Transcript for Episode 404: Introduction to Victor Hugo

Category: French Culture

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 404, – quatre cent quatre like the old Peugeot 404.

[00:00:25] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy and news related to travel to France.

[00:00:41] Today on the podcast

[00:00:41] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about the author Victor Hugo, and about France in the 1800s and his huge influence on the country at that time.

[00:00:56] Annie Sargent: During my school years in Toulouse, I read a lot of Victor Hugo and picking up his books 40 years later, I really still enjoy it. I love his work and I love his novels and his poetry.

[00:01:08] Annie Sargent: One thing that we did not mention in the conversation but should have, is that Dickens and Hugo were contemporaries and that Great Expectations was published just one year before Les Misérables. Both books are crafted around similar themes, a lot about the French Revolution and both authors are giants of the romantic style.

[00:01:31] Annie Sargent: This is a great episode to listen to before a visit to Paris, and when you get a chance to see his home on Place de Vosges, you’ll have a greater appreciation for what a giant he was. It’s one of the many free museums in Paris and it only takes about an hour. You need to put it on your list.

[00:01:51] Annie Sargent: For the travel update, I’ll talk to you about Roissybus as an alternative to the RER, and also briefly, the mysterious EU Digital Passenger Locator. More on that after the main conversation on Victor Hugo.

[00:02:07] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my itinerary consult service and my GPS Self-guided Tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app.

[00:02:19] Annie Sargent: And you can browse all of that at my boutique,

[00:02:35] Victor Hugo

[00:02:35] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Elyse!

[00:02:36] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour, Annie!

[00:02:37] Annie Sargent: Today, we have a wonderful person to talk about, Victor Hugo, wonderful author and I’m sure if our listeners know anything about Victor Hugo at all, it’s probably the Broadway musicals.

[00:02:49] Elyse Rivin: Les Mis.

[00:02:50] Annie Sargent: Les Mis, which was very fun. I saw it many times. Have you seen it?

[00:02:54] Elyse Rivin: No.

[00:02:55] Annie Sargent: Oh goodness. I’ve seen it five times.

[00:02:57] Elyse Rivin: But I do know a couple of the songs from it that became very famous. Yeah.

[00:03:01] Annie Sargent: So you probably know him from there. But today, we’re going to tell you some more about him because he was really an extraordinary force in French life. And to this day, we talk about him and we remember him fondly. People who like literature, like me, enjoy his books to this day, but I have to admit, they’re a bit, you know, they’re long and they are, they’re not arduous as far as like, you don’t have to reach for the dictionary all the time, but they are long and convoluted. And I’ll get back to that in a moment.

[00:03:33] Besançon: Victor Hugo’s birthplace

[00:03:33] Annie Sargent: So Victor Hugo is a very interesting person, but the one thing we want to start with is the places in France where you can see where he lived. The first one is Besançon, the place of his birth. Besançon is a smallish city.

[00:03:49] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, it’s a smallish city.

[00:03:50] Places you can visit related to Victor Hugo

[00:03:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah. The place of his birth has been turned into, it’s not really a museum, it’s more of a…where they talk about his political views and his progressive agenda, which was a big thing in his life.

[00:04:04] Elyse Rivin: Very big. Always a political man and he had a big impact on French politics.

[00:04:10] Annie Sargent: And this is a time period. Do you know the dates of his birth?

[00:04:14] Elyse Rivin: He was born in 1802 and he died in 1885. So he covers good chunk of the 19th century.

[00:04:21] Annie Sargent: Right. And these were very political times in French society. I would say that by comparison, today French people are much, much less political. I mean, they sometimes talk about things, but back then it was big, people got into fights over politics.

[00:04:38] Elyse Rivin: Well, I think one of the reasons it was so important and so big was because there were upheavals all the time. Now we have arguments between different political parties, but the system is the same and it has been for decades and decades, whereas the 19th century was like a rollercoaster.

[00:04:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it kept changing.

[00:04:59] Elyse Rivin: It kept changing. It kept changing all the time.

[00:05:01] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes. So this is why it’s very nice that this place in Besançon, the place of his birth, is where you can go learn about his political ideas and what he stood for, which is pretty progressive.

[00:05:13] Elyse Rivin: Which is very progressive, considering the times he lived in, absolutely.

[00:05:17] Place de Vosges

[00:05:17] Annie Sargent: Yeah. The other place you can go to is Place de Vosges.

[00:05:21] Elyse Rivin: Place des Vosges.

[00:05:22] Annie Sargent: In Paris, where he had his private apartment. And his apartment has been turned into a kind of a small museum.

[00:05:30] Annie Sargent: They reopened it, I think a year ago, because they had closed it for some renovation. I don’t think they did a ton of renovation because I saw photos recently of somebody who went just a few days ago, and it looked very much like it did when I went.

[00:05:45] Elyse Rivin: Probably.

[00:05:46] Elyse Rivin: I mean, the building is from the early 17th century, they can do a little bit on the inside, you know? He lived in that apartment from 1832 till 1848. But it was also, I mean, it was a city apartment, at same time he did have a house on the outside of the city, but he did live there.

[00:06:02] Annie Sargent: Right. And it’s very easy to get to if you’re at the Place de Vosges, if you’re facing in the same direction as the King’s statue, it’s to your left, it’s in that corner to your left.

[00:06:14] Annie Sargent: And it’s a free place, there’s usually a little bit of a wait, but I don’t think there’s ever a super long line. It’s worth going if you are in Paris and you would like to see a posh apartment from that time.

[00:06:28] Annie Sargent: And there’s some portraits of his, there’s some memorabilia of his. It’s an interesting visit for about an hour.

[00:06:35] Elyse Rivin: Right. It’s not very big as you mentioned, it gives you an idea of the space he lived in when he was writing.

[00:06:41] Victor Hugo’s Daily Habits

[00:06:41] Annie Sargent: Right. And you can see his standing desk. I know standing desks are big today, but well, he had a standing desk as well. Victor Hugo was someone who liked to, he worked a lot and so he would get up early, go take a brisk walk and then start writing. And in the afternoon after lunch, he liked to have a big lunch. Apparently, he was somebody who really enjoyed

[00:07:03] Annie Sargent: food a lot, some drinking too, but he was not famous for being seen drunk. So he probably paced himself very well.

[00:07:13] Elyse Rivin: How do you know that he ate big lunches, Annie?

[00:07:15] Annie Sargent: Because one of the books I read, one of his biographies, it said that he enjoyed, you know, substantial lunch.

[00:07:22] Victor Hugo achieved great success early in his life

[00:07:22] Annie Sargent: And that’s what, that’s one of the reasons why he was working so hard because he was successful early on in his life, and he was always worried about not being able to support his desire for a nice household, with a couple of servants and nice meals and visitors and you know, by 25, he was already super famous.

