My husband and I have been over two weeks in Paris, and today is our last day here.
I’ll be spending much of it in the library of La Fondation Napoleon, but I’m tempted to slip in an hour as a flâneur this morning, strolling the book stalls by the Seine … and perhaps even take some photos.
I’ve not taken many, in part because it has been very much a working trip.
For the first two weeks I was in class at l’Alliance Française Paris.
At level B1, I was in way over my head, but the teacher was fantastic, very charming, and so I persevered—and I’m happy I did so. I’m less shy now about speaking French, and in another ten years … who knows? By the time I’m 80, I might be able to understand what people are actually saying.
In any case, I was absolutely enchanted—besotted!—with the teacher’s Smart Board. This technology is years old, but it blew me away. I had no idea! On a Smart Board a teacher can move images around, write, move words, scroll, call up videos, play audio, switch between pages, connect to the Net: anything.
Immediately I thought: every home needs a Smart Board. More to the point: I need a Smart Board. Imagine outlining a novel on it, calling up character images … ! Seeing a Smart Board, I felt the same kind of revery I experienced first seeing a computer. What a tool!
When I wasn’t in class or frantically preparing homework (or eating fine food and drinking fine wine), I plunged into research. Our first weekend in Paris it was the Journées du Patrimonie, when many historic places are opened to the public. I wanted to see inside the Petite Luxembourg Palace, where Josephine, Napoleon and “the kids” — Hortense and Eugène — lived before the move to the Tuileries.
The lines and crowds were overwhelming, and the public was only allowed into a few rooms of the Petite Luxembourg, but I did see the room believed to be the one Napoleon worked in.
Of course, it would have been a bit thread-bare then.
The Luxembourg palace itself is, of course, amazing. Here, the library:
It would have been quite a bit different just after the Revolution, of course. It had been used as a prison, and had no doubt been vandalized.
Also around Paris, I searched out sites:
—the location of La Chantereine (discovering how very long the lane way must have been);
—where the mother of a character killed herself during the Revolution;
—where Talleyrand lived (and gave a ball);
—where Napoleon’s brother Lucien Bonaparte lived (and likewise gave a ball).
And, of course, the Louvre, where I lingered by portraits of my characters.
I loved seeing the glittering detail of Josephine’s gown up close:
Venturing out-of-town, we went to Château de Grignon, the home of Hortense’s best friends (and now a school)…
… and to Joseph Bonaparte’s country château Mortefontaine, where I was very very lucky to connect with the owner and be given a private tour.
Last, we went to Saint-Germain-en-Laye where I was again very lucky that a former resident was kind enough to show us into the place where Madame Campan’s school used to be. Much of it is new, but there are some remnants of the former Hôtel de Rohan:
In the back garden, there was this intriguing bit of antiquity:
A bit of the former chapel, perhaps?
Of course, as is always the case with travel research, I discover that I have quite a few changes to make in the next draft, which I will begin next week. But until then, time to flâneur.