PGB 007: Bond, James Bond in Paris
What would Bond do in Paris? Take in the Louvre or take out the bad guy? Where does he like to eat? Or sleep? And where can we be like Bond in Paris today? Follow literary Bond on his Parisian assignments in the 007th episode!
Bond was a fixture in my house growing up. And I think for most of us, the Bond universe is not just an action film or a novel but a way to travel vicariously. I know I probably won’t be playing baccarat at a fancy European casino (I would need to learn how first!), canoodling with dashing British agents on a yacht, or otherwise visiting exotic locales. But Bond can let us make-believe for awhile. Hopefully sans laser-wielding villains!
As stated in the episode, we’re focusing on Literary or “Book” Bond, since Movie Bond has such limited Parisian screen time. Hopefully they will correct this in the future. It seems weird that Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt beat out James Bond in this way, doesn’t it?
Share one last quip with Moneypenny and let’s start exploring James Bond’s Paris!
Shaken, Not Stirred
We’ll start with the booze. Naturally! All of these locations offer upscale opportunities to imbibe, all with gorgeous and/or historic interiors. Of course, please enjoy responsibly. You don’t want to be that tourist.
Fouquet’s: Technically a brasserie/restaurant, but it also has terrace seating which was Bond’s unhappy choice in A View To A Kill. James ordered the least worst of the cocktails he deemed acceptable for terrace seating, the Americano. And this is also where he day-dreamed of picking up an adult companion for the evening. One of these is now illegal in France (but wasn’t at the time when the novel was written). Spoiler Alert: It is not the adult beverage. 😐
The restaurant website doesn’t have the Americano on its list of custom drinks but I’m sure they could accommodate your request. With Perrier of course! Fouquet’s is actually a hotel and there are several other dining and drinking options on site, should you desire.
Bond’s complaints make a bit more sense in the context of the uncovered seating at the time:
The Ritz Bar: If you need a shot of liquid courage before taking on enemy assassins with poison-tipped shoes (or just more sightseeing—your situation may vary), you can grab one at the Hotel Bar at the Ritz. It even has a suitably mid-century modern décor to get you in the mood!
Harry’s Bar: The American Bar in the heart of Paris and originator of the Bloody Mary. And, notably, the location of the de-flowering of the 16-year old James Bond. It boasts a long list of famous clientele, including the PGB frequent “guest” Ernest Hemingway!
Honorable Mention: Speaking of Hemingway, The Ritz hotel was famously “liberated” by him after WWII. The hotel now honors their ties with the legendary author with his own namesake bar. While it didn’t exist in Fleming’s/Book Bond’s time, Papa’s influence on Fleming’s writing makes this anachronistic option a good choice as well!
Only the best for James while he’s in Paris. Except for when he’s taking a casual meal at the train station restaurant. Though I doubt he was grabbing a croque monsieur or onion soup even there!
Bond specifically mentions several lunch spots, all of which are happily still in business. Even a low-key lunch for James would be an upscale one for most of us! Be prepared to splurge.
Cafe de la Paix: The legendary, historic café and restaurant across from the Palais Garnier opera house. There are actually two dining areas: A café and terrace space and a much more upscale (and expensive) restaurant space. I assume James went for the restaurant, so he could drink properly with his meal?
The Café de la Rotonde: One of the two Left Bank restaurants and bars on the list and a favorite haunt of the Lost Generation. Somewhat more affordable than the Cafe de la Paix, depending on what you order. Extensive seafood menu, should you be in the mood.
Le Dome: The other Left Bank option. Apparently Bond was a Right Bank kind of guy? Also known for their seafood, Le Dome is extensively namechecked by the Lost Generation and others! Check out The Earful Tower’s review of the restaurant from earlier this year.
While two of the restaurants specifically mentioned in the books are now closed and at one James’s only imbibed (Fouquet’s above), we do have several options for you to dine à la Bond.