[00:07:46] Annie Sargent: And so he needed to have income.

[00:07:48] Elyse Rivin: Maintain his standard of living.

[00:07:51] Annie Sargent: Exactly, and as he got older, he grew a little plumper and plumper every year, as happens to a lot of people. And he was someone who would, so he would start working early, then have a nice big lunch, kind of a late lunch, and then he would play with his kids for at least an hour.

[00:08:10] Annie Sargent: And then in the evening, it was usually social things that he had to go do. But every day, like clockwork, he rarely changed that habit. So that’s how he got so much done.

[00:08:21] Victor Hugo wrote fast

[00:08:21] Annie Sargent: And he was also somebody who wrote very quickly, he did not proofread very much. The proofreading that they did back then was more about putting words on the page, the printers were doing a proofread as far as it had to fit on the page and it looked nice on the page.

[00:08:36] Annie Sargent: But he didn’t have a lot of, he was just a great writer.

[00:08:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah, he could just sit and write and write and barely change anything, which is a good thing, because they didn’t have word processors back then.

[00:08:47] Victor Hugo was a prolific author in all genres

[00:08:47] Elyse Rivin: No, and to add to that, just to get an idea of how prolific he was, they estimate that he wrote 50 volumes of writing, which includes every kind of writing imaginable, which means theater, poetry, letters, personal letters and also letters to newspapers and political letters, novels, short stories, children’s books, pamphlets, travel journals, and political tracts. Did I leave any kind of writing out?

[00:09:16] Annie Sargent: I don’t think you did.

[00:09:17] Elyse Rivin: I don’t think so. The estimate, this is a number I picked up reading about it, but it doesn’t really speak to me as a number, but I give it because it’s impressive, 40 million characters. I’m not sure how many words that comes out to, but he wrote and he wrote and he wrote, and yes, you know, he did start writing very young.

[00:09:35] Annie Sargent: Yes. Apparently, he went through at least four, you know the things that you used to write, like the…

[00:09:40] Elyse Rivin: The pens.

[00:09:41] Annie Sargent: Well pens, but they were in ink.

[00:09:43] He went through four of those a month. They broke, you know, so he just wrote a lot.

[00:09:48] Elyse Rivin: Not surprising.

[00:09:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and all his well his wife, or mistresses or whatever, you’ll talk about that.

[00:09:55] Always had the chore of being his kind of secretary. Yeah. So she had to, whoever she was, she had to, he would dictate letters to so and so, and he wanted her to do the writing at that point, because that was not writing in the morning, that was stuff he would do later on in the day. Anyway, just a quirky guy, you know?

[00:10:14] Elyse Rivin: Well, you know, it sounds like someone, when you think of everything that is known about him, between his thirst and his taste for political activity, his writing, his interests and thirst for being with women, his appetite, he was a man who had great energy and appetites in general. You know, we could say that about him and my guess is like most great men, he did not sleep very much.

[00:10:40] No. Apparently, he was perfectly content with four, five hours sleep at night and that was fine. He would just get up the next day and start all over again.

[00:10:48] Elyse Rivin: Napoleon was like that too. I guess that’s a measure of genius, which puts me out of the category completely.

[00:10:52] Annie Sargent: I am out of that category as well, because I do enjoy a good night sleep. Yes. So there you go.

[00:10:58] Elyse Rivin: I’ll never make it.

[00:10:59] So the other place, so that was the Place de Vosges which I really, I mean, lots of you are going to Paris, you might as well stop there.

[00:11:06] Elyse Rivin: It’s a great place as a stop, especially if you’re going to go to the Marais.

[00:11:09] Yes. And I pointed out in my Marais tour, I point out where it is and whatever as well. But we told you it’s not hard to find.

[00:11:16] Jersey and Guernsey

[00:11:16] Annie Sargent: The other place is Guernsey.

[00:11:18] Elyse Rivin: Is Guernsey, the Island of Guernsey which is called an Anglo-Normand Island.

[00:11:23] Elyse Rivin: Which is very strange, it’s a sort of a category of, these are little islands that are actually off the coast of Normandy, that theoretically, geographically, should be part of France, but they’re not, they’re technically part of the United Kingdom. But there’s Jersey and there’s Guernsey. And he spent couple of years on Jersey at the beginning of his exile. That’s a very important part of the story of his life. But after there, he went next to the Island next door, which is Guernsey and he lived there and he bought a house called Hauteville, Hauteville House, which means High House was probably on top of a hill.

[00:11:58] Elyse Rivin: And so you can go to Guernsey and you can visit the house, which has been turned into a museum.

[00:12:04] Yeah, I haven’t, and I would really like to.

[00:12:05] An Interest in Decoration

[00:12:05] Elyse Rivin: I would love to, too. Yeah, and it’s interesting because one of the things that he was also interested in besides all of these things that we’ve mentioned, was decoration.

[00:12:14] Elyse Rivin: And he was very much interested in art and in design. And he apparently, spent an enormous amount of time and energy decorating Hauteville House. It was a kind of experimentation for him, of trying new ideas and decoration, which somehow doesn’t go with the image I had of him. But that apparently, is really one of the passions he had besides his writing and the politics.

[00:12:38] Elyse Rivin: He liked to be surrounded… By nice, beautiful things, and he had very specific ideas. I don’t know exactly what his ideas were, but he had very specific ideas about decoration.

[00:12:47] Annie Sargent: So I don’t know if it’s anything like Place des Vosges, but on Place des Vosges he had this kind of, he had a room that was a little bit Asian decor, there were some deep greens, deep reds, really bright, you know, bold colors.

[00:13:03] Elyse Rivin: I don’t remember, I was there a long time ago.

[00:13:05] Yeah. But anyway, so he was a really interesting guy and somebody who enjoyed, you mentioned that he had a lot of women in his life, so from the book that I read, and I can’t remember the name of it right now, but I’ll link to it in the show notes, he didn’t start having all these affairs until after his wife cheated on him?

[00:13:26] A brief recap of Victor Hugo’s family history

[00:13:26] Elyse Rivin: Yes. Well, his family history is very interesting. First of all, his father was a general who fought with Napoleon. They were what were called at the time, Bonapartes, so this is that he was born in 1802, this is right in the midst of Napoleon’s big time.

[00:13:41] Elyse Rivin: Andhis mom was from a very well-to-do upper-middle class family. These were not noble people, but they were certainly importantin society. His father and his mother both wound up being people who had affairs. I don’t know, to be honest, if this is just because upper-class society, this was something you could do and nobody cared, but it was kind of known about all this stuff.

