Delightful, charming, whimsical. Many adjectives have been used to rave about Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, widely considered to be the director’s best film in many years. While the movie has an excellent cast of Hollywood and Gallic actors, the real star of Midnight in Paris is the City of Lights itself. Allen didn’t hide that fact, calling his film a love letter to Paris and portraying the city in a highly romanticized light that will appeal to anyone who has wanted to visit the French capital.
With the release of the film on DVD/Blu-Ray this week, let’s take a trip across the Atlantic as we visit all the wonderful places featured in the movie.
Note: Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to avoid reading the blurbs and simply enjoy the pictures.
1. Claude Monet’s Garden
After a 3-minute montage of some of Paris’ most scenic landmarks, the film opens in Claude Monet’s Garden as struggling writer Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) discuss the allure and romanticism of living in the City of Lights. This garden is actually located about 60 miles west of Paris in Giverny, Normandy. This picturesque village was the estate of French impressionist painter Claude Monet.
Visitors can wander through Monet’s luxurious flower garden as well as his water garden which features the famed Japanese bridge and inspired many of his paintings. While you are there, be sure to visit Monet’s house which has been restored thanks to donations from around the world.
A. Le Grand Véfour
After spending the morning in Claude Monet’s Garden, Gil and Inez return to Paris to have lunch with her curmudgeonly parents at Le Grand Véfour, an upscale restaurant situated in the arcades of the Palais Royal on 17 Rue du Beaujolais. The establishment, which opened in 1784, has served many heavyweights of French culture over the last two centuries including Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre. This is also where the unbearable pseudo-intellectual Paul (Michael Sheen) and his wife first show up, to Gil’s most profound annoyance.
B. Musée Rodin
Paul’s pedantic nature is no more apparent than when the two couples visit the Musée Rodin. There, he pompously decides to contradict the museum’s guide (a cameo by French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy) with inaccurate facts about the life of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Opened in 1919, the museum is a tourist favorite due to its ease of access and affordable entrance fee. Most of Rodin’s sculpture are on display there, including The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell. Make sure to drop by this wonderful location.
C. Hotel Le Meurice
Gil and Inez are next seen at a wine tasting, where Paul once again shows up. This takes place on the rooftop terrace of the Belle Etoile suite at the Hotel Le Meurice, which provides a 360 degree view of Paris. This 1771 five-star luxury hotel overlooks the Tuileries Garden and hosted such luminaries as Salvador Dali, Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Taylor and Theodore Roosevelt. At over $8,000 per night, the Belle Etoile suite probably is one of the least affordable hotel room in the world so you will probably want to look at the pictures above rather than empty your 401K account.
D. St. Etienne du Mont
After the stuffy wine tasting, Paul and his wife Carol invite Inez and Gil to go dancing. Gil can’t decline fast enough but is taken aback that Inez accepts. He decides to walk back to his hotel room but soon finds himself lost in the maze that are the streets of Paris. Tired and a bit drunk, he sits down on the steps of the church St Etienne du Mont, rue de la Montagne Geneviève (near the Pantheon) and as the bell strikes midnight, an antique 1920 Peugeot Landaulet pulls up, the mysterious passengers urging him to get on board.
We never see anything more than the steps of the church in the movie but the structure originated all the way back in 1492 and contains the shrine of St. Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. The church also houses the tombs of French writers Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine.
E. Le Polidor
As Gil is whisked away to a bar after another, he slowly realizes that he has been transported back to 1920′s Paris. At the end of the night, he is stunned to get the opportunity to meet Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) in the restaurant Le Polidor, 41 rue Monsieur le Prince near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Indeed, the famed writer did frequent this establishment along with James Joyce, Antonin Artaud, Jack Kerouac and Jane Day. Feel free to stop by and have a bite of the relatively affordable food which has made Le Polidor one of the most popular restaurant for students at the nearby Sorbonne.
F. Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
While our protagonist continues to have wild time-traveling adventures over the next few nights, he must also contend with living in the present during the day. Hence, he tags along with his fiancee and mother-in-law to the flea market, the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in the Northern periphery of Paris, where he meets Gabrielle (Lea Seydoux) while browsing for a Cole Porter record.
Les Puces is the busiest flea market in the world, welcoming over 150,000 visitors every weekend. This is open only Saturday, Sunday and Monday so make sure to time your visit properly.
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