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One Day

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The Romantic Locations of One Day

Introduction

In director Lone Scherfig's romance One Day, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) meet in Scotland in 1988, on the day they graduate from Edinburgh University. For the next nearly two decades, the two find their lives interwoven in ways they could never have imagined when they parted on an Edinburgh street for the first time. Their journey through life takes them to London, Paris, and elsewhere, and the places they meet tell us a lot about who the characters are and what is happening to them. Here we chart out a map of Emma and Dexter's adventure by looking at the locations where their story unfolds.

Edinburgh: Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat, the peak that rises over Edinburgh, plays a poignant role in One Day.  Soaring some 800 feet up above the Scottish capital, the geological landmark provides breathtaking views of the city, the surrounding areas and the North Sea in the distance. In the film, Dexter and Emma do what so many Edinburgh residents do––meander up the grassy slopes to reach the top. The name of the peak supposedly refers back to King Arthur, although many have suggested alternative interpretations. One is that the name is a corruption of Àrd-na-Said (Height of Arrows), which would have translated into Archer’s Seat, and later Arthur’s Seat. In legend, Arthur's Seat has been mentioned as a possible location for Camelot, the mythical court of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But more than anything, the spot remains an enduring place of romance and reflection. The poet William Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy wrote in 1803 about how Arthur’s Seat transformed the bustling urban city below into a source of gentle meditation: “We set out upon our walk and went through many streets to Holyrood House, and thence to the hill called Arthur’s Seat, a high hill, very rocky at the top and below covered with smooth turf, on which sheep were feeding. …there, instead of the roaring of torrents, we listened to the noises of the city, which were blended in one long indistinct buzz, –– a regular sound in the air, which in certain moods of feeling, at certain times might have a more tranquilizing effect upon the mind than those which we are accustomed to hear in such places.”

Paris: Café le Neamours

When Dexter meets his mother (Patricia Clarkson) in Paris, they rendezvous at Café le Neamours, a classic cafe off the Palais Royale. It’s a perfect spot for them –– or anyone –– to meet. The elegant establishment, amid many of Paris’ best-known cultural landmarks, holds its own. In fact, National Public Radio correspondent Susan Stamberg bragged that Nemours had Paris’ best croque-monsieur (that tasty toasted cheese and ham sandwich that is ubiquitous in French cafes). Just a short walk from the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries, Café le Neamours is best known as a haunt of actors who wander over from the neighboring Comédie-Française. This institution, founded in 1680 by the decree of Louis XIV, has remained Paris' most important theater, showcasing the works of Frances greatest playwrights, like Molière, Racine and Corneille.

France: The Landscape of Brittany

Driving from Paris to Dinard, Dexter and Emma witness some of Europe’s most stunning landscapes and charming small towns. The landscape of Brittany has long been renowned for its beauty, and artists from Claude Monet to Georges Seurat to Paul Gauguin have traveled there to paint. 

France: Dinard

One of the most stunning locations in One Day is the French resort of Dinard, the town to which Dexter takes Emma for a getaway. Located on the Côte d'Émeraude in Brittany, not far from St. Malo, Dinard enjoys unique weather for the area. Located right on the Gulf Stream, the resort regularly sports temperatures several degrees higher than those of adjoining areas. Sometimes called the Nice of the North, Dinard became the place to be in the 19th century when wealthy American and British tourists, hoping to find a continental resort that was not “too foreign,” began to flock there. The money brought in by these affluent visitors accounts for the beautiful mansions that surround the small beach town. Many artists have sought inspiration here. Two Picasso landscapes––Deux Femmes courants sur la plage and Baigneuses sur la Plage––were painted here.  The French town’s English connection is further expressed by its hosting a Festival of British Film each October, although the statue of Alfred Hitchcock commemorating the event scowls in the town center all year round.

Paris: 11th Arrondissement

When Emma moves to Paris to write her first novel, she finds a charming artist-style apartment in the 11th arrondissement. For those Paris-savvy people, it’s a perfect neighborhood. Previously a quiet, if densely populated, working-class area, the 11th has recently become the hip spot for up-and-coming writers and artists. Perhaps the neighborhood's most important landmark, the Bastille, was the fortress stormed on July 14, 1789 by the angry mob who took over the arms depot, thus sparking the French Revolution. Today, the area is home to the Opéra Bastille, Paris’ stunning modern opera house. The bars and nightclubs along Rue Oberkampf in the 11th provide plenty of fun for the young and adventuresome, while more restrained enjoyment can be found at the Cirque d’hiver and the Edith Piaf Museum.