[00:14:05] Elyse Rivin: So he grew up in this kind of atmosphere. And when he got married, he got married at the age of 20, and he married his childhood friend and sweetheart, a young woman named Adele.

[00:14:16] Elyse Rivin: She was 18, he was 20. They’d known each other apparently since they were four or five years old. What happened was that for the first 10 years of their marriage everything was fine.

[00:14:27] But she had five children in nine years. And those were the first nine years where he was becoming famous . And apparently what happened was that she got fed up with the fact that he was being solicited as a famous writer already, by the time he was in his mid-twenties. And of course that means by the time he was 30, she said he was never there, and for whatever reasons, she took up with someone who was one of his close friends. So she started by having a boyfriend, I guess we don’t have a word for the male equivalent of mistress, it’s interesting when you think about it.

[00:15:01] Affairs on both sides

[00:15:01] Annie Sargent: A mister.

[00:15:02] Elyse Rivin: Right, she had a mister. She had a mister. When that happened, something must have changed. Obviously, they stayed together, which as part of the story, but I guess at some point he decided, well, you know, if she can, I can. Who knows whether it would’ve been like that? Probably, anyway. A couple of years later, because she stayed with this guy as as her mister for a number of years, and then it was a few years later that he met this young woman who was an actress. Apparently, she was very beautiful and was horrible as an actress. Her name was, apparently, I was reading some things where there were reviews of her acting in plays, and they said that, oh my God, she’s beautiful to look at, but don’t listen to a word she says, you know, that’s how bad she was. And her name was Juliette Drouet and

[00:15:47] Elyse Rivin: you know, whether it was what the French like to call “coup de foudre,” which I love as an expression, which means, you know, black, the lightning strikes and there you are, oh my God. You know, everything disappears. And it’s West Side story all over again.

[00:16:00] Elyse Rivin: Anyway, she became his mistress and she stayed his mistress for the rest of her life. Ah, for 50 years.

[00:16:09] Annie Sargent: That’s a long time. Yeah.

[00:16:10] Elyse Rivin: But even though she literally went with the family. I mean, it’s like she didn’t live in the house with the wife and the kids, but wherever he went, he rented a place for her. So there was the wife with the kids, and then there was this other apartment or house with his mistress, Juliette. And this lasted the entire time of her life. She died just two years before he did, actually.

[00:16:33] Annie Sargent: So like a second family.

[00:16:34] Elyse Rivin: It was like a second family, except that she had no children with him, but she had a house with him on Guernsey, she had a house with him on Jersey.

[00:16:40] Annie Sargent: So how does that work? The business of children is complicated. Because Adele,so the book I read, the author mentions that she at one point, she was sick and tired of getting pregnant every time, you know, she was like…

[00:16:55] Elyse Rivin: Right.

[00:16:55] Elyse Rivin: I mean, you know.

[00:16:57] Annie Sargent: And so she just said, I’m done. I don’t want any more kids. Apparently, she was not like super motherly or something. But then she also had an affair with another guy she could have gotten pregnant by the other guy. I don’t understand this.

[00:17:11] Elyse Rivin: Well, this is going off into a totally different subject, but there were primitive forms of contraception at the time. And then they were probably resorting to other things as well.

[00:17:22] Elyse Rivin: Who knows, you know, because in fact Juliette Drouet actually, she’d had a child before she met Victor Hugo. And he basically brought that child up at the same time. She never had other children. So whether they did something specific or who knows? I mean, you know.

[00:17:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah. This morning I was listening to that book and I was like, how does that work? Like they didn’t have birth control.

[00:17:44] Elyse Rivin: But think about it, Adele, his wife, Victor Hugo’s wife, so they got married, and within space of nine years she had five pregnancies.Four of the children lived to be adults, which is pretty good for the time anyway,the ratio of 80 percent is… it was the first one who died.

[00:18:00] Annie Sargent: And then Leopoldine, which is typical French thing, you know, yeah.But you’re right. I mean, but that’s another whole topic. We can actually talk about some other time, which is things like that.

[00:18:09] Annie Sargent: Contraception? No, we’re not going to talk about contraception.

[00:18:11] Elyse Rivin: No, you know, well, whatever. Women’s ideas about things like that in the 19th century. But what’s interesting is that everyone knew he had his wife Adele, who was basically the manager of his affairs, and then there was his official mistress, which is very much like what the kings used to have, anyway.

[00:18:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:18:27] Elyse Rivin: And then periodically, he would have other affairs with women that lasted anywhere from a few months to a few years, but the one person who actually never, ever left his side was Juliette. And she basically went everywhere with him andeven when they were older, she was only a couple of years younger than him, when they were both in their sixties, it was a standard practice for him, no matter where he was and what the circumstances were of his life, that every year for a month, the two of them would go traveling together. So it was very much,her existence was accepted, it was perhaps not approved of in certain circles, but at least his wife knew about it, everybody knew about it, his kids knew about it, and that was just the way it was, you know? It was a big chunk of his life because he wrote, between the two of them, they estimate that there was an exchange of 22,000 letters.

[00:19:19] Annie Sargent: Wow. So, so they lived together. I mean, they saw each other all the time, they also wrote letters.

[00:19:24] Elyse Rivin: They also wrote letters, yeah. Because there were times when he was busy doing other things or there were times when he was not with her, even though she had an apartment or a house close by. And you know, in those days, I guess mail could come to you two or three times a day. So, it was kind of like now we text each other during the day, you know, and send a message like, Hi, I’m thinking of you. I guess that includes little things like that, I mean, 22,000 letters is a lot of letters.

[00:19:51] Annie Sargent: True. I mean, people get upset if their significant other doesn’t respond fast enough or whatever, you know.

[00:19:58] Elyse Rivin: Right. Well, I mean in those days in Paris, you just went to, they had these people running from one side of the city to the other, delivering mail. You didn’t have to wait to see if it got stuck somewhere after four days in a machine, that kind of thing, but he was prodigious.

[00:20:11] How is Victor Hugo Being Taught in French Schools

[00:20:11] Elyse Rivin: I mean the word, that’s really the word I find appropriate for him because of his output, because of his kind of appetite for women, because of his appetites. I mean, but the thing is also that everything he did was of quality. And then I’m sort of interested in having you talk a little bit about how they teach him in school, I know it was not yesterday that you did this, but.

[00:20:31] Annie Sargent: Okay, so in school, yes, we do get in French school, which is where I went, they do teach about Victor Hugo, but it’s true that we mostly learn about his poems growing up because it’s much shorter. And of course, they’re not going to hit us over the head with Les Misérables, I mean, that’s just way too long.

[00:20:48] Elyse Rivin: Right.

