If you want to travel in France and learn about French history, the Join Us in France podcast is a superb resource.
The podcast, which launched in 2014, was originally co-hosted by Elyse and Annie. They live in France and know it well. Annie was born in France but has lived in the United States. Although Elyse grew up in New York, she knows the language, the culture and the country’s history inside and out. Elyse, the native American, often seems more French than Annie who was born in France. Go figure. Due to time constraints, Elyse is no longer a co-host but still comes on the show as her time permits.
There are plenty of other resources to help travelers to France select hotels and restaurants. But this podcast will help you to understand France. Annie also offers self-guided audio walking tours. She’s not offering personal tours during the pandemic but I hope they will return.
Bing Crosby (1903-1977) sings mainly in French about Paris in this wonderful album. Crosby recorded the album in Paris on May 16, 1953. The orchestrations were by Paul Durand (1907-1977) who wrote Je suis seule ce soir which is in the soundtrack of Midnight in Paris. Crosby’s accent isn’t great but it really doesn’t matter. The love comes through.
[Cordier] had been shocked to see German soldiers photographing one another at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. But as he headed toward a covert encounter with a fellow operative at a cafe on the Champs Élysées, he was even more stunned to see an old Jewish man and a child with yellow stars on their overcoats.
“The shock of this vision plunges me into an unbearable shame,” he wrote in the memoir, “Alias Caracalla.”
At first he wanted to rush up to the people he saw and embrace them to seek forgiveness, he wrote. At that moment, though, he recognized, walking toward him, the operative he was scheduled to meet. It was an epiphany: “His presence leads me back to reality: I am not in Paris to care for my conscience.”
At the end of WWII, Adolf Hitler ordered Choltitz to hold Paris, but if that wasn’t possible, to destroy it. Although General Choltitz had been very loyal to Hitler, he could not bring himself to obliterate the City of Light. He ultimately surrendered Paris to French forces on August 25, 1944. He’s been called the “Saviour of Paris” for preventing its destruction.
After his surrender, Choltitz was held for the remainder of the war in London and the United States and was ultimately released from captivity in 1947. He died in Baden-Baden in 1966.
Downie likes to walk. His book is divided into “Paris People”, “Paris Places” and “Paris Phenomena.” It is the places that interested me the most. For example, Downie describes a long walk along the Seine that I decided to replicate. It transformed my view of Paris because I learned how much of the city revolves around the river. I also learned just how small the city is geographically and how it seems that almost every centimeter of the city has been lovingly cultivated.
The walk begins at France’s gigantic national library — Bibliothèque nationale de France. This is the largest library I have ever seen; it houses more than 15 million books and journals. It is located near the Métro station Bibliothèque François Mitterrand right along the Seine. But not much else is nearby. The location feels desolate, modern and suburban, although the library remains within Paris’s Périphérique or beltway.
However, it was unclear to me from reading the book where the walk ended so I emailed the author who cheerfully responded with the details and even suggested a nice, reasonably priced restaurant for lunch right along the walk. The restaurant is La Fregate and is at the only spot on the walk where you have to go up to the sidewalk from the river.
I watched the city transform from stark, modern suburbs and eventually came upon Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and on to its terminus at the Pont Mirabeau. I will never forget Le Pont Mirabeau after reading Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem in high school breathing life and love into the bridge. Seeing Le Pont Mirabeau at the end of this day-long walk was special.
The entire walk was about 10 km or 6.2 miles. The transformations within that short distance speak volumes about Paris.
At Downie’s suggestion, I also visited Buttes-Chaumont park which is even more impressive than Mr. Downie describes. He knows Place des Voges like the back of his hand so that chapter is exceptional.
On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language that I appreciate. This gem of a book will teach you so much about Paris and make you want to return again and again or just to go to Paris and remain as Downie has.
“The Bureau” is a French spy TV series (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) on Canal+ created by Éric Rochant. The series concerns the daily life and missions of spies within the French Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure or DGSE. The DGSE is the French equivalent of the CIA. Its head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.Variety reports that the creators of the series had the cooperation of the DGSE and that the DGSE liked the series. The series won Best TV Series from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
The series begins with the return to Paris of French intelligence officer Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly ( Mathieu Kassovitz) after six years as an undercover agent in Syria. Guillaume struggles to reconnect with his former life. But after learning that his lover in Syria (Nadia, played by Zineb Triki), is in Paris, Guillaume breaks agency rules and approaches her as the man he was in Damascus: Paul Lefebvre. As Guillaume begins living a double life, he opens himself up (and the DGSE) to serious dangers.
Henri Duflot ( Jean-Pierre Darroussin) portrays the head of the French clandestine service. He’s never himself been an undercover agent and this bothers him because he fears he lacks the respect of his operatives. At the same time, he’s very likable and down-to-earth. He wears garish neckties, which makes him seem more normal.
The beautiful Léa Drucker plays a DGSE psychiatrist with a top secret clearance. Marina Loiseau ( Sara Giraudeau) portrays a naïve but determined young undercover operative.
The acting is first-rate and the spying seems realistic. This is among the best espionage stories I have seen on TV or in the cinema.
The series now concluded after five magnificent seasons. It’s available on Sundance Now including the Sundance Now channel on Amazon.