A slow afternoon in Hollywood, and thinking it may be time for another visit to catch up with Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - haven't chatted with him face to face in a few years. But on the right is not April in Paris. It's a December day in 2001, from the Pont des Arts, walking back to the hotel in Saint Germain, glancing up to the southwest. Rooftops and that strange tower. It's not Hollywood, or even Paris Las Vegas.
Later, from the hotel window, light in the heart of the left bank - l'église St-Germain-des-Prés in the afternoon traffic, and in the second chapel of this church a stone marks the spot where philosopher Rene Descartes is buried. The abbey here was founded in 558. It was rebuilt between 990 and 1021, and restored again from 1819 to 1823, thanks to Victor Hugo (see a history here and the current website here). To the left is Les Deux Magots - Fréquenté par de nombreux artistes illustres parmi lesquels Elsa Triolet, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, pour ne citer qu'eux, il accueillit les surréalistes sous l'égide d'André Breton, bien avant les existentialistes qui firent les belles nuits des caves du quartier. Jim Morrison of The Doors frequented this same café it's said - Morrison was buried in Paris of course. This intersection, Boulevard St-Germain at rue Bonaparte, is a good place to be. Drop a line for details - a good jazz club, odd shops, goodies in the Buci market a few blocks to the right.
That's Paris. But a pleasant train ride north, just an hour or two, is Rouen, in the heart of Normandy. It's old in a different way. This was June afternoon, six years ago. Sip some calvados. Good place.
Way south. Everyone associates Arles with Van Gogh, of course. But drive down from Avignon, through St-Remy (visit the asylum where Van Gogh spent some time after he cut off his ear), through Les Baux (a mountain fortress town that has an odd history having to do with Richelieu and the Huguenots, and metallurgy, as aluminum ore, bauxite, is named for the place), and you finally get to Arles. It's old in a different way - Roman. This is the old coliseum, the same summer. They use it now for French bullfights, the kind where the bull lives. You get good light and shadows there, and that means it's been in a few movies, as right here John Frankenheimer filmed that shoot-out in Ronin - so if you're not into art, or bullfighting, or Roman history, there's always the Hollywood angle, as Robert De Niro was here too.