[00:20:49] Annie Sargent: I tried to read it when I was much younger in its entirety, and did not manage to get through it.

[00:20:56] Enjoying Victor Hugo’s novels today

[00:20:56] Annie Sargent: I did not, no, it was too long. But then I read abbreviated versions and there are ton of abbreviated versions of Les Mis and Notre Dame de Paris. And some of them, like, I was looking on Audible yesterday to see if I could recommend one of them, because the one I listened to, I have the unabridged, read by several French actors. And it’s absolutely glorious, because they picked the actors very well and they read it beautifully. It’s a really pleasant thing, but it’s 55 hours of audio, okay. So I think I still have 20 hours to listen to.

[00:21:32] Elyse Rivin: Oh God.

[00:21:34] Annie Sargent: It’s huge, so it’s a really long book, but you have lots of different abridged versions in both French and English. So if you want to listen to it, I recommend it. And if you want to get an abridged version, it’s very good. But in French school at any rate, we mostly do poems because he was a prolific poet.

[00:21:55] I think that’s how he started out, right?

[00:21:58] Le Jeux Floraux

[00:21:58] Elyse Rivin: That’s right. He entered the first poetry contest at the age of 13.

[00:22:02] Annie Sargent: Whoa.

[00:22:03] Elyse Rivin: And he apparently was quoted as saying that he was going to be the greatest poet alive since Chateaubriand, who is an 18th century poet, or he wasn’t going to be anything at all.

[00:22:14] Elyse Rivin: Well, that’s a certain amount of self-confidence I wish I had, you know.

[00:22:17] Victor Hugo started earning with his writing at a young age

[00:22:17] So he entered a contest at 13 and he didn’t win any prizes, but a year later at the age of 14, he entered a contest that’s actually here in Toulouse that have actually talked about in a couple of my visits.There’s this contest here that exists since the Middle Ages called the Le Jeux Floraux.

[00:22:35] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah.

[00:22:36] Elyse Rivin: And the prize is a gold or silver pin in a form of a flower. That’s why it’s called the Floral Games. And here he won three years in a row.

[00:22:46] Annie Sargent: Ah.

[00:22:46] Elyse Rivin: And because he won three years in a row, he got a kind of, it’s like you win three years in a row and then you’re admitted to the Jeux Floraux Academy for the rest of your life.

[00:22:56] Elyse Rivin: And it gave him a stipend that helped keep him going for quite a while, but he was a kid. He was 14 years old when he did that. So obviously, he was really encouraged because he immediately got noticed by some reviewers, and basically by the time he was 17, he was a professional writer.

[00:23:15] Leopoldine’s death

[00:23:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. So we do read a lot of his poetry, and the one that most French people will know, if they don’t know the whole thing, it’s a short poem. And if they don’t know the whole thing, they know the beginning, and it’s called Demain Dès L’aube and he wrote that when his daughter Leopoldine died in a boating accident on the Seine river.

[00:23:39] Elyse Rivin: That was a horrible thing.

[00:23:40] Annie Sargent: Yes. And actually now some people say maybe it was a suicide possibly.

[00:23:46] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know. What I read, I went online to two or three different sites, because I wanted to understand a little bit what was going on.

[00:23:54] Elyse Rivin: Well, from what I understand, so she was 19 and a half, they had been married for a couple of years. She already had two children at 19 and a half, two little babies raised basically. And they went out, she was not supposed to go. It was supposed to be a boating excursion that her husband was going to take with two friends.

[00:24:12] I don’t remember what time of the year it was. And originally, they went out without her. And then for some reason, I can’t remember, something happened and they came back to where she was staying in this house, so that’s along the river, to get something. And since she had already gotten dressed, she said, oh, finally, I will go with you, because her husband had said, do you want to come with us? They were just going to go on this short excursion. And apparently, it was a little sailboat and they went out on the Seine but up river, you know, going closer to Rouen, I think.

[00:24:43] Elyse Rivin: And they were on the boat when apparently, there was some weird phenomenon, some kind of like huge gust of wind and the boat capsized.

[00:24:53] Elyse Rivin: And the problem was that she got caught under the boat and she did not know how to swim. Her husband and the other two people did know how to swim. And what happened was that he kept going back underwater to see if he could get her unstuck, because I guess with all the billowy skirts and everything, she got stuck.

[00:25:11] Elyse Rivin: And the story is, that after trying as much as he could, imagine that this is all in a very short period of time, anyway, when he saw that she was actually drowning, he decided to drown himself as well. And so the two of them drowned together. They had apparently been in love since she was like 14 or something like that.

[00:25:31] Elyse Rivin: And they left two little babies, yes, who were partly brought up by Hugo and his wife, you know, by the grandparents. But she was his favorite child apparently, and look at how young she was when she died.

[00:25:42] Demain Dès L’aube

[00:25:42] So he wrote Demain Dès L’aube and I don’t know, should I try and tell you the poem?

[00:25:48] Annie Sargent: It’s a short poem. It starts with

[00:25:50] Annie Sargent: Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne

[00:25:56] Annie Sargent: Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.

[00:25:57] Annie Sargent: So in English it’s like, tomorrow at dawn, in the hour when the countryside turns white or, you know,

[00:26:06] Elyse Rivin: White with sunrise.

[00:26:07] Annie Sargent: I will go. You see, I know that you’re waiting for me. Then it says:

[00:26:11] Annie Sargent: J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.

[00:26:11] Annie Sargent: Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.,

[00:26:18] Annie Sargent: So I’ll go through the forest,

[00:26:20] Annie Sargent: I’ll go through the mountain,

[00:26:20] Annie Sargent: I cannot stay far from you any longer.

[00:26:23] Annie Sargent: Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,

[00:26:27] Annie Sargent: Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,

[00:26:30] Annie Sargent: Seule inconnu le dos courbé, les mains croisées,

[00:26:31] Annie Sargent: Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

[00:26:38] Annie Sargent: This one is hard to translate.

[00:26:40] Annie Sargent: I will walk, eyes fixed on my thoughts without seeing anything outside of me, nor hearing anything, alone, unknown, my back curved, my hands crossed, sad and the day for me will be like the night.

[00:26:56] Elyse Rivin: It’s very beautiful.


[00:26:57] Elyse Rivin: and very sad.

[00:26:58] Annie Sargent: Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,

[00:27:05] Annie Sargent: Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur

[00:27:10] Annie Sargent: Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe

[00:27:11] Annie Sargent: Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.,

[00:27:12] Annie Sargent: So then he says,

[00:27:13] Annie Sargent: I will not look at the gold of the evening, which falls, nor the far away sails descending towards Harfleur.

[00:27:19] Annie Sargent: Harfleur is a place. And when I get there, I will put on your tomb a green bouquet of holly and a flowering heather.

