A day in the life of Amélie Poulain.
Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Anyone who knows me really well will tell you that one of my favourite films of all time is "Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain" or simply "Amélie". It was one of the first French films that I ever watched and I loved the quirky, whimsical and offbeat nature of the plot and the interwoven magical realistic elements. "Amélie" was one of the main reasons that I wanted to pursue learning the French language and for some reason I’ve always identified with the titular character. As a child I too, like Amélie, had imaginary friends, I learned to entertain myself and also spent half of my time residing in a make-believe world. My Parisian summer would not be complete without following in Amélie’s footsteps- at least for a day- and to see how many similarities I actually share with a character I had idolised for so long. So I set off one sunny Saturday morning and ventured into Montmartre and tried to replicate a day in the life of Amélie Poulain.
I wanted to make the day a fusion of retracing Amélie’s steps as well as wandering around the neighbourhood of Montmartre. I was equipped with a list of must see film locations but also an open mind- ready to divert from the beaten track. The first stop of the day was actually something that wasn’t featured in the film; I stumbled upon lots of couples congregated together outside a beautiful square. In Paris this isn’t an uncommon sight- after all it is the city of love and lights. I quickly realised that I was at ‘Le mur de je t’aime’. Its pretty self explanatory- it’s a wall with the words ‘I love you’ in numerous languages: English, French, Cantonese, Russian. You can name any language and you’re sure to find it there. Between the couples I managed to get a few photos of the wall as well as meander around the square. I imagine that during the early morning or late evening- perhaps during sunset- this square would be a perfect location for a date even to stroll through on your own. Nevertheless it’s a truly romantic spot, perfectly encapsulating the essence of the city of love.
I also came across my second stop of the day by accident. I was walking along Rue la Vieuxville and was distracted by some street art. One of the things I love the most about Paris is the graffiti and urban art. Some people think that its an eye sore or even vandalism- particularly when it is juxtaposed with older Haussmannian style architecture but I see it more as actual art and reflective of society. to me, street art reflects Paris as it is now-a modern city which is a hybrid of the urban and traditional as well constantly being in flux. As I was wandering through some passages and back streets I found a second more intimate garden. It was like something from a postcard. Within this hidden courtyard there were only about four people who were mainly reading or eating baguettes- a standard Parisian pastime. It turns out that it wasn’t that exclusive- it was ‘Jardin des Abbesseses’ and its pretty well known amongst locals too. It’s a lovely place to sit and read, eat a viennoiserie or simply just sit and reflect, which is what I did. As it began to fill up I decided to continue on my journey.
Lunchtime was approaching I decided to visit the famous café which Amélie works at in the film, ‘Les Café de 2 Moulins’ (The two windmills). It looks as though its been frozen in time- it has a chic 1950s feel yet as soon as I stepped through the door I felt like I was back in 1997 and in the film. The décor and layout is pretty much the same as the film- except the tobacconist section no longer exists. I sat in the spot where Joseph always sits and watches Gina and Georgette (if you know you know) and had perhaps some of the best yet overpriced crêpes in Paris and a cappuccino. I love how the café is still fully functional- they even have a dish in homage to the film called ‘le gouter d’Amélie’ which is a crème brûlée and café crème. Of course the café is a tourist trap and quite pricey but its worth it and definitely a must see if you’re a fan of the film.
The next stop that I wanted to see was the Sacré Cœur- I had previously visited it in my first week of being here with my friend Berlynn but it was only fitting that I revisited it in homage to the scene in which Amélie returns Nino’s photo album (again if you know you know). No matter what time you go to the Sacré Cœur two things are always certain: it will be full of other tourists and they’ll always be scammers trying to get you to sign a fake petition- don’t sign it! Once you’ve managed to battle your way through the crowds and dodge the pickpockets you’ll see one of the most amazing views- contestable perhaps with that of Notre Dame. Although you don’t get a panoramic view like Notre Dame it still is gorgeous and you can even take the funicular if you want to avoid the stairs.
My final stop of the day wasn’t actually in Montmartre, which is in the 18th arrondissement; I ended up in the 10th. I wanted to see the Canal St Martin. There is a lovely scene in the film in which Amélie explains her ‘petits plaisirs’ in life such as plunging her hand in a sack of grains (as weird as that sounds), tapping and cracking the crust of a crème brûlée and of course skipping stones at the Canal Saint Martin. I couldn’t find a bag of grains to plunge my hand in and I’m not the biggest fan of crème brûlée so I decided to visit the Canal instead. It’s a very short metro ride from Montmartre and the view was beautiful. Of course on a sunny day it was full of tourists- who like my self were enamoured by the view and a few who could actually skip stones. Wandering along the banks of the Canal I couldn’t help thinking that following a trail like this is what makes my experience of Paris different. Its nice to do and see the main tourist attractions such as the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame and the Louvre- all of which I have done and have enjoyed immensely- but at the same time, that Saturday afternoon was one the best days that I’ve had in Paris because it meant something personal to me rather than following a Lonely Planet guide of a ‘Top tips of things to do in Paris’
As cringe-worthy as this may sound, following in the steps of Amélie Poulain enabled me see other hidden gems of Paris, which I would never have thought to seek out. Solo travelling is one of the things I wanted to say yes to doing more on my year abroad. As a young, single girl in a metropolitan city sometime the fear of being harassed or targeted is daunting and may steer you away from actually doing new things and seeing new places. Even though Montmartre is a stones throw away from my current neighbourhood I felt like I’d accomplished a personal goal of mine. By formulating my own route, I had a thoroughly surprisingly enjoyable day and it made me love the film even more. Although I didn’t see everything I set out to do I discovered even more places of interest in Paris
For those of you who haven’t seen the film Amélie I would highly recommend it and if you’re ever in Paris, Montmartre is definitely worth a visit.