Another Time, Another Place

After midnight, Paris is magic.
After midnight, Paris is magic.

By Judy Berman

What if you could step back in time in an exotic location?

One year, while vacationing in Paris, my husband and I traipsed along the streets late at night in a misty rain. As we did, I wondered what if … what if we lived here. How would our lives change?

It was a romantic notion. Our French was minimal. But, I rationalized that could be overcome by immersing ourselves in the culture and language.

That idealism glossed over that our family would be living on the other side of the pond and the outlook for a job – with our having limited French-speaking skills – would be bleak.

What would you do?

Suppose, it’s late at night. You’re out alone on the streets of Paris. An older model car slows to a stop near you. The passengers look like they’re headed to a party. They’re dressed in 1920s clothing and beckon you to join them. On an impulse, you jump in.

What happens next? You go to a tavern and meet the creative talents of another era. It’s magical and it all seems so real.

The Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.
The Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.

That’s the premise of the Woody Allen film, “Midnight in Paris.” (2011) Owen Wilson (as Gil) is a successful Hollywood writer. He wants to move to Paris and leave his lucrative career behind to write a book about a man in a nostalgia shop.

His fiancé, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) dismisses his dream. She loves the idea of marrying a Hollywood writer and wants to live in Malibu.

This is not the only area where the two clash. When Gil takes long walks in the City of Lights, it’s not just creative inspiration he’s searching for. But he doesn’t realize that at first.

The ride takes him back in time to the 1920s which he views as the golden age when several ex-pats were living in Paris. At the party, he meets Corey Stoll (as author Ernest Hemingway), Kathy Bates (as Gertrude Stein), Tom Hiddleston (as F. Scott Fitzgerald), and Alison Pill (as Zelda Fitzgerald).

Gil idolizes Hemingway and is thrilled when the literary great says he’ll show the book to Gertrude Stein. Gil dashes back to his hotel to retrieve his manuscript. But when he returns, the tavern where he met Hemingway and his new friends are gone. Without explanation, Gil is back in the present.

For several nights, Gil continues his time travel. As he does he begins to fall in love with a woman from the 1920s. But, just as Gil feels torn about the path to take, so does the young woman. He toys with the idea of staying. When he discovers that Inez is cheating on him, it appears fate is clearing the way for him to justify returning to the past.

Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral
Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral

What would you do? It’s tempting to think that life would be better in another time, another place. Or, would you decide that despite life’s bumps and bruises that the here and now is really the best place of all?

If you’d like to explore that premise, check out Ronnie Hammer’s blog. She writes about her book club’s discussion of “Dreaming in French” by Alice Kaplan. Her book describes three young women in the 1950s and 60s – Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis – who spent part of their youth in Paris. Here is the link:

Video Movie Clip: “Midnight in Paris,” with Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Corey Stoll and Kathy Bates.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Midnight in Paris. Photo taken by McKay Savage from London, UK

Photo: Eiffel Tower – Paris photo taken by Poco a poco on Feb. 14, 2010

Photo: Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo taken by Jebulon on April 2, 2011

  1. I saw “Midnight in Paris” just a few weeks ago. I usually don’t like movies involving time travel, because I get confused easily, but this one was easy to follow and fun to watch. It was predictable, as most romantic comedies are, in that you know within ten minutes that the main character isn’t going to end up with the woman he’s engaged to. But the ending is unexpected and satisfying.

    Whenever I imagine living in some past time that seems appealing, I always find myself thinking, “Yes, but I’d be dead now.” It’s hard to remember that now is a meaningless concept; the amount of time and the quality of your experiences are the things that matter. However, in films such as this one, there’s an added element: the character is aware of his twentieth-first century life, and so he can never really fit in with the past.

    Great post, Judy, and wonderful photographs. Have you been back to Paris?

    1. We’ve been to Paris three times and plan to return – with our family – this summer. It is a beautiful city. One that is easy to fall in love with.

      Charles, you’re right, it was easy to see his relationship just wasn’t working. When was he going to catch on? And, what would he do about it. I also loved the ending. I’m not a big Woody Allen movie fan, but this one I really enjoyed.

  2. I saw the movie a few months ago and loved it despite not being an Owen Wilson fan. In fact, the only way to improve the movie would have been to caste someone else in that role. However, I fell in love with the whole concept and it’s one of those classic feel good movies for me.

    1. To go back in time and talk to someone you admire … Kate, I’d have a whole list of folks I’d want to see if I could. I do love the idea of the film, especially that it is set in Paris.
      I did enjoy Owen Wilson’s take on this character. From what I read, Woody Allen first envisioned “Gil” as being an east coast intellectual. But he rewrote the part to fit a California guy, and that fit Wilson who was being considered for the role. Allen thought the rewite actually made the character richer.

    1. Kate … Some of the older structures are absolutely beautiful and it is a shame that they are no longer part of our landscape. The following link may provide more insight into this architectural style: httpp://

  3. That was a wonderful post; I totally enjoyed it. Although I did see the Woody Allen movie and loved it, I found that when I read your condensed synopsis os the story I had forgotten some of it. Oh, OK: lots of it. I think it’s probably out on DVD by now, so guess who is going to re-watch it?

    Thanks for mentioning my blog above; that was so kind of you. Now all I have to do is get Freshly Pressed!

    1. Ronnie … Thank you for your comments. If you haven’t been Freshly Pressed, you certainly should be awarded this recognition. I do hope you enjoy a second look at “Midnight in Paris.” As someone who is no longer rooted in reality, this movie is perfect. It fulfills the escapist in me. 😆

  4. When I traveled in Europe the summer before my senior year in college, Paris was not my favorite city at all. But MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams made me rethink that. Maybe it was just my age the first time; this time my age might work in my favor!

    1. Where else did you go in Europe? Did you have a better experience elsewhere? I believe, if you give it a go, you will find that Paris is delightful. The movie only refueled my interest in returning to Paris.

  5. I don’t know if I could be that brave and just jump in feet first to immerse myself in another culture. The most daring thing I did was take a 2 week class abroad while I was in College and I was homesick the whole time.
    Vern and I are very excited to be going to France, I can not wait to see it through his eyes.
    Great story Mom, love you!

    1. If I didn’t have any ties, I’d love to try jumping in feet first and immersing myself in another culture. Sorry you were homesick when you were supposed to be enjoying time at Oxford those 2 weeks. 😦
      As you may have guessed by now, Anonymous is my daughter, Jenn. luv, you, too.

      1. I don’t know why I came up as anonymous! I did enjoy myself when we were doing our exploring and other activities, it was the alone time that would get me. Anyway looking forward to our trip.

        comment from earthrider to msdiznee2000: 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. I saw it on a flight last year and loved it.
    If I was choosing with my heart I would stay on in Paris, regardless of which era! My brain would obviously be more cautious 🙂

    1. I also would love to stay on in Paris. It’s an exciting city. But, yes, Madhu, then I’d consider how much it would cost to live there … and reluctantly stay put. (Knowing my family wouldn’t be with me would be another reason to stay state-side.)

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