[00:27:28] Annie Sargent: And that’s it. I mean, it’s a really just the feels, it really makes you feel the sadness of this father. And so this is a poem that when you teach it to young kids, they just go, oh, whatever, you know, but then as you get older, and maybe you’re in your twenties and you lose someone. And you’re like, oh, damn. Yeah, that’s what it feels like.

[00:27:54] Victor Hugo’s Writing Style

[00:27:54] Elyse Rivin: The other thing about it, because I really don’t know his poetry, which is why this is so interesting to me, is that I’m listening to you and it’s the structure. And I know a little bit about poetry and structure. I mean, it’s a simple structure, very beautiful, it’s very easy to understand. It’s not an obscure kind of poetry at all.

[00:28:14] Annie Sargent: He did not use big words,not in his writing either. And this, this is something that’s really important about Victor Hugo, is that, okay, he wrote very long books, but the thing is, he wrote like what today would be considered a novel for each of his characters in his book.

[00:28:31] Annie Sargent: Like, he wrote I kid you not, like 200 pages about each of the major characters of Notre Dame de Paris and Les Misérables, and so you feel like you’re in the world of this character and you get to know them deeply.

[00:28:47] Annie Sargent: And then he interspersed in that something different all of a sudden, and he introduces a different person and that’s never a coincidence, obviously, so like, okay, when in Les Misérables it starts with a long description of the Bishop and of Jean Valjean, and the whole thing with the silverware and all of that.

[00:29:11] Annie Sargent: Then there’s a long description of Waterloo. And at Waterloo, at one point, he talks about a soldier who just got hit. He got pierced with swords and so he’s dying on the battlefield and his face has a huge gash and he describes this dying soldier. And some guy arrives and the soldier in his, I mean he’s dying, and so he thinks it’s someone who comes to help him. But as a matter of fact, it’s somebody who comes to rob him. Same with Marius, another story that comes in and out, weaved into the story is that the dying man on the battlefield is, Pontmercy is his name, and he is a general under Napoleon. This is really important because his father was a general under Napoleon. And Napoleon had this habit of trusting people who did not come from nobility necessarily, okay?

[00:30:12] Annie Sargent: So he gets promoted to general for his valor and he also becomes a Baron. So Napoleon makes him a Baron.

[00:30:21] Annie Sargent: There you go. And this man who is very involved, very interested in politics, very involved in because, okay, this is what happens. Napoleon was an interesting person and we’ve had several episodes about Napoleon. But one of the things that happened is that the French Revolution had a lot of ideals, but could not pull them off very efficiently.

[00:30:44] Napoleon, when he came into power, reneged on some of these ideals, but at the same time, he also enshrined some of these ideals into French law. And so he was both, a very progressive person in a way, and kind of took France back in some other ways. And in the 19th century, you had all these rightful heirs to the French Kingdom who kept on trying to come back, right?

[00:31:12] Annie Sargent: So it was politically, it was very complicated. So you have this Pontmercy count eventually, and general, who’s lying there in the battlefield dying. But he survives and he meets a young lady who is from a, it’s called a Noblesse de Robe. So these are the noble people, but noble from much longer, they weren’t just turned noble by Napoleon. The young lady’s father disapproves of this marriage, but they marry anyway and she has a baby and dies in childbirth.

[00:31:46] Annie Sargent: The baby is Marius, and Marius will be a major character throughout the novel. So imagine this, you just had, your wife just died in childbirth and then your father-in-law says, look, I’m rich. I have the means to raise this kid. Let me raise the kid. And Pontmercy, you know, he goes for it. He gives the kid to his grandparent, to the grandfather.

[00:32:12] Annie Sargent: And then the grandfather says, you will never see this child again. And a major plot is that Pontmercy never gets to see his child again. And to see him, he has to go in Saint-Suplice, the church in Paris.

[00:32:26] Elyse Rivin: Which is where Victor Hugo got married.

[00:32:29] Annie Sargent: Yes, so he goes to Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Sulpice has huge pillars, big church, huge pillars.

[00:32:36] Annie Sargent: And he hides behind the pillars to see his son growing up. And he cries because he knows that if he talks to the kid or has any contact, the kid will be disinherited. And he knows he doesn’t have the means to give him a perfect life, and so he counts on the grandfather to give him perfect life.

[00:32:56] Annie Sargent: Well, the grandfather raises the kid to be a royalist, which is against Napoleon, by the way, even though Napoleon was an emperor, that’s why it gets so complicated. So he raises the kid to be a royalist, which means to be somebody who wants to bring back the monarchy, like Louis the 14th kind of thing, you know, like we live like under Louis, the 14th,the nobles pay no taxes, the people pay all the taxes and keep us rich. That’s pretty much what he wanted.

[00:33:24] Elyse Rivin: Which by the way, was the position at first of Victor Hugo’s mom. It’s interesting to me because I have only seen the Les Misérables. I have to admit, I mean, I’ve never read it. I’ve seen two or three versions of it, in terms of film, but it’s when you describe it, the way you’re describing it, every element is pulled out of the actual life and family of Victor Hugo. So far. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:33:49] Annie Sargent: Well, he was writing about his time. So then what happens is thatone day Marius is at church in Saint-Sulpice, and instead of sitting in his seat where he’s with his grandfather, perhaps he was late, I can’t remember, he sits by one of those pillars. The chair back then at church had the name of the owner, like you had your name on your pew or on your chair or whatever, but he sits there because there’s nobody there.

[00:34:16] Annie Sargent: And then eventually, an old man comes and asks for his seat and he gives him the seat. And then afterwards, they start having conversation, and the old man says, yes, I really like to sit here because this is the place where I saw this man who was so terribly sad to not be able to talk to his son, and he would sit here and cry. And then he reveals that’s his father, that’s Marius’s father.

[00:34:39] Annie Sargent: And so Marius for the first time, he’s 17, and he learns about his father, and he has this change of heart. Like he hated the people who followed Napoleon, but now he’s like, oh, but this is my father. And anyway, the whole story is weaved like this, I don’t know how he kept track of all these characters.

[00:34:58] He kept outlines, almost like a, I mean, it would be the equivalent today of doing like an Excel sheet, you know, where he would like cross-reference each person.

[00:35:09] Annie Sargent: I mean, he had the development of each personality, and he would cross-reference and make notes about everything. My guess is that it, because, you know, apparently it took him 30 years to finish Les Misérables. Because he did Notre Dame de Paris in two months.

