The Accidental Tourist


Notre Dame from Pont des Arts

So I’m crossing a bridge, to get from A to B, and suddenly I’m on a film set. No, let’s correct that: I’m on a rolling series of film sets. This is what happens on a brisk stroll around central Paris. First, a polka through the old Jewish quarter, Le Marais, then across the river via the Pont des Arts (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, The Bourne Identity) as shown here in my artfully contrived photo, where lovers place padlocks, cadenas d’amour, in order to imprison the object of their desire for perpetuity. Then to lunch at Le Polidor, made famous by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.


I am pleased to report that our waitress lived up to my wildest expectations, embodying the French talent for what foreigners erroneously believe to be rudeness (a kind of exaggerated politeness, dressed with venom) which is actually something quite different: it is, as I discovered – and it took me years to work this out – a direct challenge to the interlocutor. It says: how are going to take this? Lying down like un wimp, or joining in with a bit of callous and vituperative banter of your own? If you opt for the latter, you cannot lose. If you succumb to the former – the classic anglo-american mistake – you inevitably feel maltreated and offended. So join in, dammit! Throw back a few witty and sophisticated remarks of your own, not forgetting to smile charmingly as you do so. It cannot fail.

Joyce residence, Paris

Later in the afternoon, after strolling past the houses once occupied by Joyce (a British writer of Irish Origin?) and Hemingway (but also, and perhaps more significantly, Pound) what could be merrier than a crêpe, in a crêperie which my Argentinian companion, Jorge, assures me is the only place in Paris that serves dulce de leche – which I must admit I find hard to believe – in Rue Mouffetard.

Creperie in Rue Mouffetard

Also recognizable from Amélie in Rue Mouffetard is the seafood stall at the bottom of that street, which nagged at my memory from I knew not where, but now I do.

seafood stall in Rue Mouffetard

It’s quite possible that a short walk around the fifth arrondissement satisfies the needs of all five senses more rapidly than anywhere else on earth. But who knows, perhaps I’m just biased.












6 Comments on “The Accidental Tourist

  1. You are so right about the ‘rudeness’…it’s part of the fun to see who can carry it all off with panache! Looks like you have found all my favourite places although no mention of Pere Lachaise Cemetery…I visited it when researching my book ‘The Unknown’ by Lindsey Black (available from Amazon ebooks) where some of the action takes place. You might like to have a look as it also covers a lot of the background history..the Commune, Paris Seige and the destruction and rebuilding of the city under Haussmann. I loved the padlocks too…when will the bridge collapse under the weight?


    • Someone told me the bridge has to be closed down every once in a while and the railings replaced, so that the whole procedure begins anew. I don’t know if this is true . . .


  2. My honeymoon in 2002 coincided with the premiere of Amélie on Canal+, and the French Radio Times equivalent had an article showing where all the scenes were shot. As fans of the film, this article (badly-translated) led to eschewing your traditional romantic nonsense for a lovely morning in the cute Café des 2 Moulins, drinking coffee and smoking Gitanes, followed by taking photos of the sex shop where Nino Quincampoix works in the film. I might love that film a little tiny bit too much….


  3. Why is hard to believe that that creperie is the only one in Paris that serves dulce de leche? As you may know, even if French people achieved a high level of culinary civilization, they still need to discover all the virtues of that fantastic Argentinian product. If you don’t believe so, just ask poet Tiffany Atkinson.


    • Because, dear Jorge, in Great Britain, a land whose cuisine you disdain – I know this for a fact, amigo – Dulce de Leche is quite commonly sighted. On supermarket shelves, as an ice cream flavour and as a pancake filling. So why the vastly superior French have missed out on this delight is a matter of some surprise to me, that is all.


      • I don’t disdain the cuisine you can have in Great Britain: I know there are very good Italian and Indian restaurants, not to mention the quality of the Irish fish & chips you have in your country.


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