- Le Grand Vefour in the Palais Royal is the OG “grand restaurant” in Paris, opening before the French Revolution in 1784. If you are a Midnight in Paris fan, it is the restaurant where Gil and Inez first run into her friends Paul and Carol. The Vefour has recently reinvented itself from a high-end multi-Michelin star restaurant into a much more accessibly priced brasserie. Bond would probably now exclude this from his list. But for those wanting to Bond on a (relative) budget, it is a good choice.
- Au Caneton is now gone and seems to have closed in the 1980s. It was a bit tricky to find good info but it did however at one point have a Michelin star or stars. Founded in the early 20th century, it was also caught up in the politics of the Nazi occupation. One source I found has described it as “fabulously expensive.” Oh James.
- Lucas-Carton: Still going, it is a one-star restaurant on the place de la Madeleine. The original iteration of the restaurant started in 1860! And its prices are, well, very expensive. Maybe not fabulously expensive. But considerably more than the cafeteria at the IKEA on the opposite side of the place!
- Au Cochon d’Or: another now extinct restaurant, founded in the 1930s and closed in the late 1990s. This should not be confused with Au Pied de Cochon which is still going strong in the Les Halles area. Our Golden Pig was a little out of the way in La Villette in the 19th. Even when going long, Bond stuck with the Right Bank!
While not quite from Bond’s time period, I found this video with several of our restaurants included! This would be the Paris of Fleming’s youth, but Book James would have been in elementary school at this point.
Sleeping With Bond
Repeatedly throughout the books, James tells us that he prefers train station hotels. The one Paris hotel he mentions by name is the Terminus Nord. Which still exists as a hotel, directly across the street from the Gare du Nord. But it is now a hipster boutique chain hotel. So not terribly Bond-y.
“When in doubt, Bond always chose the station hotels. They were adequate, there was plenty of room to park the car and it was better than even chances that the Buffet de la Gare would be excellent. And at the station one could hear the heartbeat of the town. The night-sounds of the trains were full of its tragedy and romance.”Goldfinger by Ian Fleming
One block over, also within view of the Gard du Nord, is the Hotel Whistler, which has a very classic, masculine décor that would have appealed to James. However, as a 4-Star hotel, the price may have been a deterrent. Would he have preferred the more basic New Hotel Gare du Nord? Perhaps it would depend on his “mission”? 😉
Wanting something a little more Movie Bond-esque? Choose from the luxury hotels, including the Ritz, the Four Seasons Hotel George V, the gorgeous Le Meurice, the Midnight in Paris hotel Le Bristol, and possibly the most Bond option: the Intercontinental Le Grand. The cool thing about the Intercontinental is you can have it both ways. Wake up as Movie Bond and have lunch as Book Bond at the Cafe de la Paix, which is the house restaurant of the hotel. Same with the Ritz and it’s hotel bar. Though for those without an expense account, sleeping at the Terminus Nord and dining at the Cafe de la Paix may be the best option.
Safety Note: In regards to the area around all train stations, but especially Gare du Nord, exercise extreme caution. Especially at night. James was licensed to kill and looked for misadventure. The rest of us should strive for safety, not danger!
On A Mission
I assume that you are not, in fact, a secret agent. If you are, be safe out there and get back to work!
For us non-agents, you can go to a few locations that are mentioned in the books and seen in the movies:
Or you can make your own adventure! What spots do you think would be good for a Bond-style escapade? I feel like Paris is ripe for espionage activity, with all of its nooks and crannies, moody weather, and history of political intrigue.
I’m very fond of the visuals of the meetings on scenic bridges or eerily empty parks—the scene in Mission Impossible: Fallout at the Palais Royal was sublime! But I suspect the reality is probably more about hiding in a crowd, where you won’t be noticed among the hustle and bustle.
Check out part of the Fallout scene at the Palais Royal. I think of it every time I’m there!