[00:35:25] Elyse Rivin: In two months,and that was in 1831. And that was because of this horrible desire on a big part of the city council of Paris to destroy Notre Dame de Paris. Yeah. And so it was basically a novel that was written as a tract to make sure that people knew the value of it. But probably because he was less personally invested in it, whereas Les Misérables is so much his life, his evolution in terms of his political thinking, his evolution in terms of the difference between the ideas of his mother and the ideas of his father. I mean, it’s fascinating the way you’re summarizing it, because when you know more about his life, it’s like he’s describing, although it’s about the poor people and the miserable people and injustice and things like that, underneath all that, it’s really the structure of his existence that he’s describing.

[00:36:12] Jean Valjean

[00:36:12] Annie Sargent: Oh, and this was just one thread. So another thread that happens in Les Misérables is Jean Valjean, the way he gets found out as the super strong person that had escaped from Le Bagne.

[00:36:28] Annie Sargent: Le Bagne is where they imprisoned people, like a heavy labor camp, horrible place.

[00:36:34] So the way they knew he was it, is because at one point, Jean Valjean escapes from Le Bagne, makes a good life for himself.

[00:36:42] Annie Sargent: Well, he robs the Bishop who was a Saint, and he feels terrible for the rest of his life for having robbed this Bishop. And then he makes a life for himself in a village, he shows up and he starts developing, well, he brings back an industry and I can’t remember what the industry was, but some industry that had gone by the wayside while he starts this business and the whole village comes back to life, because there’s work and he can pay people. And one day, a wheel from a big chariot breaks and a guy is underneath the wheel, and Jean Valjean shows up and he can lift the chariot by himself and they extract the guy.

[00:37:22] Annie Sargent: And Javert, the horrible, le flic.

[00:37:25] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the horrible police officer, was chose to look for him, he’s there in the crowd and he sees this man who has this super strength, and he’s like, oh, this might be Jean Valjean. Well, the guy who was under the chariot, much later when John Valjean and Cossette escape,because Javert is after them, they climb the walls of a monastery in Paris. This is back when central Paris still had monasteries, and he’s hiding. Javer is really on his tail.

[00:37:55] Annie Sargent: And there’s a man, this happens to be a women’s convent with one guy who works there, who has a bell around his waist, because whenever he walks, the nuns need to know that there’s a man present, and they rush away, you know? Like, so they don’t, they’re in contact with a man. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:17] But that man. Is the guy who had been under the chariot much earlier. And so when he recognizes Jean Valjean, he’s like, well, of course he’s going to hide him and Cossette, right? So the whole book is like that. It’s, he weaves, you have these incidents that happen, but then there’s a reason.

[00:38:38] Annie Sargent: You’re going to see that character again. And so that’s why, even though it’s long, it’s fascinating, but you do have to be really present. You have to be paying attention because he doesn’t use big words. I never have to turn to a dictionary to read Victor Hugo. There are a lot of characters, lots of details. You have to really pay attention,

[00:38:56] You know, listening to you makes me think that today, if Victor Hugo was doing work, if he was still alive, he would be writing series for television.

[00:39:05] Elyse Rivin: Because it’s exactly, I just finished watching a series that was extremely long, I’m not even going to go into a lot of detail about it, but it is exactly that, an introduction of many different characters. You wonder what they’re doing there, what do they have to do with anything else? And that’s the way, we don’t read things like that anymore, we watch them.

[00:39:23] And also, and the other thing that Victor Hugo did was the aphorisms. Well, I call them aphorisms, but he would really pack a lot of punch into a short sentence.

[00:39:32] Annie Sargent: Uhhuh.

[00:39:33] Annie Sargent: So let me find one that I just like, oh, like one, Priest and soldiers are made of the same mould. One serves earthly pursuits and the other heavenly pursuits.

[00:39:43] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:39:44] Annie Sargent: You know. It’s like, oh yeah, that is correct.

[00:39:47] Elyse Rivin: Succinct.

[00:39:49] Annie Sargent: Another one. Okay, I’ll read this one in French first because I, my translation is feeble. Just wait, yes.

[00:39:55] Annie Sargent: So this is a social gathering and he describes this scene where you have these men and a few women who are standing there talking and socializing, and he describes the room and he describes the food and the drink and all of that. And then he says, “On raillait le siècle, ce qui dispensait de le comprendre”

[00:40:17] They jeered the current times to be let off from understanding the current times.

[00:40:23] Elyse Rivin: I like a lot.

[00:40:25] Annie Sargent: You know, like why?

[00:40:27] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:40:30] Annie Sargent: And you’re like, boom. You know, and he throws in sentences like that so often in his writing. So I just, that’s why people still love to read Victor Hugo. Now it’s true that people nowadays spend more time watching series and whatever, but there are a lot of times in your life when you’re walking or gardening or cooking or whatever, where you cannot be in front of a TV.

[00:40:57] Annie Sargent: Okay. So having a good book at that point to listen to, for me in my life, it really fits my, and I just love to start, you know, listening to Victor Hugo for an hour is such pleasure. Now they don’t do the poemsin Audible. Maybe they do, but I don’t…

[00:41:14] Elyse Rivin: Truthfully, poetry is not in fashion anymore. I think one of the things is that in the 19th century, I think that’s, it’s a way of helping to explain why he became famous and a celebrity so quickly, is that in the first half of the 19th century, poetry was very popular and it was the highest form of writing you could do.

[00:41:34] You became famous and a celebrity by writing poetry, is no longer the case. Is absolutely no longer the case.

[00:41:43] Annie Sargent: Also, that young lady poetess, when Joe Biden was inaugurated.

[00:41:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah. He invited a young lady to write a long poem, like for inaugurations and things like that, and she was mighty impressive.

[00:41:55] Elyse Rivin: Oh, it was mighty impressive, you won’t become a star by writing poetry.

[00:41:59] Annie Sargent: True.

[00:41:59] Elyse Rivin: You just really will not.

[00:42:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah, but he was an awesome writer and he could do long form, short form, everything.

[00:42:08] Just not like, this is a beast of an author.

[00:42:13] Victor Hugo’s Exile

[00:42:13] Elyse Rivin: Let’s talk a little bit about his exile, this is really interesting.

[00:42:17] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And we’ll end on that. This is part of what makes him so interesting and it’s also connected to your description of what goes on in Le Mis. So he grew up in a family where at first, was his father was a Bonapartist. He was a general who fought with Napoleon. His mother was a royalist, how they got together, who knows?

[00:42:36] Elyse Rivin: What happened was that as a child and as an early teenager, he was basically influenced a lot more by his mom’s ideas than his dad’s, which is interesting, because he comes to reconcile with his dad much later on. And so of course, he started off at the age of 17 by writing a kind of review that was a monarchist review.

