Last Tango in Paris

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Remember Bertolucci’s controversial film, Last Tango in Paris?  Wildly sophisticated for 1972!  Here’s the bridge that Marlon Brando walked across in the opening scene while the sublime Maria Schneider, only 19 at the time, strode past wearing that great fedora hat. Love that scene.  Both Brando and Schneider are now dead but nothing has changed, architecturally speaking, since 1972.

In the late 1990s I lived near this bridge and walked across it twice a day.  It’s called the Pont de Bir-Hakeim.  One end is located at Bir Hakeim metro station in the 15th arrondissement, the other end at Passy metro station in the 16th arrondissement.  Here below is the shot from the opening scene.  Bertolucci could have panned the camera more to the left to catch the Eiffel Tower in the background.  But he didn’t.

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Here’s the wooden footbridge (below) that Schneider walks across.  In the movie, an old guy is sweeping it with a broom and Schneider jumps over it.

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Here’s the door that Schneider stands in front of and then rings the bell because she sees a small note advertising an apartment for rent.  This is the door to the apartment building where they met for their trysts.  In the film, the fictional street name is rue Jules Verne, but in reality the name is rue de l’Alboni, steps away from Passy metro station.

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Here’s the café that Schneider (Jeanne) goes into to telephone her mother.  It’s located directly across from the apartment building.  Abandoned and boarded up now.  Sad.

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I love visiting film locations of my favourite movies.  If you plan to visit Paris, this is a nice area to explore. The Eiffel Tower is 20-minutes away on foot, the Seine River is right there, there’s a wonderful produce market twice a week (Wednesday and Sunday mornings) on the boulevard de Grenelle, etc.

Everything I’ve mentioned above is here in the opening scenes. Take a look -


Chocolate heaven

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The good news is that Chapon Chocolatier is located far from my apartment. Far away on the other side of town. Across the river on the Left Bank.  (I live on the Right Bank.)

The bad news is….well, there is no bad news.  Other than the fact that Chapon Chocolatier is closed on Monday mornings.

Patrice Chapon has won numerous awards for his chocolate concoctions.  But the placing of four big bowls of rich, silky mousse in his shop window deserves the biggest prize.  As I stood in the hankie-sized shop, at least 8 people pressed their faces to the window to gaze inside.  Each mousse is made from the cocoa beans of a different region: Madagascar, Venezuela, Ecuador….and each mousse has varying degrees of sweetness and intensity.

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Does chocolate make you happy?

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Here’s my euphoria:  buying some Chapon chocolate, crossing the street to the café, standing at the counter to order a double espresso and then slowly savouring the blend of coffee and chocolate.

Cocoa and coffee bean heaven.   Amen.

69 rue du Bac
Paris 75007 (7th arrondissement)
Metro: Rue du Bac

Paris coffee shops

photo courtesy of Sprudge

photo courtesy of Sprudge

As a serious coffee-lover (I drink black espressos, unsugared, all day long), I’ve been wanting to do a post on the Paris coffee scene for awhile.  

Below are two articles that wrote the post for me.  One in Sprudge, the other in The New York Times.  Now all I have to do is visit these places.  Top of my list is The Fondation Café located in the Marais that serves lemon muffins with passion fruit curd.

Studies show that drinking coffee is actually good for you, can you believe it?

Drinking coffee is associated with lower risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

in search of Kandinsky’s tombstone


I returned to the cemetary this afternoon in search of Kandinsky’s grave (see last Saturday’s post) and, like last Saturday, I was the only person there and it was blazing hot. SO HOT that after half an hour I had to leave.  But not without taking a few more photos. In the end, I never did find Kandinsky’s final resting place. But I’ll keep going back until I find it.

I find this man’s optimism, as expressed through his work, supremely uplifting.

Wassily Kandinsky, born in Moscow in December 1866 and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in December 1944, was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. Credited with painting the first purely abstract works, he went on to become the master of abstract expressionism.  His work is hung in museums and public art galleries worldwide.  And he’s buried just up the road from where I live.


In 1896 Kandinsky settled in Munich and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. He returned to Moscow in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I. Kandinsky was unsympathetic to the official theories on art in Communist Moscow, and returned to Germany in 1921. There, he taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art. He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1944.


The optimism just shines through his work here, not to mention his spirit of playfulness and freedom, liberated from the traditional constraints of the past. (This painting is titled Several Circles (1926) and can be found in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum).

Below are random photos of the cemetary – these yellow flowers are ceramic.

Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 023Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 031I can’t think of a more touching tribute of a husband’s love for his wife. Evelyne died at the age of 56.  Emiliano, ten years her senior, will be buried beside her when he dies. To my adored wife, love is stronger than death, I will love you for eternity.Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 032What is CT, I wonder.  Some sort of sect or secret society?Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 013Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 025And this is about as colourful as it gets here in autumn, at least in Paris and the outlying burbs.  I miss the dramatic autumn colours of Canada.Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 034

burgers and fries, the new gastronomie française


As a North American, I can hardly get excited over a platter of burgers and fries, but that’s exactly what Parisians are doing following the opening of a new burger chain called BIG FERNAND.

A (French) colleague walked into my office this afternoon and asked “Do you eat hamburgers?”

Only since the 1970s, I wanted to say.  Like all North Americans, my entire adolescence revolved principally around cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes eaten at places with classy names like Big Moe’s, Johnny’s and Burger Palace.

Remember having the munchies and piling in the car with your girlfriends around 11 o’clock on a Friday night to drive off for a burger and fries while singing (loudly) to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” playing on the 8-track?  

