 24 rue Leopold. I'm sure Tigy would not have approved of having Josephine right next door.

9. A view of the entire house.

10. The historical marker on the front of the house. All of the sites on the Simenon walk have one of these markers. They are written in French, Dutch, German, and English.

The house where Georges Simenon was born. The writer was born on Friday, 13 February 1903, in a second floor apartment "without water or gas". Fearing this date might augur ill omen for her son's future, his mother decided to change the date of birth to 12 February in the official documents.

11. The church of St. Pholien from Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets.

12. Another view of the St. Pholien's church.

13. A monument to Simenon. A ring of suitcases surrounds a large stone which is chained down. Simenon's name is carved into the suitcase facing the camera.

14. Young Georges attended services here at St. Nicolas church.

15. 58, rue Puits-en-Sock was the house of Simenon's paternal grandfather. The ground floor is now an optical shop. Notice the pipe between the first floor windows. Most of the houses on this street have one of these.

16. The now vacant cafe formerly frequented by Simenon and other local writers. It's for rent if you're interested...

17. 29, rue de l'Enseignement, one of Simenon's boyhood homes.

18. 5, rue de l'Enseignement, where Simenon's mother lived after he grew up and left Liege.

19. One of the markers on the walking tour.

20. View of the rue de la Loi / Law Street.

21. The historical marker at 53, rue de la Loi.

When they left their home in the rue Pasteur, the Simenon family rented this house from 1911 to 1917, where Georges' mother sublet rooms to students.

22. 53, rue de la Loi, another of Simenon's boyhood homes. This was the one right across the street from his primary school. It was also mentioned in Maigret at the Gai Moulin.

23. The St. Andre primary school, right across the street from Simenon's home at 53, rue de la Loi.

24. Street sign for rue Georges Simenon, which was called rue Louis Pasteur when Simenon lived there.

25. The historical marker at 25, rue Simenon, formerly 3, rue Louis Pasteur.

The Simenon family lived on the second floor of this building from 1905 to 1911. Simenon's real roots can be traced back to this microcosm, formed by the former rue Pasteur, the rue de la Loi, and the Place du Congrès.

26. The house at 25 rue Simenon where Georges once lived. It's right around the corner from both the rue de l'Enseignement and the rue de la Loi.

27. View of rue Simenon from the Place du Congrès. Simenon's house was next to last on the right, the one with the lighter colored bricks.

28. This bust of Simenon is located in the middle of the Place du Congrès. Someone long ago removed the pipe from Simenon's mouth. This is due to be corrected this year if it hasn't been already.

29. Another view of Simenon's bust. The Place du Congrès was little Georges' preferred playground when he lived in the surrounding streets.

30. Rue Pot d'Or. This is not part of the walking tour but getting to it only takes a few extra minutes. The Gai Moulin nightclub was located here in Maigret at the Gai Moulin. Was l'Aquarelle, the place on the right, the inspiration for the Gai Moulin?

Notes by Peter Foord:

The Map
The simplified map of part of the town centre and a section of the district of Outremeuse is just a guide to the names of the locations of the photographs. It appears in the booklet by Christian Libens entitled Sur les traces de Simenon à Liège [On Simenon's trail in Liège] (Les Éditions de l'Octogone, Bruxelles-Louvain, 2002). The numbers on the map relate to the contents of the booklet and not to the numbering of the photographs.

Georges Simenon's place of birth, 24 Rue Léopold (photographs 8, 9 and 10)
The counting of the various storeys starts after the ground floor (le rez-de-chaussée), but the distribution is deceptive looking at the façade from the outside. The row of windows (reflecting the buildings opposite) just above the name fascia (Georges) belongs to the shop. In February 1903 this shop was owned by the Cession family who sold hats and who occupied the ground floor. A family with private means lived on the first floor (the three tall windows with a continuous wrought-iron balcony), then came the Simenons on the second (the three windows with separate small balconies) where Georges Simenon was born.

Nos. 5 and 29, Rue de l'Enseignement (photographs 18 and 17)
This street is not named on the map. The southern end of the Rue de la Loi meets the Rue Jean d'Outremeuse and opposite, at an angle, is the Rue de l'Enseignement.

No. 25 Rue Georges Simenon (photograph 26)
This house is almost on the corner of the crossroads formed by the Rue Georges Simenon and the Rue de la Loi. For the Rue de l'Enseignement refer to the previous item.

The "Gai-Moulin" site (photograph 30)
The real nightclub with this name that Simenon frequented in about 1921 was not located in the Rue du Pot d'Or, but at No.8 Rue de la Sirène, under the management of a Monsieur P. Prenten. Later the construction of the Rue Charles-Magnette shortened the Rue de la Sirène considerably, and the site of the nightclub disappeared many years ago. This was yet another occasion when Georges Simenon changed the venue of an establishment that he incorporated into his work, this time the Maigret novel La Danseuse du Gai-Moulin written in 1931 (At the Gai-Moulin/Maigret at the Gai Moulin), so as not to cause himself any possible problems with property owners.
The Rue de la Sirène is the first turning to the right off the Rue de la Cathédrale going in the direction of the Rue Léopold.
But the author did use, in the same novel, a venue that not only existed, but he kept the same address, without stating the number. This was the hotel where Maigret stayed, the seventy-roomed Hôtel Moderne at No.29 Rue Pont d'Avroy, which was there for many years, but closed in 1976. It was not far from the original Gai-Moulin.
Also he incorporated some autobiographical details into the novel that particularly revolved around one of his boyhood homes at 53 Rue de la Loi.

Peter Foord
UK

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