Tango with Paris


20th Sep, 2011

Spectators watch quietly, listening to the dragging of tango feet on the stone quai. Beautiful Parisian women turn up alone each night with their dancing shoes, waiting to be asked to tango by total strangers. A little old man sits on the edge of the river with his radio playing Argentinian music and guarding the dancers’ belongings. It’s people watching with a very sexy twist. And just another night in Paris…

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If the weather is decent enough, tango enthusiasts gather at the mini amphi-theatres that look out onto the Seine in the 5th arrondissement to dance seductively until midnight. Now I’m not saying myself or my friends had the ‘cohonas’ to get up and try this Argentinian style tango ourselves, but sitting with a bottle of wine on the steps, watching these dancers was absolutely mesmerizing.

Where/ what/ when / how: During the summer months until the end of September (can extend into October depending on weather), on Square Tino Rossi (usually takes place on the last of the four mini amphitheatres), Quai St. Bernard, in the 5th Arrondissement (Métro stop Jussieu or Gare Austerlitz).

Speaking of tango in Paris…

Have you ever seen The Last Tango in Paris? One of the most controversial films ever made, banned in several countries, the erotic yet liberating film by Bernardo Bertolucci starring Marlon Brando, is a must see. I remember sneaking it from my father’s film collection in my early teens; shocked, offended and transfixed. It’s beautiful, powerful, it’s set in Paris and stirs an appetite for sexual fantasies you probably never ever knew were there.

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and since we’re on the topic of cinema…

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I came across a short film by France’s equivalent of Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard, “Charlotte et son Jules”. It’s filmed entirely in Godard’s Parisian hotel room in 1960 and is dubbed with his own voice over the main character’s (the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo was in fact rounded up by the French army to serve his term in Algeria and unavailable to provide his voice). Godard’s voice is a rather awful one and speaks throughout the entire duration of the film almost. Charlotte, played by Anne Collette, licks an ice cream like a cat and silently prances about the room while her ex-boyfriend insults her in every way he can think of. It’s weird, it’s unsatisfying, it’s informal, very much like a Woody Allen scene. But this is typical Godard; never-ending scenes of dialogue, a pretty girl being emotionally abused by her jealous co-star. It will remind you of a later, much better known film Godard made…

Godard’s Le Méprise 

Starring Brigitte Bardot.

So I fell in love with Paris all over again when I…

… fell into another rabbit hole last week.

I’m walking home and decide to cut a corner and try my luck with a shortcut where the Palais des Decouvertes and the back of the Grand Palais meet. Suddenly, the sounds of traffic behind me are silenced and I’m in a hidden paradise, minutes away from the screaming Champs Elysée.

Down a path with broken stone steps, I find a park bench, I’m enveloped by evergreens, bamboo, lilacs maples and ivy. There are lemon trees; a Mexican orange tree; drooping flowers with leaves that smell of caramel.

A century-old weeping beech tree shelters a waterfall which drowns away the noise of the streets above. The pond is home to an otter who surfaces occasionally and to carp that glides in slow motion through the water.

Everyday since, I’ve taken the same short cut.

The Jardin de la Vallée Suisse: part of the Champs-Élysées’ gardens, this “Swiss Valley” was built from scratch in the late 19th century by the park designer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand.

oh and while you’re there…

I had never bothered trying out the Mini Palais, a bar/ restaurant inside the Grand Palais. I assumed it would be snooty, crowded and overly expensive. As much as it pains me to admit I’m wrong however, I indeed was. Go for afternoon/ early evening tea time and you’ll be sitting on one of the most beautiful terraces in Paris with no more than a handful of fellow guests. Thé complet which comes with five or six delicious home-made gourmet cakes will set you back only ten euros and you’re left alone by staff to sit for hours on end with a spectacular view. (http://minipalais.com/fr)

and before I forget …

If like me, ya love the smell of a bargain, restaurants all over France this week are participating in a special event that offers half price dining. Now is your chance to dine at an Alain Ducasse! Allez, tous au restaurant!

My dessert last night, "the best Gelati in Paris", at the Phillip Starck designed restaurant, Mori Venice.

Click here to book your table at the participating restaurants…


I’d like to dedicate this blog post to my fearless American friend, who after two years of living in Paris, must finally return home. She will always be the quintessential American girl in Paris, the one and only… her love for this city cannot be matched.

It will not be the same for me without her.


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