Paris

Paris… one of the world’s most inspiring cities, including as a film location. Image: Adobe Stock

Ultimate armchair travel: Explore France through these memorable movies

Discover the magic of ‘la République’ via three cinema classics.

Paris

Paris… one of the world’s most inspiring cities, including as a film location. Image: Adobe Stock

France, home of baguettes and berets, consistently ranks as one of the most visited European countries each year. And understandably so — romantics flock there for its unparalleled ambience, foodies for authentic and unapologetic calorie-dense French cuisine, history and art enthusiasts for renowned museums, and avid bucket-listers to check off a visit to the Eiffel Tower.

While it may not have been possible to squeeze in a trip to one of the most iconic countries in an unforgiving year, we can still invite inspiration for whenever a French getaway is possible and safe.

If you’re looking for virtual escapes that spawn misty day-dreams of a gloriously French adventure, these movies will help.

‘THE DA VINCI CODE’: FOR ADRENALINE-FUELLED GLIMPSES OF PARIS 

The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the film version of which starred Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou, was a global bestseller. Image: Supplied

The Da Vinci Code, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Dan Brown, has reeled in audiences since its 2006 release. This movie offers more than a controversial intriguing mystery, serving up fantastic shots of all our favourite Parisian delights.

In the first few scenes, we’re transported to both the hauntingly beautiful interior and landmark exterior of the Louvre, the world’s largest museum. Known most for its glass-tiled prism entrance and for being the home of the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is a must on any Parisian itinerary.

But, that’s not the only major attraction shown in detail. Later on, a major scene occurs inside the Église Saint-Sulpice Church, a Roman Catholic church that features breathtaking Baroque architecture, one of the world’s largest organs and a magnificent fountain. Though only the exterior of the church was filmed, and the inside digitally re-created, the entire scene is impressive and more than sufficient to convince tourists to add the church to their future itineraries.

Finally, a real chateau — Chateau de Villette — is featured, and this impressive property just outside Paris is open for accommodation and visits!

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Of course, throughout the movie, viewers are also treated to scenes, sights and sounds from the very Parisian streets we’ve been day-dreaming about for months!

‘AMELIE’: FOR A ROMANTIC, QUIRKY SLICE OF PARISIAN LIFE

Amelie
Amelie, played by Audrey Tatou, has become an iconic Parisian movie character. Image: Supplied

In sharp contrast to the fast-paced The Da Vinci Code, Amelie focuses on everyday Parisian life with small dose of fantasy added. The protagonist, Amelie, is a Parisian waitress in Café des Duex Moulins, a real-life bistro in Montmartre, a district known for its charm and aesthetic village-like layout.

Montmartre, built on a hill, thus rises above the other Parisian districts and is famous for its crowning jewel, The Sacre Coeur Basilica, and its quaint streets. In the award-winning film, Amelie finds joy in little missions she undertakes that bring happiness to others.

The adorable character, romanticised plot and lengthy excursions into Paris’s day-to-day life all contributed to making Amelie of the biggest feel-good movies of the 2000s.

Paris Sacre Coeur
Montmartre is home to the famous Sacre Coeur. Image: Adobe Stock

In addition to Montmartre, Canal Saint-Martin, the name of an area as well as the long canal that channels through it, is another stunning neighbourhood showcased in the film. Canal Saint-Martin is a trendy, artsy area that still manages to emit tranquility, with Parisians often seen alongside the river as they picnic and relax.

While the Paris in the movie is somewhat altered to resemble more of what our ideal version of the city would be (cleaner, safer and overly romantic, with a permanent pink glow), the streets, scenes and spirit of Parisian life are still poignantly captured.

‘A GOOD YEAR: FOR SUMPTUOUS VILLAGES AND VINEYARDS

Provence France lavender
‘A Good Year’ is based on the book by Peter Mayle, who lived in Provence for many years. Image: Adobe Stock

France is more than its capital and not everyone loves big, bustling cities. Provence, the famously picturesque region in Southeastern France, is a huge tourist magnet, and offers a simpler, calmer life.

Famed for its lavender fields, but also offering fine vineyards, orchards and villages, Provence was the main filming location for A Good Year, the 2006 Ridley Scott rom-com starring Russell Crowe. In the film, Crowe’s character, Max, is drawn away from his chaotic London life when he unexpectedly inherits a chateau and vineyard from his uncle.

He nostalgically recalls his childhood in the French countryside, learning the art of winemaking and tasting, while conflicted on whether to sell his newly inherited fortune. The movie is set in Luberon in Provence and the vineyards really do exist at a working, family-owned estate called Château la Canorgue.

The estate is open to visitors, many of whom come calling because they have seen the film. La Renaissance Restaurant, the bistro in which one character works in the charming village of Gordes, is as real as it is in the movie.

If your French travel fantasies extend to wine, small-town vibes and the countryside, A Good Year may be just what you’ve been missing.