The ties between France and the US are profound and historic. From Paris to Provence and Normandy, traces of Americans in France remind us of these. Why not embark on a fascinating private tour that brings them to life?
Most Franco-American history tours will start in Paris, where generations of great thinkers, writers and artists spent important and formative years of their lives.
Your private tour may start at the legendary Procope, which was founded in 1686 and claims to be the capital’s oldest café. This was an important spot for some of the greatest minds of the American and French revolutionary periods: Alongside the likes of Voltaire and Diderot, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin frequented the cafe. Rumour has it that impassioned political and philosophical debates were fuelled here by inhuman amounts of coffee, a strange new beverage that had taken Europe by storm.
Moving into the modern period, your private guide might take you to renowned cafes where American writers from the likes of Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Richard Wright penned novels and essays, engaged in debates and brawls and left their enduring legacy on the city. A trip to the Hemingway Bar at the recently remodelled Ritz Hotel is also very much in order as part of your luxury getaway to the capital.
You might visit the performance halls where iconic dancer, civil rights activisits and volunteer for the French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker dazzled audiences with her unique talent. Or pay a visit to some of the sites, some now closed, where African-American jazz greats such as Luck Thompson, Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke brought the sounds of a bold new modernity to Paris following the Second World War. A stop at Pere-Lachaise Cemetery to visit the tomb of legendary Doors frontman Jim Morrison, meanwhile, will be in order for those interested in rock history.
American artists and photographers also left behind a rich legacy in Paris. Montparnasse was home to the studios and residences of artists from Man Ray to Beauford Delaney and writer Henry Miller. Meanwhile, visit the Musée d’Orsay to witness sublime paintings from the likes of John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt; the latter was born in Philadelphia but spent a great deal of her life in France, becoming the only American artist to exhibit with fellow Impressionists there.
Finally, a quiet suburb to the west of the city is home to the Suresnes American Cemetery, a little-known site that holds the remains of soldiers from both World War I and World War II. Some 1,540 American soldiers who lost their lives in World War I are buried here, and the cemetery is also the resting place of 14 unknown soldiers who perished during World War II.
Last but certainly not least, a trip to Provence and the French Riviera offers a more glamorous encounter with American figures that have left a lasting influence in France.
One key stop will be Cannes, home to the legendary film festival and the ever-present legacy of American Hollywood actors, past and present. See where superstars from Grace Kelly and Jean Seberg to Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman and George Clooney walked the red carpet and attended yacht parties.
Next, you may want to stop off in the principality of Monaco, where former actress Grace Kelly spent her days as Princess Grace, having married Prince Rainier II of Monaco in 1956. While there, stop off in prestigious, opulent Monté-Carlo for a drink at the Bar Américain, nestled in a corner of the Hotel de Paris Monté-Carlo. Here, jazz performances and American-inspired signature cocktails bring you back to the glamorous days of Princess Grace.
Finally, several American writers, filmmakers and performers made their mark on Provence. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote his most-famous novel, The Great Gatsby, while living on the French Riviera during the 1920s. It’s said that he was inspired by the hedonism and the excesses he observed there to imagine his own “Jazz Age” communities of wealth and overindulgence in the US. His lesser-known novel, Tender is the Night, is set on the Cote d’Azur, further demonstrating how profoundly Provence marked his literary imagination. Filmmaker George Lucas has recently set up a second home in Provence, having purchased vineyards near Barjols at the Chateau Marjui in 2017. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought a home in the region before separating, while Johnny Depp has been the owner of a vast Provencal villa near St-Tropez. The American presence in this iconic and wealthy region remains strong.
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