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French appeal

With international travel still out of the question, we can instead turn to the screen and escape to Paris.

Written by Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan

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When a large Senegalese with luscious lips and a French accent appears in my living room, I think there are some perks to lockdown. I don’t seem to be alone.

There’s a trend for those of us pining for a bit of international action, and we are getting it from our screens, namely television shows and movies where a foreign language is essential.

I recently did a call out on Facebook for some recommendations for what to watch during lockdown. My feed was filled with suggestions for Lupin, Emily in Paris, Call My Agent and Babylon Berlin.

I started with Lupin, played by Omar Sy. The series, inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s Lupin books, follows Assane Diop in the role of modern-day Lupin – the gentleman burglar.

Diop dons many a disguise in order to prove that his father, who was framed for the theft of Marie Antoinette’s necklace and then murdered, was set up. This light and delicious story offers up a wealth of French locations, from the opening scene at the Louvre through to the home of Maurice Leblanc in Etretat.

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The Louvre

How I would love to see the Mona Lisa smile again, but watching Assane smile at her in one of his many disguises, this time as a janitor, will do for now.

This scene is from the opening scenes of the first season, but if you would like to have exclusive access when we are finally allowed to travel, CNN reports that the Parisian company Family Twist offers 90-minute tours for a cool €30,000 (AU$47,418).

Tours include a Tesla pick up and drop off to IM Pei’s glass pyramid, followed by a greeting by an art historian with treasure-hunt cards with pieces of the museum’s masterpieces to match (think: Mona Lisa’s eye).

The tour offers highlights from the museum’s 38,000 pieces of exhibited art along with a ballerina dancing on the staircase leading up to the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The experience is completed with a private riverboat cruise with Champagne and caviar.

 

The Pellegrini mansion

The Pellegrini family, who own the Marie-Antoinette necklace and who were the employees of Assane’s father Babakar, is filmed in the Musée Nissim de Camondo in the 8th arrondissement.

The home was built in 1911 and is modelled on Versailles’ Petit Trianon. A  temple of gilded abundance offering a labyrinth of rooms, showing the finest craftsmanship of France’s ancien régime. It is a world of Louis XVI chaises, ormolu clocks and canvases by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and François-Hubert Drouais.

This private art collection of banker Moise de Camondo is open to the public, and is not far from the Parc Monceau, where Assane and Claire are bullied in front of the pillars of La Naumachie pond.

 

Benjamin’s shop

Benjamin’s shop on rue des Rosiers is a place I’d love to pop into and run my fingers over his wares. Filmed in the Marché Biron, known as the Faubourg Saint Honoré des Puces, this elegant flea market is a place for collectors and bargain hunters.

Marché Biron has around 220 shops and offers a journey through time via art objects and fine furniture from the 17th to the 19th century, art deco and art nouveau furniture, sculptures, jewellery and more.

Marché Biron is a place of delight for the French antiquarian, sprinkled with celebrities and politicians who are on a quest to seek a treasure.

 

Etretat

The home of Maurice Leblanc is the historic beachside town of Etretat in Normandy. In Lupin, we visit the rock formation L’Aiguille creuse (The Hollow Needle), which inspired Leblanc’s book of the same name. With its iconic white-chalk cliffs, this historic beachside town inspired many French artists including Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Delacroix, and writers such as Guy de Maupassant and  Victor Hugo.

A visit to Leblanc’s home, The Clos Lupine, is a must for Lupin fans. Leblanc wrote 19 novels and 39 short stories here in this building, which now houses photos, paintings, clothing and utensils from his fictional hero, Arsene Lupin.

 

The Prison

Assane swaps places with another prisoner in order to find a prisoner who can give him vital information about his father. The scenes in the jail were filmed at the Maison d’Arrêt de Bois-d’Arcy, known as Le Beaubourg Pénitentiaire. Situated near Versailles, it’s close to Omar Sy’s home town of Trappes. The remand centre is not on any tours!

 

Jardin du Luxembourg

The Luxemburg Garden is the place where we see Assane disguised as a delivery cyclist and ordering food for several other delivery cyclists to foil the capture by the bold gendarmes. This is the place where Assane meets Juliette Pellegrini by the lake.

While the gardens are free to enter, there are some worthwhile walking tours in this garden surrounding Luxembourg Palace. You can also partake in an artistic tour, stopping to sketch different scenes with a guide. There is plenty to draw from statues dating back to the seventeenth century, impressive fountains and plants in abundance.

 

Pont des Arts

The Pont des Arts feature heavily in many French films and television shows such as Amélie, Midnight in Paris and The Bourne Identity. This footbridge is accessible for anyone to walk over and is a feature of many of the cruises down the Seine.

In Lupin, we find Assane on the bridge giving his son, Raoul, the same Arsene Lupin book that Assane’s own father passed on to him.

 

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Lupin seasons one and two are available on Netflix now. I’m eagerly awaiting season three, and to hopefully be out of lockdown soon.

 

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