[00:42:54] Victor Hugo was strongly opposed to the death penalty

[00:42:54] Elyse Rivin: And then in the course of just a few years, slowly started to change his ideas because one of the things that he started to be upset about, and it became one of his really obsessive ideas as a politician for the rest of his life, was the elimination of the death penalty.

[00:43:12] Annie Sargent: Ah, yes.

[00:43:12] Elyse Rivin: He was, I don’t know what set that off. I don’t, I couldn’t find an example of what particular event or whatever happened that set him off, but he was an absolute opponent of the death penalty way before it was anybody’s idea of being an opponent.

[00:43:29] Annie Sargent: Oh, he describes some of the most awful torture. Because the way they killed people back then was just awful.

[00:43:34] Elyse Rivin: And little by little, he discovered that his ideas were much closer to the ideas of what were the Republicans. Republicans, being people who wanted a Republic, not either a monarchy or an emperor. And so he transitioned, let’s say, from his late teens to his middle late twenties and became an absolute Republican in that sense.

[00:43:56] Elyse Rivin: And everybody really needs to understand that we’re talking about Republican, as opposed to monarchists, not as opposed to Democrats in the United States or something.

[00:44:03] And Marius in Les Misérables has the same path.

[00:44:07] Annie Sargent: He starts as a royalist and then he becomes a Republican.

[00:44:10] Elyse Rivin: And so little by little, he took on all these causes that were basically what we would call progressive causes. And even though he had all these progressive ideas, what I find strange, because it’s hard to understand the period of time in a way, is that when Louis Napoleon, who’s Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III, when he came into power in 1848, the first thing that happened was that Hugo supported his coming to power as the People’s Emperor, which is kind of a contradictory.

[00:44:41] Annie Sargent: Well, he was voted in. Yes, it was the first general election only open to men.

[00:44:47] Elyse Rivin: Right.

[00:44:47] Annie Sargent: But he was duly elected as the president, and then immediately said, no, I’m not the president, I’m the Emperor.

[00:44:54] Elyse Rivin: And so what happened, was that Hugo who of course, was extremely famous. He was already in the French Academy, Académie Française. He was already a member of parliament as a peer. He was an extremely important powerful man. And this is what, in 1850, he was like 48 years old. He started writing tracks with a group of important people against Napoleon, against Bonaparte. He was an anti-bonapartist, and it got him into so much trouble because he was so powerful, influential, that he and 50 something other people were put on a list to be banned, to be banished from France.

[00:45:32] Elyse Rivin: And it made him so furious, because it was the culmination of his ideas in terms of getting rid of anything that involved dictatorship, you know, emperor power. So he went to Brussels with his family, took family to Brussels, and after a very short time, went from Brussels to the Island of Jersey.

[00:45:51] Elyse Rivin: But what happened was, that just a couple of years later, Bonapartes, I guess under political pressure, decided to pardon him and a bunch of other people. And Hugo wrotea couple of tracks and he said, I will not come back to France until France is a Republic, that is my final word. And he stayed in exile for 19 years.

[00:46:13] Annie Sargent: Because there was Louis XVIII which he hated with a passion. So I think he was busy writing and doing his work and being productive, and he just didn’t want all these people to interfere with his life.

[00:46:26] Elyse Rivin: I think he was, yeah, well, I mean, you’re right, because it was the period when he was the most productive, but I think also that he really felt that it was a political conviction that he wanted to stick to.

[00:46:37] Victor Hugo returns to France

[00:46:37] Elyse Rivin: Right, right. And what happened was, because he could still influence people by his writings, even though he was not living in France anymore, he stayed in the public eye. And he came back to France in 1870, when the France declared a Republic, right at the Franco-Prussian war, he was 68 years old already. He came back as a national hero, and stayed a national hero.

[00:47:01] Victor Hugo’s Death

[00:47:01] We got to talk about his death.

[00:47:02] Elyse Rivin: Of course.

[00:47:03] Annie Sargent: He was, I mean all of Paris showed up for his funeral.

[00:47:07] Annie Sargent: It was huge. Because people back then read books and read newspapers and read articles and read, read, read, and instead of TV, TV, TV. So, you know, he was the celebrity of I don’t know, how would you compare him to a celebrity today? I don’t know, because he was both a celebrity for being a writer, but he was also, he was a political, he was a member of parliament, he was someone who wrote political tracks, so he wasn’t just a cultural celebrity.

[00:47:34] Annie Sargent: There are some actors who also get into, dip into politics.

[00:47:39] Elyse Rivin: A few, but not that many anymore.

[00:47:41] Elyse Rivin: He was really, I think the reason people came, I think the reason people, they say over 2 million people followed the cortège, as they took him to the procession.

[00:47:50] Elyse Rivin: I think the reason why is partly for him being known as a writer, but also because he represented ideas of helping the underdog, of fighting against misery, of fighting against the poverty. I mean, he really believed in progress and it would be really fascinating to know what he thought of politics today.

[00:48:10] Victor Hugo wanted to erradicate poverty

[00:48:10] Annie Sargent: Yes, he was someone who wanted to eradicate poverty. This was a huge injustice. I mean there are so many places in his writing, in his novels, where powerful people do something horrible and very unjust and it’s impossible not to see it. Like the way he writes it, you’re like, oh geez, you know, like a judge or a cop, they do such horrible things that you’re like, oh, nobody should do that. Like, you know, so just somebody who really loved life and wanted to be in everything very prolific, just a force of nature.

[00:48:46] Elyse Rivin: He died at the age of 83, in 1885 and he is in the Pantheon.


[00:48:52] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s also another place where you can go talk to Victor Hugo.

[00:48:55] Elyse Rivin: He was taken to the Pantheon and he is opposite Emil Zola, who is the other champion of the underdog of the 19th century. And I would be fascinated if he could come back to life and talk to him about what he thought of politics today, you know?

[00:49:11] Annie Sargent: Sure, but if you want to know about what he thought about politics back then, read his books. They are full of insights.

[00:49:17] If I ever have some sort of reason why I can’t do much because I’m older or because I’m sick or something, I think to get your head in the right, like somewhere else, a Victor Hugo novel is perfect for that.


[00:49:32] Elyse Rivin: It sounds like it would certainly be perfect for that.

[00:49:35] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much, Elyse.

[00:49:36] Elyse Rivin: Thank you, Annie.

[00:49:37] Annie Sargent: And thank you Mr. Victor Hugo.

[00:49:39] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

[00:49:40] Elyse Rivin: Au revoir.

[00:49:41] Outro[00:49:41] Thank you, patrons

[00:49:41] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back.

[00:49:53] Annie Sargent: Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so, you can see them at P A T R E O N join us no spaces or dashes. Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time. You are fantastic. .

