Literary Pilgrimage

This weekend was my last weekend in Paris *tear* and looking back I have to say I came to know Paris quite well. I loved the elegant architecture, the history, the museums, the cafes, the gardens, everything. But one of the main reasons I have always wanted to go to Paris, and one of the reasons I came to love it so, is that Paris has been the home of some of the world’s greatest authors, whether by birth or choice. My trips to Paris have in a way been a pilgrimage – a chance to see the places I had read about for years, to walk in the footsteps of my favorite authors.


The most important place to see in Paris if you are a literary lover is the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the first English language bookstore in Paris. Back in the day, it was a gathering place for the writers from the Lost Generation. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot (love), and F. Scott Fitzgerald (adore) all “hung out” here, and the bookstore published Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Ulysses when they were still banned in the US and England (oh those Libertine French!). Unfortunately the bookstore shut down under Nazi Occupation, but this current one opened in 1951 and channels the spirit of the original bookstore.

Books cover every square inch and there are old, squeaky armchairs throughout. It’s everything a bookstore should be.

“To The Illustrious Master” Victor Hugo by Rodin

If you read my blog, you have probably noticed that I’m a Victor Hugo fan. (See the quote at the top.) When I first watched Les Misérables the movie, it rocked my world, and I have since read the book and seen the play twice. I’m currently reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame and am inspired by it too. Basically, he’s the man and I can’t wait to read his works in French and read the actual words that he wrote.

Last weekend in Paris I made it a point to visit his apartment in Paris, which is now a museum.

Climbing the stairs to his apartment.

Climbing the stairs to his apartment.

Some of the rooms are styled as they were when he lived there, recreated from photographs and recovered family furniture and belongings.

The Red Room, a recreation of their drawing room with many of their paintings and furniture.

The Red Room, a recreation of their drawing room with many of their paintings and furniture.

A recreation of Hugo's bedroom.

A recreation of Hugo’s bedroom.

Other rooms are inspired by rooms in his other houses, such as the Chinese room.

The Chinese Room

This room was recreated from photographs of rooms in his mistress’ house, who often traveled and lived with his family. The room and several of the pieces of art were designed by Hugo himself. Although it may be a bit much, I loved this room the most because it shows his sensibilities and taste.

You can see his initials on the pieces he designed, siuh as this stunning mantelpiece.

You can see his initials on the pieces he designed, such as this stunning mantelpiece.

Some things don't change: Place des Vosges, the view from the apartment windows

Some things don’t change: Place des Vosges, the view from the apartment windows

Another French author of whom I’m a fan is Balzac.

"Balzac" by Rodin

Balzac by Rodin

I’ve only read Le Père Goriot, but that was enough to know he’s a genius. It’s the type of book that after you finish it, you MUST discuss it with someone, and the more you discuss it the more you realize what a masterpiece it is. There is great risk that this post will become one giant review of Le Père Goriot, so I will stop here and simply recommend it to you.

This last weekend, I also tried to go to the Maison de Balzac, but unfortunately it’s closed on Mondays. So here’s the wall out front.

The only stop I didn’t get to make on my literary tour of Paris is the cemetery Père Lachaise, where many, many famous people are buried such as Balzac himself, Chopin, Colette, Heloise, the mime Marcel Marceau, Jim Morrison, Moliere, Modigliani, Edith Piaf, Proust, Gertrude Stein and countless other statesmen, scientists and really anyone who influenced France.

However to me, the main attraction is the grave of Oscar Wilde, whom I adore. But unfortunately, I never made it to the cemetery. Almost every time I went to Paris, it was raining and/or freezing, and it was always on the bottom of Vlad’s list of places to visit. In fact, when I told him I wanted to visit Oscar Wilde’s grave his response was “Why? He was nothing but an immoral libertine with an empty soul who was only mildly witty.” So then of course I had to break up with him.

Just kidding.

I didn’t break up with him, but he was walking a fiiiiine line. I mean mildly witty?? It’s a good thing I wasn’t about to eat muffins when he said that. (If you get that reference, we are friends.)

Although I did not get to see the hotel where he died nor his final resting place, I did walk down the same streets and see the same sights that he saw. And that is enough for now.

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” – Oscar Wilde


About emily

In love with all things travel and culture.
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9 Responses to Literary Pilgrimage

  1. Mom says:

    I ate my muffins quite calmly this morning.
    Loved your post!

  2. Robin Wong says:

    Hi Mimi, Love visiting Paris through your blog! Miss you – Robin

  3. jeffswebb says:

    fantastic post… i’m a fan!

  4. ifiwereartemis says:

    YES! You finally went to Shakespeare and Company. I am so so so jealous.
    I am sad you haven’t been able to kiss Oscar Wilde’s grave yet. We can go together in the summer! Also… Vlad? What is that crazy kid thinking. Shakin’ mah head.

  5. Heavenly. So jealous and I love your coats.

  6. Pingback: Literary Pilgrimage Continued | Life in La Ville Rose

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