Seek out the author of Les Misérables
On the Place des Vosges, the Rohan-Guéménée Hotel houses Victor Hugo's former apartment. From 1832 to 1848, he lived on the 2nd floor of the building with his wife Adèle Foucher and their four kids. At his desk, in that room, in this very townhouse – where he used to write while standing – Hugo will imagine and put to paper some of his major works: Marie Tudor, Les Burgraves, Songs of the Half Light, Les Voix intérieures, Beams and Shadows… as well as part of his masterpiece Les Misérables. The major 19th century author's home has since been transformed into a museum.
Every room, every object and every piece of furniture retains the memory of his presence. The visit is chronological, following the three major stages of his life: before, during and after his exile to Guernsey island.
Family memorabilia, photographs, manuscripts, paintings and sculptures… You'll discover the private life of this illustrious character, as well as a chunk of history: from the antechamber, filled with remains of his youth and first literary successes, to the dining room of Gothic influence, the Chinese living and his bedroom.
Maison de Victor Hugo
6, place des Vosges
+33 (0)1 42 72 10 16
Balzac, a.k.a. Monsieur de Breugnol
The last Parisian house of famous author Honoré de Balzac is hidden in a natural setting, amid the former village of Passy. He lived there for seven years under the “Mr. De Breugnol” alias, to escape creditors. Just go back in time and imagine catching a glimpse of Balzac, sitting at his favourite little desk, big enough to lay an inkpot and a couple of blank sheets. This is where he conceived some of the novels comprised in The Human Comedy.
The museum has preciously stored the writer's sumptuous cane – or rather a sceptre made of gold and turquoise stones. Upon three levels, you'll divide your visit into three parts: start with Balzac's private quarters and discover his study, which has been partially restored, as well as his personal library. You can also contemplate a few paintings that he collected (he was an avid art collector), along with personal items, original manuscripts, etchings, period furniture and so on… In the basement, busts of Balzac, created by sculptors like Rodin, are on display in a charming exhibition room.
Maison de Balzac
47, rue Raynouard
+33 (0)1 55 74 41 80
Boris Vian's apartment behind the Moulin-Rouge
The author of Mood Indigo spent his last days in a Parisian apartment. You'll need a keen eye to spot it, hidden in the Cité Véron of the 18th arrondissement. This is where he wrote Heartsnatcher, right behind the Moulin-Rouge in the former dressing rooms. Jacques Prévert also set up home at the same address. The two friends shared a terrace and organised numerous parties, attracting celebrities such as Miles Davis, Henri Salvador and Eugène Ionesco. On top of his writing abilities, one has to mention Vian's talents for music, poetry, theatre and even DIY craftsmanship – he arranged his own Parisian apartment and adapted the furniture to his own (tall) size. You'll be surprised while visiting the bathroom: the tub was so large he had to break through the wall to install it. As a result, the head is in… the bedroom!
As he attended the premiere of I Spit on your Grave, an adaptation of his eponymous novel, Vian died from sudden cardiac arrest on June 23rd, 1959. In order to visit the house, please contact the Boris Vian Foundation beforehand.
Maison de Boris Vian
6 bis, cité Véron
+33 (0)1 46 06 73 56
Visit by request only
Alphonse Daudet and his house by the Seine
Alphonse Daudet put the finishing touches to his famous Letters from My Windmill in his Champrosay house in Draveil, some 18 miles south of Paris. He settled there in 1887 with his wife and three kids. The Champrosay house became very lively as Daudet used to welcome his friends for artistic gatherings every Thursday: Maupassant, Zola, Proust, Rodin… they all came.
Today, an association is in charge of perpetuating this notion of cultural centre, regularly organising events like evenings of tale recounting or drama workshop.
You'll visit the house room by room, from Daudet's study to the children and guest rooms. Outside, you'll be able to roam across the large garden that spreads up to the Seine. Imagine filling Daudet's shoes, sitting on the same bench, and then taking a few steps along the river. You can visit the house by appointment.
Maison d'Alphonse Daudet
33, rue Alphonse Daudet
+33 (0)6 30 56 79 08
In Zola's green oasis
In the town of Médan, department of Yvelines, a country house of upper class standing comes across as a manor, adjoined with two tall gothic towers. Thanks to the success of L'Assommoir, the seventh novel of the Rougon-Macquart series, naturalist writer Émile Zola bought this “charming burrow on the banks of the Seine” in May of 1878. An architect at heart, he drew a large park, partly shaded by a row of lime trees from spring to autumn. Médan became the stage of charming encounters put together by his wife Alexandrine. Manet, Cézanne, Huysmans, Goncourt and Pissarro all gathered around a table following the author's writing of Nana, Germinal or The Beast Within's first drafts.
Closed for renovation work since 2011, the house will reopen in 2018. It will moreover accommodate the Dreyfus Museum, thanks to Pierre Bergé's patronage campaign. In 1894, Jew captain Alfred Dreyfus was mistakenly accused of high treason and his consecutive imprisonment divided all of France. Care to know what happened next? Let's meet in 2018 to discover this new museum space.
La Maison Zola
26, rue Pasteur
+33 (0)1 39 75 35 65
Since 1902, every first Sunday of October, tribute is paid to Émile Zola in the house garden, starting from 3:00 p.m.
The Way by Proust's
“For a long time, I went to bed early”, tells the narrator in the famous incipit of In Search of Lost Time. As he tells his memories of Combray, the protagonist experiences troubling remembering episodes. Invited by his mother for tea, he enjoys “plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines', which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell”. They are the same treats his aunt Léonie used to give him, “dipping [them] first in her own cup of tea or tisane”.
About 70 miles from Paris, imagine Marcel Proust, then aged six or seven, wandering around the small flowered garden of Jules and Elisabeth Amiot, the future writer's uncle and aunt. Embanked at a street corner in the city of Illiers-Combray, the house was arranged using references to his own work, from the orange grove to the attic, in a fashion to stimulate his mind and his pen. Rush into the lovely kitchen of provincial charm, contrasting with eastern softness of the parlour, filled with manuscripts, letters and photographs.
Maison de Tante Léonie
4-6, rue du Docteur Proust
+33 (0)2 37 24 30 97