Today was a beautifully sunny day, so what better reason than to go for a walk around Paris? I decided not to just wander aimlessly though. I was going to meet up with Morgan for a great afternoon retracing the footsteps of the famous writer Victor Hugo and discover “his” Paris!
The first stop was the Saint-Germaine-des-Prés Cathedral, built in 558 by Merovingian King Childebert I. The oldest remaining church in Paris, it was in shambles during the 19th century and Victor Hugo worked to save and restore the building. As it still stands today, it is easy to say that he was indeed successful in his endeavor. Many Merovingian kings and foreign dukes have been buried there, alongside French scientists like René Descartes, and the heart of King John II Casimir Vasa of Poland. The church is filled with old oil paintings and beautiful, colorful decoration up every pillar.
Shortly after exciting the church, Morgan and I happened upon an old shop selling letters and literature from days gone by. As luck would have it, there was one of Hugo’s letters displayed in the window. Hugo is guiding us everywhere today.
The Seine Booksellers
Walking along the Seine River to Notre Dame, we passed many old booksellers set up along the shores. Hugo often walked along the shores of the Seine to travel or to acquire inspiration, just as the shore still inspire so many today. It didn’t take us long before we found some books written by the man of the day himself.
This lovely and very expensive restaurant was around during Hugo’s time as one of his favourite spots to dine. The restaurant was closed that afternoon (not like we could have afforded it anyways), but the façade outside yields a glimpse into the world of decadence that Hugo would have undoubtedly been surrounded by.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Another church that was on its way out when Hugo lived, Notre Dame cathedral was nearly destroyed before Hugo’s intervention. This time however, he used the cathedral as the location for his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The book was such a success that not only was the cathedral saved and restored, but Notre Dame even added the carved stone gargoyles that Hugo described in his novel, which until then hadn’t existed except as a figment of Hugo’s imagination.
Church of Saint Paul – Saint Louis
The last church on the list, this one is a location from another one of Hugo’s great works, Les Misérables. Here, characters Cosette and Marius married. Hugo wrote “People halted in the Rue Saint-Antoine, in front of Saint-Paul, to gaze through the windows of the carriage at the orange-flowers quivering on Cosette’s head”. Not much has changed over the last 200 years, including the shell-shaped holy water fonts that guard either side of the entrance. These were donated by Hugo, who was a parishioner of the church. Like Cosette, Hugo’s daughter Léopoldine married in this church in 1843.
Victor Hugo’s House
The last stop was to Victor Hugo’s apartment, which still remains as he would have had it. The drawing rooms contain some of his furniture, as well as paintings of his family. The bedroom centres around the four poster canopy bed, which is original to the apartment and was used by Hugo while he live there. Occupied by Hugo from 1832 – 1848 with his wife Adèle and his four children, it was in this apartment that Hugo authored Ruy Blas, Les Burgraves and portions of Les Misérables.