"Mission: Impossible – Fallout" (2018), cinematography by Rob Hardy pic.twitter.com/FB8C3GrB5G— Todd Vaziri – Time for Universal Health Care (@tvaziri) August 20, 2020
Spies: if you are still reading, please let us know below what the standard operating procedure is for meetups. Public, private, fortuitously empty tourist destinations? Merci!
Bond At Home
Can’t wait to start your Bondian adventure? You can get a taste of the Bond Life from the safety and comfort of you own home. No super villains with incredibly complicated evil plans needed.
To set the mood, you can grab a martini (shaken, not stirred) or make an Americano. The ingredients available in the 1950s have changed in the last 70 years. Here is a recipe that gives some as-equivalent-as-possible options.
If you prefer a soft drink, James was very firmly a coffee guy!
Now that you have your beverage of choice (and maybe petting your cat in a sinister way), you can dive into the movies or books. Suit and tie, tuxedo, or evening gown optional.
Currently (July 2022) the Bond films are available to stream on Amazon Prime for free (with paid Prime subscription), but that could change at any time. Originally they were supposed to be gone by June 15th. But here we are a month later. Maybe Q is helping us out? 😃 Since Amazon now owns MGM and MGM co-owns Bond’s movie rights, I’m hoping they will remain on there for a while!
The first two Daniel Craig films are also available on American Netflix, along with all of the Mission: Impossible films. They do not have expiration dates listed as of this posting.
Need an Amazon Prime Video Subscription or the whole-hog Amazon Prime Subscription? Click on the links for a free trial! Note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from a qualifying subscription purchase.
Lastly, Wikipedia has a handy list of French film locations, both as part of the story and filming locations, should you want to keep to a French theme.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases of these items.
Wanting to enjoy the original adventures? Here are the Fleming novels that take place in Paris or France. I love the current covers!
The collection of short stories, including A View To A Kill.
Beyond the Books & Movies
The danger of writing about a topic you love is that it is a very distracting research endeavor! If you have binged all the books and movies and still want more, the uber-Bond Fans have you covered. Here is some of the content I enjoy:
The Bond Experience YouTube Channel
A Bond Fan that has taken it all the way, including interviewing Daniel Craig! Check out the full experience here.
The James Bond Wiki
Oh yes. On the same platform as the Wookiepedia Star Wars Wiki, this is an incredible place for all things James Bond. Get comfy and go down the rabbit hole.
The Great Bond Debate
Ok, this is for the nerds. But the question of who will be the next Bond has been percolating since Daniel Craig started whining about being Bond (so, pretty much from the start of his run!). The list is either wide open or short, depending on who is summarizing the possibilities. Esquire has given an encyclopedic list, for example. As has British GQ. And the British bookies have Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, and Henry Cavill in the lead.
Personally, I’m rooting for Henry Cavill! He was one of Daniel Craig’s rivals for the role 15+ years ago, but was deemed too young at the time. Though he has so many existing commitments, I fear he won’t be able to do it, even if offered.
Who do you want as the next Bond? And how do we convince them to film in Paris or greater France? Let us know below!
Have you ever day-dreamed of being a spy? Would you want to do it now, with all the inescapable surveillance? Or during the Cold War? Or perhaps WWII? I admit to definitely imagining it! However, with my luck, my assignment wouldn’t be a glamourous European capital or alpine chalet. I would probably end up some place really hot and humid and I am a delicate flower.
But I will be watching out for that dark, handsome stranger with the martini and an air of mystery and danger….
M (Not that M!) (Or am I?)
Header Image: Gun Barrel and Eiffel Tower Silhouette licensed from Adobe Stock. Image created in Canva by author. ©2022 Michelle Keel
Foquets Cafe: “Le Fouquet’s Coffee Shop” 1949.
Au Cochon D’Or: From Vintage Menu Art 1813-1880s Twitter Account. Posted May 21, 2018.
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