Sorry, I just had a 1970s flashback moment.  Darn, I miss those days.

“Yes, I do eat hamburgers.” I replied to my colleague’s question, “Why do you ask?”  

“I’ve just had lunch at BIG FERNAND,” she said excitedly, “You know…the new burger place up the road?”

And I’m thinking…..why would that be cause for excitement?  

Everybody’s talking about BIG FERNAND.  According to her, the burgers are amazing – they’re not called hamburgers, but rather hamburgésthey come topped with a variety of French cheeses and a meal with fries, burger and a drink costs around 14 euros.  And not only at Big Fernand, but all over town in cafés, restaurants and bistros, Parisians are heartily tucking into platters of burgers and fries, with maybe a side of slaw and washing it down with a giant Coca-Cola, as if they were in a Shake Shack in the States!

And this is why I wrote, in my August posts from London, that I found the food scene infinitely more inspiring and innovative in London than here.

Burgers and fries.  The new gastronomie française.  


the return of Sarko – Providence man

Nicolas Sarkozy lors du meeting du Trocadéro le 1er mai 2012. (Photo Philippe Wojazer. AFP)

Nicolas Sarkozy lors du meeting du Trocadéro le 1er mai 2012. (Photo Philippe Wojazer. AFP)

Don’t you love this photo?  It’s as if he’s saying – “MOI !  Votre sauveur.  L’homme providentiel.  (ME!  Your saviour.  Man of Providence.)  “I know it’s been an absolute cauchemar (nightmare) without me these past 2 years.  And I know that 48.38% of the French electorate who voted for me in 2012 still adore me (well, look at me…how could they not??).”

“So vote for me again in 2017 and together we will bring our great nation back from the brink of Socialist ruin. Together we will restore France’s grandeur and regain the pride of being French.  Together we will make it happen.”  TOUS ENSEMBLE !

Sarko’s back in the game, folks.  And some people ask – did he ever go away?

After months of speculation, Nicolas Sarkozy announced his return on Facebook and then appeared on TV to officially proclaim his comeback.  8 million viewers tuned in.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Nicolas Sarkozy only served one term.  After performing his presidential duties for 5 years – from 2007 to 2012 – he was voted OUT.  (De Gaulle, Mitterrand and Chirac all served two terms.)

Here’s what the head of the Ecology Party in the National Assemblée, wrote: “Nicolas Sarkozy is not returning to save France … he ruined it. He’s not returning to save the UMP … he ruined it. If he is reinventing himself as the head of the UMP, would it be to save his legal skin?”

Sarkozy is still at the centre of a number of legal investigations.  In July, he was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of seeking to influence judges.  Other inquiries include links with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and illegal campaign funding in 2012 to the tune of €363,600.

Personally, I’d like to see a woman president of France and here’s a name that’s being whispered in the back corridors of power:  Christine Lagarde.

If you remember, Madame Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the head of the IMF after his fall from grace.

Here’s her profile from Wikipedia –

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde is a French lawyer and politician who has been the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since 5 July 2011. Previously, she held various ministerial posts in the French government as Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment and before that Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Trade. 

A noted antitrust and labor lawyer, Lagarde became the first female chairman of the international law firm, Baker & McKenzie. On 16 November 2009, the Financial Times ranked her the best Minister of Finance in the Eurozone and in 2014, Lagarde was ranked the 5th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.

If Christine Lagarde should run (and some people say she’d never leave her cushy job in Washington to return to France), I’d back her.



French cemetaries

Today is 27°C, very dry, dusty and hot with an elevated and unhealthy pollution index.  I’m sick of pollution – air, noise, water, food.  I want to retire to the high plains of New Mexico and live under an endless, unpolluted, blue sky.  I want to smell the piñon again!  I crave space, clean air, silence (my apartment overlooks a road that is becoming increasingly noisy and congested).

I’ve only been to New Mexico twice, but loved it intensely both times.  On both trips there I arrived by train – the first was on the Amtrak Southwest Chief that originated in NYC and passed through Chicago (I was on that train for two days!), and the second trip on the overnight from Los Angeles. I can’t wait to go again.  But I don’t think I’ll take the train; I’ll probably fly into Albuquerque then make my way to Santa Fe and beyond.  If any of you kind readers have any tips concerning travel in New Mexico, I’d love to hear them.

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In my neighbourhood there are several beautiful parks, not to mention the Seine river at the foot of my street, but I’ve recently discovered a new refuge in which to sit and write my book project undisturbed. The municipal cemetary.  At the end of an alley and past a trio of chubby cherubs is a bench where I can sit in complete silence. And solitude! I was the only person there this afternoon.  That is, me and a thousand souls.  However it became SO HOT, I had to leave.  Some people might find it odd to sit in a cemetary to write, but I find it peaceful.  Here’s the bench below, under a tree whose name, I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t know. (I’ve been meaning to buy a tree book for 15 years now.)

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French cemetaries, with their sepulchrals and family burial vaults, are not like English or North American ones. They are far more ornate, well-tended, regimented, and sacrosanct. I think I’ve just described the Catholic Church.

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I’ve just learned that the famous Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky, master of abstract expressionism is buried here.  I had no idea.  I’ll have to go back and find his plot.

It’s now later in the day, we had a terrific rainstorm and the temperature plunged 8 degrees.

For anyone interested in glamorous train travel, here’s a super article I found (with great photos) recounting the glory days of the THE SUPER CHIEF – “THE TRAIN OF THE STARS” – that ran from Chicago/NYC to Los Angeles throughout the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.