Paris: Canal St. Martin

In Paris, Emma catches up with Dexter by the Canal St. Martin, a waterway close to both her apartment and where her French boyfriend plays jazz. Again, the location is perfect for this couple. Romantic, but hardly cliché, the Canal St. Martin is a watery landscape that runs through the 10th arrondissement. Started in 1802, by decree of Napoleon, the canal was intended to bring fresh water to Paris’ growing population. It soon became a transport for food and wine as well. But the waterway’s graceful plane trees and iconic arched bridges also have made it one of the city’s most lovely spots. The Impressionist Alfred Sisley painted it in 1870, and it has appeared in a number of films, including Marcel Carné's 1934 Hôtel du Nord and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 Amélie. In 1960, President Georges Pompidou pushed to pave over the canal, but luckily the proposal failed. As such, Paris still has this romantic urban landscape.

London: Floridita / Metza

In a scene that captures the luxury and excess of the 1990s, Dexter and Emma have it out in a public squabble at a posh London restaurant. The location for the scene is Floridita, a Cuban-style cafe that is situated in the center of London’s trendy Soho district. Above this café lays Metza, a mega restaurant opened in 1995 by Sir Terence Conran, London’s grand designer and restaurateur. Even more interesting is the building's earlier history as the Marquee nightclub. Soon after the Marquee opened at 90 Wardour Street in 1964, it became one of the London’s most happening rock clubs. In the 1960s, groups like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Yes, and Pink Floyd––to name just a few––got their first gigs playing at The Marquee. New wave and punk took over in the 70s with groups like Joy Division, The Cure, and The Police. When The Sex Pistols opened there, Johnny Rotten made such a scene that he became one of the few musicians banned from The Marquee. In the 1980s, a newer wave hit with U2, Duran Duran and Erasure. The club appears prominently in the Wham! music video for “I’m Your Man.” By the end of the 80s, The Marquee was sold off for redevelopment before being bought up and transformed into the chic restaurants that now exist there. 

London: Hampstead Heath Lido

In One Day, Emma swims at one of the celebrated art deco lidos on Hampstead Heath. First opened in 1938, these lovely pools were designed by architects Harry Rowbotham and T.L. Smithson, chief designers of the parks department. These and other beautiful art deco designs were part of a national campaign in the 1930s to encourage public health. Kenneth Cross, a leading architect of the time, made the pressing case for public spaces that endorsed fresh air, sunlight and exercises, as “an urgent and ever insistent national need.” For Emma, swimming at this graceful public space is part of everyday London life. In addition to this pool, Hampstead Heath, one of London’s larger parks, offers several outdoor swimming ponds, which have been used by brave bathers since the middle of the 19th century.

London: The Lady Chapel in Westminster Cathedral

In One Day, when Tilly (Jodie Whittaker) gets married at The Lady Chapel in Westminster Cathedral, both Dexter and Emma are in attendance. It’s a magnificent space in one of London’s most important Catholic churches. Conceived in the 19th century, after the Catholic Church reestablished itself in England, Westminster Cathedral was designed by John Bentley under the instructions that it should have a wide nave and look nothing like the better-known Westminster Abbey. Avoiding the more common Gothic style, Bentley turned to Byzantine architecture for design precedents. The Cathedral’s towering redbrick edifice became a significant addition to the Neo-Byzantine movement that occurred in Britain towards the end of the 19th century. In keeping with the Byzantine style, the cathedral, and especially the Lady Chapel, sports luminous and detailed mosaics. In the Lady Chapel, the altar is centered on a mosaic of the tree of life (with Mary and an image of London on its left, and St. Peter and image of the cathedral on its right). Designed by Robert Anning Bell, and put in place by Gertrude Martin in 1912, the mosaic hints at a wide range of Biblical meanings and stories. One of the most interesting details is the incorporation of so many birds throughout. Partially suggesting the annunciation, partially used as decoration, the birds in the Lady Chapel, according to historian Patrick Rogers, “total …163, of which at least 44 are symbolic, 18 more carry a message and the rest are…just birds.”

London: Rio Cinema

As the relationship between Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Ian (Rafe Spall) begins to unfold, they head to the Rio Cinema for a date. For urbane Londoners, the Rio is a cultural oasis. In Northeast London, the movie theater is one of the few remaining art deco palaces, showcasing a creative program of first-run, revival and foreign fare, including a Turkish film festival. Originally opened in 1915 as the Kingsland Empire, the building went through several drastic makeovers until it became the Rio. Its famous curved art deco front was designed by F. E. Bromige and created in 1937. But the name “Rio” did not adorn the building till much later.

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