on April 29, 2008
Walking through the Marais section of Paris, we were thrilled to discover Victor Hugo's old house in the Place des Vosges. First, let me touch upon this lovely square. Once a neighborhood for the rich and royally connected, all that changed after the French Revolution. By the time Napoleon was in charge, even the square's name of "Square Royal" was no longer acceptable. Sooo, Napoleon cleverly had a "naming contest" of sorts. Whatever region of France coughed up their taxes first would be honored with having the square named after it for ever more. It was like a pizza party for the class of students that turned in all its library fines quickest. The Vosges region loosened their purses first and voila! The square had a new name. On the sunny afternoon we had the pleasure of walking through Place des Vosges, French children were playing in sand boxes while their parents watched on from sun-dappled benches. Fountains spilled water into their basins. A statue of Louis XIII astride his horse puffed out his chest as if thinking, "These are my people...."Second, let's talk about the house itself. Located at number six in one corner of the square, Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserable, among many other famous novels, lived here from 1832 to 1848. When you enter the house, there is a tiny gift shop to the right where you must get a ticket. This ticket is free, so entry doesn't cost anything. However, we opted to get the audio guide wands for an additional Five Euro each. Then it was up the grand staircase to the second floor that contained Victor's 280 square-metre flat in what was the Hotel de Rohan-Guemenee. What was the tour like? Personally, I loved it. There is a ton of detail for Hugo fans to hear, and I would have been very happy to listen to everything. However, my husband was more of the attitude of, "Uhhh... Can you hurry up? The object isn't to read a novel now." The bottom line is this tour is as meaty---or as sparse---as you'd like it to be. If you're on a budget, there are some explanations printed by the artwork in each of the rooms, so you could truly breeze through the house without getting the audio wand or spending much time either. To sum it up? The first room has a small drawing of Hugo's domineering mother, his general father, and the woman he'd marry against the will of both his parents. Then the rest of his life "story" is unfolded through the portraits on the walls and the interior design found in each of the spacious rooms. One room is decorated entirely in an Eastern flair as Hugo loved this style. Of course, Hugo was exiled from France because his writing was always of a political nature, and many of his personal effects were sold off. Fortunately, friends of the family bought some of these to re-create the apartment as Hugo once enjoyed it. The tour ends with Hugo's bedroom. Tip: On another corner of the square is the Hugo Cafe. We didn't stop there, but it looked like a good place to grab lunch or a glass of wine while looking onto the park. From the cafe, take a left onto the rue Francs Bourgeois, and you'll soon find the equally interesting Musee Carnavalet to explore a very short walk away.
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