In Search of Literary France: A Book-Lover’s Tour of Paris, Northern France & the Channel Islands
France! The very name is full of magic!
France is one of the most civilised countries on earth and French food and wines, French paintings, French cinema, French fashion, French villages, the glorious capital city of Paris, and the châteaux scattered through the lovely countryside are all justly famous. It is hardly surprising that France attracts more tourists than any other country.
Another of the great glories of France is its literature. Writers and intellectuals have traditionally enjoyed great prestige there. Many members of the Académie Française have been authors and have pronounced on public events and held high office in the land. Statues of famous writers can be found in so many public parks and squares, and streets have been named after the great novelists, poets and playwrights in hundreds of towns and cities. French novels and short stories are considered some of the greatest ever written, French plays are familiar to us through film and opera, French poets have broken new ground.
This tour offers you the opportunity to see France through the eyes of these great writers and their works. You will learn about their fascinating lives – the strings of mistresses, the debts, the scandals, the meals they enjoyed, their travels – and you will see the landscapes that inspired them and the places where they wrote. You will meet playwrights – Corneille, Molière and Victor Hugo; novelists such as Flaubert, Balzac, Dumas, Hugo, Proust, Alain-Fournier, Colette, George Sand and Zola; and the poets, Rimbaud and his lover Verlaine. You will see where they are buried, admire statues erected in their honour, wander through their homes and dine where they dined. Their characters have become part of our imaginative landscapes, but now you will see the physical landscapes they inhabited as well – the provinces which stifled Madame Bovary, the town where Eugénie Grandet’s tragic history is played out, the château where Dumas’ musketeers attempt a daring rescue, and the bedroom where Proust’s narrator eats a little cake and experiences something extraordinary.
Over the centuries France has been a magnet to other writers. We will follow in the footsteps of the Americans – Thomas Jefferson, Longfellow, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton and Henry James (to name just a few); of the British – Robert Louis Stevenson, Trollope, Ruskin and Dickens; of the Irish – Oscar Wilde and James Joyce; and of many others such as New Zealand’s Katherine Mansfield and Russia’s Ivan Turgenev. You will learn how France shaped these men and women as writers, inspiring them and filling them with the longing to return again and again.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour. Susannah is a mine of information, presented with wit and charm, and her poetry readings on the bus were a wonderful bonus. The tour took us to lots of places we would never have got to ourselves and all the planning work is taken care of.” Stephen – In Search of Literary France, 2013
No French literary tour would be complete without an emphasis on food, for French writers have lovingly described meals, set scenes in cafes and used food endlessly in their works. In Parisian brasseries they have discoursed by the hour on their writings and philosophies. We will sample some of the delicacies they wrote of, sip the fine champagnes and wines they indulged in, and treat ourselves to fine cheeses just as the characters they created did on market days.
When the Impressionist painters first tried to display their works, they were met with ridicule from the art critics of the day. One man, however, was more discerning – the novelist Émile Zola. He championed their paintings at the risk of losing his own reputation, he put his friend Cézanne into one of his novels, and he sat as a model for both Cézanne and Manet. Literature and art connect often in France and on this tour we will have the pleasure of visiting many fine galleries, admiring sculptures of great writers, viewing tapestries that have intriguing historical stories to tell. We will walk through landscapes that inspired both the pen and the brush.
A reading and film list will be supplied and the more you read from that list, the more you will enjoy the tour. However, it is not essential to have a detailed knowledge of French literature in order to enjoy the journey. Susannah will narrate the stories of the authors themselves and inspire you to further reading. Local guides and hosts will join us along the way, to further add to your knowledge and enjoyment.
Flaubert once wrote that “pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory”. With this tour you will encounter both his sorts of pleasure, but you will also find pleasure in between the anticipation and the memory – the intense pleasure that comes from the actual experience of searching out and discovering the treasures and the personalities, the art and the architecture, the scenery and the sacred sites, of literary France.
Praise for Susannah Fullerton’s tours – click here.