The ice cream shop

Our next location search took us to Place Pascal Pauli. This is a wonderfully open town square, with a beautiful church, and many cafés and restaurants. Local people played pétanque beneath the shade of the venerable platane trees. A handful of tourists looked on while they enjoyed a coffee, a beer or some ice cream.

So it was with great enthusiasm, stemming from our success at the pier, that we scanned the establishments along the southern edge of the square for an ice cream parlour. To our surprise there on the corner close to where we stood was La Glacier. As a reminder - the reason for this interest in finding an ice cream seller was to attempt to identify both the person in the photo and the exact location.

Once again without any hesitation Uli made a direct path to the doorway of La Glacier and engaged the gentleman standing there in conversation. “Excuse me sir, I’m sorry but I do not speak French”, in what I would find to be a recurring mantra throughout our expedition! The man greeted us warmly and I presented the photograph to him, which he took in his hand with great curiosity as Uli explained.

The waiter with Mr Button in 1970. Grasshopper Productions (1970)

“Ah yes, I know him”, he replied in French, before calling a young woman from inside to join us at the doorway. Thankfully this young lady was able to speak a little English, and she translated the words of her colleague. We asked if the building in the photo was this very ice cream parlour but the gentleman replied it was not. He thought it might be the façade of another café just few doors up. We thanked them and they pointed us toward the Café des Platanes. By now, we had noticed that all of the façades were quite modern and stylish in appearance, and that none of them resembled the façade of the ice cream parlour in the photo from 1970.

We made our way the short distance to Café des Platanes, where Uli once again charmed an unsuspecting member of the public who was standing outside. This local gentleman was the correct age to possibly know the name of the waiter in our photo. Sure enough, after studying the photo for no more than 3 seconds, he proclaimed in English (to our great delight)  - “Yes, I know him, he is Paul Viard”. He was a really nice man and went on to explain that although Mr Viard had sadly passed away, his daughter was living in L’Île-Rousse and that she had a business not far from where we stood. This local gentleman was of great assistance but in our excitement we forgot to ask him his name. Nonetheless we thank you sir !

By now the young proprietor of the café joined us at the door, partly because we were blocking it and partly to see if we needed any help. We introduced ourselves to this young man and learned his name was Jean. He was charming and told us that he was the son of the proprietor. He was in charge of the café until his father returned in the afternoon. Jean studied the photo, but we already knew that he would be far too young to know the man in the picture. So we told him all of the facts that we had learned so far. I opened the iPad and played the scene featuring the character Mr Button interacting with this man we now know to be Paul Viard. Jean confirmed what the previous gentleman had told us; that one of Mr Viard's daughters - Nicole - had a children’s clothing store just around the corner. Its name was Bambi. We also asked Jean if he thought the building in the video clip could be Café des Platanes. He was not certain, but was sure his father would know. Around us local people were listening intently to our conversation - for we must have seemed strange - two curious strangers with funny accents showing photographs and video clips !

Careful not to forget anything we had discovered, we took a seat and summarised our findings in my notebook. We decided that it might be an idea to walk over to this shop called Bambi. Would the owner be aware that her father had appeared briefly in this UK television production all those years ago? Perhaps he had mentioned it. Or maybe it was lost to the winds of time. Either way it would certainly be an interesting encounter. We gathered our things and said farewell to young Jean, promising to return later to show his father – elder Jean - the video clip.

Off we set and just moments later we arrived on foot to Place Marcel Delanney. A large sign over a doorway said Bambi so we went inside. Uli greeted the lady sitting at the counter of the shop in his best French. “Hello Madam, I do not speak French” he exclaimed with hands aloft and a warm smile on his face. “Ah Bonjour” she replied. “We have something to show you”, he proclaimed, this time in English.  Handing her the photo, we were delighted to see an expression of recognition and curiosity flash across her face in equal measure. “Oh - it’s my father”, she replied. She confirmed that she was indeed Nicole.

We explained to her the origin of the photograph and asked if she had ever known about the filming of a British children’s TV series on the island. She had not, and could not recall her father, Paul Viard, ever mentioning it. I then played the video clip a couple of times, and we found it very uplifting to see this lovely lady marvel at the image of her late father moving on the screen.

Nicole asked if she could take a video recording of the short clip, using her phone, and of course we agreed. We enquired about the building in the background, and were fascinated to discover that it was in fact a hotel owned by her grandmother, that once existed on Place Pascal Pauli. Sadly this building is no longer in the stewardship of the family, but it is now a restaurant called Les Quatre Becs.

Nicole holding a screen grab featuring her father Paul in Grasshopper Island (1970)

Nicole was very generous with her time and even agreed to pose for the photo above, holding a still frame image of her father Paul as he was in Grasshopper Island. It was a wonderful encounter for us and we were thrilled to bring a smile and some news to somebody living in L’Île-Rousse, in addition to meeting a relative of the waiter who served Mr Button a meal, way back in 1970. Thank you Nicole for taking time to speak to us and allow a photo to be taken ! It was wonderful to meet you.

We now felt that the mission to find the “ice cream” location was complete. We had not photographed the actual building but we had discovered a much more interesting story. A living relative of the wonderful waiter Mr. Viard - who acted so naturally on camera and made the scene so memorable all those years ago.

Some time had passed by now – so we decided to say farewell to Nicole and revisit Café des Platanes just a short walk away. We took a seat and ordered two grande café with milk and enjoyed the hospitality as we reflected on our experience in L’Île-Rousse so far. We placed the photos on the table and began looking through them. We had photos of the “little house” which Toughy, Smarty and Mouse had discovered on arriving to Grasshopper Island. We had photos of the post office where Mr Button went to send his letter of discouragement to his sister. We had photos of the beach where the eager crew of the ex lifeboat first arrived with the musical trunk. Would we find all of these places? We would surely need some help.

Soon a waitress arrived with our coffees and young Jean came to greet us once again. “I will call my father” he said as he held a telephone to his ear. A few feet away a ring-tone could be heard springing to life and a man standing in the square pulled a phone from his jacket pocket and answered. It was elder Jean ! He came over to us and young Jean explained that we were the visitors who had old film footage of the square. Elder Jean was friendly and welcoming and seemed thrilled as we began by showing him some of our photos.

We didn't know it – but elder Jean was about to help us identify another local person within the footage and a very interesting location. The very place where Lupus could be seen buying grocery supplies. Come back soon as we reveal how the next location hunt took us into the hills above L’Île-Rousse and the extraordinary chance discovery of another living descendant!


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