When I met… Francis Ford Coppola

I wish I could remember her name. When we one day move to a house again and get our stuff out of storage I’ll find my old travel diary and find out. Not that it makes a big difference.
She was so sassy. Had such confidence. Such ease. When one of the guys came back to the hostel and said he reckoned he’d seen Francis Ford Coppola sitting outside a restaurant he owned, immediately I wanted to go there. Of course I did. Who wouldn’t? But that’s not terribly British – running off to… well, what, exactly?  Well nothing. To Britishly walk shyly by a famous director pretending you haven’t noticed him, probably.


Well, my Turkish friend (did her name begin with a ‘C’?) was all ‘which restaurant, where, what time?’ She was determined and we were going. Tomorrow. I was thrilled. Thank heavens for people like her.  Of course the chances of Mr Coppola being there the next night too were slim – if he had even been there the first time. But I was going and if he was there I was going to confidently walk past pretending I hadn’t noticed him.


I knew which building we were heading for, I’d walked past it. A cool, green facade. Quite a slim profile. Funky. Distinctive. Slightly Flat Iron Building-esque. I’d done a lot of walking around San Francisco by then and fancied I’d got a pretty good handle on the place… No – we didn’t quickly Google it to find out more. It was 1998. Remember then? No internet!
Fast forward to 2015 and it looks to me like it was Cafe Zoetrope. Must have been. Absolutely, that was the place.


Cafe Zoetrope2 copy


So C and I meander though the balmy San Francisco evening, trying not to hope. We don’t care one way or the other, really – we’re just taking a long way round to the burrito shop. May as well see if a certain incredibly famous director is outside his restaurant along the way.
We don’t rush up Kearny Street, we’re just ambling. It’s an evening stroll. A constitutional. A little passeggiata if you will. We’ll get there in our own good time.
Green building looming. Relax the pace. Don’t rush.
People sitting outside. Chill. Don’t stare. Leisurely glances….
Heart leaps. There’s a largish fellow. Of a certain stature. Breathe.  He’s sitting at a pavement table. Definitely bearded. Gulps. Distinctly Francis Ford Copolla-esque.
What do we do? Just walk by and smile. That’s what, You’re British, remember?


“Are you dat director guy?” Oh. My. God. It’s C. She’s only gone and rocked right up and said it out right. And she hasn’t even used his NAME! I’m standing there, gormless.
He’s not gormless. Or looking confused. Or offended. he’s looking at C and smiling a bit and saying “Yes, I’m that director guy!”
It’s only bloody him. I mean. It really is. And he’s a real life human being and everything.


Black and white image of film director and businessman Francis Ford Coppola

He’s a real life human being and everything

She’s so gutsy, C. Of course he talks to her. Who wouldn’t? And the fascinating accent… Before I really know what’s happening Mr Coppola has invited us to join him for a glass of wine. Yes, really.  And he’s calling his Sicilian chef over (he’s handsome) and introducing him to us and ordering wine and very soon he and C are taking about the Ottoman Empire, and other subjects about which I know nothing. I’m feeling like the British wallflower I am (or was, then – I think I’m a little less wallflowery now, though still clueless about the Ottoman Empire I’m afraid). Then Francis (which I never call him, damn my lack of confidence) is rummaging in his brain for the name of a song about Istanbul, or is it Constantinople? BINGO! As I recall it I even managed to sing a little of They Might Be Giants’ song ‘Istanbul’ and FFC joined in. Quite possibly the only contribution I made to the conversation. But an important one, I think.
And I suppose the chit chat went on a little longer. I seem to recall we may have met Mrs Copolla too. Gosh – you’d think the details would be clearer. Eleanore… I remember him introducing her. Then we finished our wine, said our thanks and went to get that burrito. Which was the important part of our evening meander, after all.


Photo of a burrito, cut through, on a plate with some of the contents on the plate, and a fork.

This just makes my mouth water. I am SO making burritos this weekend.

Café Zoetrope image used under Creative Commons licensing, Thanks to Germán Poo-Caamaño on Flickr.
Francis Ford Coppola image, Creative Commons License here, thanks to FICG.mx on Flickr.
Burrito image also used under Creative Commons license, thanks to Adam Groffman on Flickr.

Thanks for visiting my blog. If you enjoyed this post, do hang around a read some more.

At the moment I’m mostly writing about life in the French Alps, where we moved kind of by accident last March.  Now and again I write about something else – like this little episode from my travels in 1998-1999 that came back to me recently.



One thought on “When I met… Francis Ford Coppola

  1. Hello ,

    I saw your tweet about animals and thought I will check your website. I like it!

    I love pets. I have two beautiful thai cats called Tammy(female) and Yommo(male). Yommo is 1 year older than Tommy. He acts like a bigger brother for her. 🙂
    I have even created an Instagram account for them ( https://www.instagram.com/tayo_home/ ) and probably soon they will have more followers than me (kinda funny).

    I have subscribed to your newsletter. 🙂

    Keep up the good work on your blog.



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