[00:50:13] Shout out to new patrons

[00:50:13] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Tommy Devlin, Nancy Ikenberry, Andrea, Regina Head and Joyce Patterson. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:50:29] Annie Sargent: This week, I shared a short video with patrons of Elyse showing us around the Rosa Bonheur exhibit that we visited in Bordeaux, it was fantastic, I’ll tell you more about that in a second.

[00:50:42] Itinerary consults

[00:50:42] Annie Sargent: If you’re preparing a trip to France and listening to as many episodes as you can, keep listening to the podcast because that’s a great way to do it.

[00:50:51] Annie Sargent: But if you’re overwhelmed by all the choices, you can hire me to be your itinerary consultant. You purchase the service on the boutique, Then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind, we make a phone appointment and chat for about an hour. And then I send you a document with the plan we’ve discussed.

[00:51:13] My time is kind of booked up, but it’s coming down a little bit. You can see the date for my next appointment availability at the boutique. So, you know, pay attention to that, and then you can decide if that’s soon enough for you.

[00:51:26] Self-guided tours

[00:51:26] Annie Sargent: And if you cannot talk to me because I’m all booked up, you can take me in your pocket by getting my GPS self-guided tours on the VoiceMap app.

[00:51:37] Annie Sargent: I’ve produced five tours of Paris and they are designed to show you around different iconic, wonderful neighborhoods of Paris. And my Marais tour, of course touches on Victor Hugo and points out his house.

[00:51:52] Trevor Noah’s VoiceMap tour

[00:51:52] Annie Sargent: On the Facebook group last week, I shared a new tour released by VoiceMap. This tour features Trevor Noah and his remarkable team of comedy writers. It is called In the footsteps of the freedom surrection, a walking tour of January 6th. I shared it because it’s free, and it’s a great opportunity for you to try the VoiceMap app in virtual mode from wherever you live. It also works as a real VoiceMap tour if you happen to be in Washington DC. It was a good laugh, I thought it was very funny.

[00:52:28] Annie Sargent: Some people, probably might not enjoy it as much as I did, but hey, it’s Trevor Noah, right? I like him, he’s funny.

[00:52:35] Alternative to the RER

[00:52:35] Annie Sargent: After listening to my warning about the RER last week, my friend, Patricia, who lives in Paris, sent me an excellent recommendation for an alternative to the RER that is both easier and safer.

[00:52:48] Annie Sargent: The Roissybus shuttle. It’s a bus that picks up passengers as CDG and drops them off at Opera. It’s a nonstop service from the airport. There is space for your luggage. And these are buses, so just like the taxis, they can take the bus lanes. The service is pretty frequent every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of the day.

[00:53:10] This bus has A/C and Wifi. The fare is 13 Euros and 50 cents, and you can buy it from a machine at the bus stop. There will be a link to more details in the show notes. I think this is a great alternative to the RER at a great price. It’s not as smelly, not as busy, no stairs, well, a few steps to get into the bus, but you know, it’s a much easier alternative for most people, even if you’re not super savvy about city transportation. All you got to do is find where the bus goes from, and you can do that on their website. There used to be Le Bus Direct but that stopped during COVID and has not returned.

[00:53:51] Annie Sargent: So thank you, Patricia, this is a great recommendation and I have taken Le Bus Direct and it was great. I can see why that is a very important alternative to point out.

[00:54:03] EU digital passenger locator form

[00:54:03] Annie Sargent: Now I want to briefly mention the EU Digital Passenger Locator form, D P L F, because someone asked me about it. If you read the website, and I’ll link to it, it says it’s mandatory for Malta and Slovenia, not France.

[00:54:20] Annie Sargent: Right now, there are no restrictions for entering France, whatever, no health pass, no vaccine certificates, nothing. Perhaps though your airline might require something, but the country of France does not. So just make sure you read your check-in documentation and see what your airline requires.

[00:54:41] Personal Update: Bordeaux Rosa Bonheur Exhibition

[00:54:41] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, well, Elyse and I got into my electric car, which I call La Chariotte Electrique, because I think it’s funny. And I drove us to Bordeaux and we visited the Rosa Bonheur exhibit at the Bordeaux Art Museum.

[00:54:59] Annie Sargent: First of all, the Bordeaux Art Museum puts the Toulouse Art Museum to shame because it’s so much bigger and has so much more stuff.

[00:55:06] And that exhibit on Rosa Bonheur, which is only a small part of it, is exceptional. I thought it was really fantastic. It’s really popular, it’s only in Bordeaux until September 17th, perhaps it’s September 18th, I forgot. But anyway, you have to hurry if you want to see it.

[00:55:24] Annie Sargent: Seeing so many of her iconic pieces that we mentioned in episode 396, which was all about Rosa Bonheur, it’s called the Rosa Bonheur the artist who wore pants. Seeing it up close, it’s just fantastic, there’s nothing like it.

[00:55:41] Annie Sargent: And they have many major pieces of hers at this exhibit, They do have a version of the Horse Fair, which is very, very stunning to see, but the bigger version, the biggest version of the Horse Fair that she ever produced, which is at The Met in New York, it could not travel because they are worried about damaging the painting.

[00:56:05] Annie Sargent: But just seeing all these pieces of hers up close is just stunning. And there are also several studies that show how much she worked on each one of her pieces. She really did not take anything for granted, she worked a lot. I’ll do a slideshow of her work for my $2 a month patrons. This exhibit is well worth the trip, at least for me. It was a 600 kilometer day trip, so it is a long way to drive for us French people who don’t drive that much in a day usually, but it was fine. It was just fine. And it was a Monday in August, so all the restaurants that we wanted to try were closed.

[00:56:44] So we ate a sandwich while the car charged on the freeway. I got to say I’m gaining confidence traveling long distance in my electric car. Everything worked fine. Elyse thought, oh, it’s, you know, she says she’s not patient enough for the charge time. Although we did fine, we chit chatted the whole time. It was fine.

[00:57:01] You either find the patience or you keep buying gas or you buy a super expensive electric car which will charge much faster, so, you know, I’ve made my choice. I’m never buying gas again. That’s the end of that.


[00:57:14] Annie Sargent: And you can help your francophile friends plan their visit to France, or just hear about France because they like to hear about France. Go to, click on the Share buttons on the side and tag your friends, they will thank you.

[00:57:31] Next week on the podcast

[00:57:31] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode about visiting France with a baby. Eddie Hamalian, daddy extraordinaire who fears no diaper change anywhere in the world. It was a lovely conversation, I enjoyed it. I think you will too.

[00:57:47] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Annie@JoinUsinFrance.Com.

[00:57:51] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.

[00:57:59] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2022 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-commercial, No derivatives license.

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Category: French Culture