Cannes film festival, a stirring new film out in France

This film is a heartbreaker. The story is based on real life events: an estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war. With an influx of one million Syrians into neighboring Lebanon, that country hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history.

Presented at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Lebanese film director is Nadine Labaki. The movie was filmed in the streets of Beirut, Lebanon, using real people. Seeking a safe haven, the main character, Zain, was only seven years old when he fled southern Syria with his family in 2012.

The title of the movie: Capharnaüm. The word Capernaum refers to great disorder. It originates from the ancient city of the same name in the province of Galilee, now northern Israel, where Jesus found refuge after being expelled from Nazareth.

The movie tackles many social issues affecting Lebanese and refugees alike: child labor, early marriage, statelessness and poverty. In the fictionalized account, young Zain takes his parents to court for having conceived him.

“Zain has decided to sue his parents on behalf of all adults who have children when they cannot afford them. The crime that the filmmaker decided to put forward is “lack of love.” From this starting point, the film Capharnaüm is actually an initiatory journey of an undocumented boy who explains the final reasons for this trial. Immersed in stunning realism, we discover an extremely poor Lebanon where abandoned children roam the streets. They are left to their own devices, fighting for their daily survival.”

But there’s a happy ending. With the help of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Zain and his family were approved for resettlement to Norway.

Sawday’s travel guides: the perfect place to stay (and off the beaten track)


Fancy a vacation on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria? Or perhaps Panarea located between the Lipari and Stromboli islands? Or maybe a Bed and Breakfast in a huge country house located in Cornwall, England?

cornish housefireplace

Fellow travellers, look no further. Take a gander at the offerings in Sawday’s travel guides. Here’s how they describe themselves: Incurably curious, we seek out quirky, independent and authentic places to stay across Europe.

Bon voyage ! (I found my dream house in southern Italy, see bottom link)

Gorgeous house in Puglia, located in the heel of Italy:

truly extraordinary film images of Paris

I was blown away by the integrity of this film footage dated around 1897. What struck me first were the sounds: the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, the clatter of carriages and wagons – common sounds of yesteryear that we no longer hear. And yet, other sounds endure: the clang of Notre-Dame’s bells, a dog’s bark, the tinkle of a bicycle bell, and laughter and murmur in the streets. Those magnificent horses were everywhere (think of the manure piles to be removed daily; the stink and the flies in hot weather!) 

Other observations: how hazardous those streets were. Tight constricted clothing, but nevertheless very elegant. Street theater – so much going on! I know every one of those landmarks: how strange to see the same buildings and same locations populated by people 120 years ago! Exactly one month ago I was at the Round Pond in the Tuileries Gardens. In this film you see the same pond, but instead of casually-dressed men and women lounging in chairs, you see boys in caps and sailor suits prodding their sailboats with long sticks. Extraordinary. As one commenter noted – It looks like a French impressionist painting come to life.

And that moving sidewalk? Talk about avant-garde! It was in fact an experiment for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900. See for yourself. Further below is another view of Paris nearly thirty years later.

Here’s some more footage taken in 1927: less horses, more motorized vehicles. In exactly twelve years’ time war would break out. Occupied Paris would be besieged by German Nazis. That’s the other extraordinary thing about watching historical films: you know what’s going to happen next, and they – blissfully unaware – do not. I’m amazed by the hordes of people in the streets. Central Paris was packed! It seems more crowded then than it is today. Notice the men, how pompous and self-important they were.


Aznavour is dead!

aznavour one

Mourned by all of France, French-Armenian singer, lyricist, actor, public activist and diplomat Charles Aznavour died of a heart attack today in his bathroom. He was known for his unique tenor voice: clear and ringing in its upper reaches, with gravelly and profound low notes. In a career spanning over 70 years, he sold over 100 million records. He was one of France’s most popular and enduring singers.

aznavour two

In the early years he was heavily criticized, even laughed at. No-one would hire him. The press eviscerated him. But he believed in himself, and he persisted. It was almost as if he knew that one day he would be a legend. Today, he’s considered a French monument and the whole country is mourning its loss.

smoked fish, Lower East Side Manhattan

I just read this article in The New York Times about the death of Anne Russ Federman. Like a million other people, I too visited this shop while in New York (and wrote about it on my blog.) Read the article (the ending is very funny), then read my blog post (link below.)

Purcell festival in Paris, that’s Henry Purcell

From September 25th to October 13th, the Louis-Jouvet Theater in central Paris is staging a Purcell festival. I have tickets for early October.

Henry Purcell, born and died in London (1659-1695), is considered one of England’s greatest composers. Although incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music.

First performed in London in 1691, The Cold Song is an extract from Purcell’s semi-opera, King Arthur. Its beauty and vocal difficulty is such that it’s often taken over by German virtuoso singers. A particularly famous version is the one performed here by the late Klaus Nomi.



Here’s the sublime Funeral for Queen Mary, written specially to be played at the funeral of Queen Mary II of England in March 1695. Eight months later, Purcell’s Thou knowest, Lord was performed at his own funeral in November of the same year.



Love, love, love my Reeboks!

In my June 2017 post entitled “the King’s Road, shopping and strolling – London“, I was raving about my new CLOUDRIDE DMX 2.0 walking shoes. Like all tourists, travellers and walkers, I know the importance of a truly excellent walking shoe. (When vacationing in a big city I usually walk 8 to 9 hours a day.)

I also walk a lot here in Paris, because I don’t own a car.

And so, wishing to buy a second pair I was crushed to learn that the CLOUDRIDE DMX 2.0 is discontinued in Europe.

So I waited, and now my patience has paid off. I’ve just bought their new model called the Reebok™ Cloudride LS DMX. For urban walkers, I totally recommend this shoe.

Reebok rules!