I had a hilarious interaction with one of my French teachers yesterday. I can't even remember where the conversation started but somehow I got on the subject of going on a Harry Potter walking tour with my kids in London last spring.
"Harry Potter," I said. And I said it straight because if there is one thing I can't stand, it's Anglophones pronouncing proper English words with a fakey French accent.
It went round and round for a bit. I looked at my Canadian and Japanese classmates who knew exactly what I was saying. I also knew that while my teacher must be in her mid to late 70s, her grandchildren certainly have read Harry Potter. What kid hasn't these days? And then the light bulb went off.
"Ahh...." she said. "Airee Pote-air." Big grins all around.
Not two hours later, I found myself face to face with evidence that a character from Harry Potter had actually lived in Paris.
Yes, Nicholas Flamel, alchemist, writer, bookseller, and central figure in the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or the Philosopher's Stone if you read the original, British version) was a real person. His house at 51 rue de Montmorency in the 3rd arrondissement is still standing, perhaps the oldest building in the city today. At a later date, the city named these two streets, about a quarter mile's distance away, for Flamel and his beloved wife Pernelle.
Did Flamel actually discover the secret of everlasting life? His death was recorded as the street sign indicates in 1418, but his tomb is empty and he was sighted at the opera as late as in the 17th century. He's been keeping a low profile ever since.