Avignon: Once Home to the Popes

The 14th century papal palace in Avignon, saved from the depredations of 18th century French revolutionaries because it was too big and difficult to knock down.

The 14th century papal palace in Avignon, saved from the depredations of 18th century French revolutionaries because it was too big and difficult to knock down.

The following article appeared in June 2013 at TravelWeekly.com, the electronic edition of Travel Weekly, a national travel trade journal. It was written by Nadine Godwin, who is the author of Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia, published by The Intrepid Traveler. 

AVIGNON, France — On a recent afternoon, I walked vigorously around the old walls of Avignon and into the central city. I aimed to revisit the

Historic walls surrounding the old center of Avignon.

Historic walls surrounding the old center of Avignon.

medieval papal palace and other places I had not seen since leading a teenaged nephew through these parts nearly three decades ago.

The warm weather and late-afternoon light were irresistible — and new digital equipment let me take as many unnecessary photos as I wanted without producing a pain in the pocketbook.

I started my stroll at a little after 4 p.m., only 10 hours after leaving New York’s JFK on XL Airways’ nonstop service to Marseille. I had joined other travel journalists and a handful of New York area travel agents on the inaugural flight for the launch of the only nonstop between those two points. [Read more…]

Pages: 1 2

Paris Movie Walks: A Book Review

…Overall, France, or rather Paris to be precise, has always served as one of the strongest filmmaking muses in terms of location shoots with hundreds of movies set – if not fully then at least partially – in the famous City of Lights that has seduced artists from every medium for centuries.

In the newly published book from The Intrepid Traveler, the journalist, film enthusiast and Parisian aficionado who’s resided in the country since 1993 – Michael Schürmann blends his passion for his adopted homeland by sharing 10 wonderfully unique, fact-filled, film fan tested self-paced tours throughout the city that’s now become best known for lights, camera, action, and A-list movie stars.

To its credit and in order not to weigh you down with too many guides, Schürmann’s “Paris Movie Walks” is filled with maps and is additionally guided with his concise, accurate and straightforward style – possibly indicative of his background as both a sportscaster and translator. Additionally it’s one that’s sprinkled with sidebars (yet most often placed at the bottom of pages) and “asides” comprised of cultural information, tips, and worthwhile historical facts.

And as the incredibly long title promises, a “guided tour” is exactly what the book delivers as throughout the 280-page work, it feels for readers as though Schürmann is walking with you a la textual GPS. To this end he tells you to turn left or right in each individual walk that you can pick and choose from which coincide with endless and awesome pop-culture cinematic citations of “if you look to your left” you’ll see where Anne Hathaway tosses her cell phone in the famous Concorde Fountain in “The Devil Wears Prada” or how to position yourself to stand in the exact place that Robert De Niro did in anticipation for the crane shot that captured the beginning of the film “Ronin,” etc.

While it’s safe to say that not all of the films made in Paris have been classics including Steve Martin’s newest interpretations of “The Pink Panther” or the third installment of “Rush Hour,” Schürmann delves way into the past for his references managing to satisfy ardent lovers of classic French film in addition to citing American efforts like “Sabrina,” “French Kiss,” and others.

At the same time, he succeeds in pleasing the students of the New Wave and beyond by leading visitors to the same places seared into celluloid in such works as “An American in Paris,” “Gigi,” “Funny Face,” “The DaVinci Code,” “The 400 Blows,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Amélie,” “Three Colors: White,” “A Man and a Woman,” “Last Tango in Paris,” “Le Divorce,” “Jules and Jim,” “Charade,” and “Frantic,” and on and on.

As often the locations included in the movies were chosen in order to present the most picturesque views of the city – to show off its landmarks or perhaps to offer visitors new glimpses at undiscovered treasure – the walks included have a logical advantage as well since they often place you in and around the iconic stops you’d intended to make all along in your itinerary.

However, Schürmann’s selections are far from predictable and he makes every attempt not to lead visitors to the city down the same routes they may have previously exhausted. In fact, he comprised the tours when he realized that friends seemed far more interested in tidbits about “French Kiss” style movie locales than traditionally historical artistic and overly publicized landmarks. And as the press release explains, the walks consist of “four through the heart of the city, four around the periphery of central Paris, and two through the working-class neighborhoods that served as settings for French film classics of the 1930s and 1940s.”

Although unfortunately the book doesn’t come with frequent flier miles, French lessons, or a first-class plane ticket – for film buffs – it’s a wonderfully unique travel guide that will easily fit into your carry-on bag. And more importantly, for those of us who don’t exactly foresee a trip to the City of Lights in our budget at this moment – writing as someone who just reviewed it, having never set foot in the country but has seen most of the films mentioned – it was a great armchair travel puzzle you could play in your head putting Gene Kelly next to Jackie Chan and Matt Damon to piece together the geography in your mind.

About The Author
Jen Johans’ P.O.V. can be found on http://www.filmintuition.com. She is a three-time national award-winning writer and self-described “walking movie encyclopedia.” She has braved the adventures of cinematic and arts criticism online for four years via Film Intuition.

“A Year in the Merde”, A Book Review

A Rauncy Riposte to “A Year in Provence”

Stephen Clarke’s A Year in the Merde chronicles the misadventures of a young British marketing man hired to help a French company launch a chain of Brit-themed tea shops. He experiences French charm, French inefficiency, sublime French food, slimy French corruption and political intrigue, a seemingly endless series of strikes, and more sex than he can shake his weakened British stick at.

At first blush it seems to be yet another of those memoirs (Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, preeminent among them) that allow the reader the vicarious pleasure of living among the unfailingly charming, but inevitably infuriating French. In fact, the cover makes a subtle design nod to the cover of Mayle’s megahit.

[Read more…]