We had so many questions. The emails and facebook messages had been few and far between, which was good. I had told him to enjoy everything without worrying about us at home. The entire time Ian was away, he told us, he had not been annoyed or bothered by anything. Anytime anything or anyone became difficult he would say to himself 'Whatever. I'm in Rome!" or," Who cares. I'm in Paris!' We spent the evening listening to stories and anecdotes of his adventures and looked forward to viewing the 1500 photos stored on the memory card of the camera his sister had loaned him for the trip. I watched his face, which positively glowed as he talked, and it was obvious to me that his heart was still among the lights, sights and sounds of the last city he visited - Paris.
As we chatted I soaked his words up like a sponge, wetting the colours of my own imagination in an attempt to paint pictures in my mind of Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France, countries where I have never been. I have always loved to listen to the stories of travellers, and to read descriptive books with settings in faraway lands. One of my favourite writer's novels are often set in Greece. When I read of Athens and Mikonos I can see the wild gladiolas on the cliffs, hear the birds call, and taste the dust of the roads baked by the heat. Sometimes I watch the film version of Mamma Mia just so I can gaze at the extraordinary scenery of that particular part of Greece.
Yesterday, still recovering from a bad cold, I watched a film I have been meaning to see for ten years. When Ian and the people he had travelled to Europe with gathered for coffee one morning last week, they invited my daughters and I to join them. We were looking at one of the group's photos of their day in Montmartre, where Sacre Coeur cathedral keeps watch atop the highest point in Paris. In the photos were several photos of Cafe des 2 Moulins - Cafe of the two Windmills - an art deco cafe made famous by the French film Amelie.
|The young man in the black apron on the left with|
the two young women is the waiter in question
Apparently, if you sit in a booth at Cafe des 2 Moulins your cafe au lait costs 3.80 euros, but if you stand at the counter it costs 2.50 euros. To sit in the spot where Amelie's love interest sat, well, that costs even more. One of the photos shows Ian, and four others sitting at a table. The other of their party, the father of one of the girls chose to stand at the counter, muttering something about not paying good money to sit in a booth. In one photo Ian and his travelling companions are posing with a waiter, a young man who played up his quirky Frenchness - and gained many repeat customers among the tourists that way - my husband added drily when Ian told him the story. As we passed the photos around the table of our own local coffee house, I mentioned that I had always wanted to see Amelie, and had never been able to due to it not being available at any of the video stores I knew. One of the young women said she owned a copy of the film and would be happy to lend it to me. She dropped it off at my house early the next morning on her way out of town. She was off to begin her second year of university in Vancouver.
|The original French movie poster. In North America |
the film was simply titled Amelie.
Amelie was nominated for five Academy Awards in 2001. Now that I have seen it, I think it must have been quite a revelation to film lovers at that time. Everything about it, except for the plot which, to me is a fantastically dressed fairytale, is unique, or was in 2001. I do not want to give the plot away too much to the, perhaps, ten other people on the planet who have not seen Amelie, but suffice it to say, Travelocity's use of a travelling garden gnome in their ads is not an original idea, and the main character of the film is so well loved I know of at least one person who named her first born child after her. Most of all, the film is full of flavour, one that is distinctly and evocatively Parisian. I have seen other French films (I do not mind subtitles at all having grown up reading the bass clef and treble clef simultaneously when studying the piano) and while they are all unique stories, they all still share something of the same French flavour, one that is steeped in wine and wonderful food, a tumultuous past, and a passion for life and for love. Now that I've finally seen Amelie, and gotten a taste of that Parisian flavour, I think I'll continue my armchair travels of France with some more films...Chocolat, A Year in Provence, J'aime Paris, etc.,etc.,etc. The arts are rather useful that way.