WHO LIVED HERE?
When Ken and I spent a week in Paris, we wanted to see all the major sites, of course, but I also had a hankering to visit where some famous writers and artists had lived. I did not do as many as I had hoped, but was very happy to visit the one-time home of Victor Hugo. The 2nd floor apartment, situated in Place des Vosges, which dates back to 1605, is a short distance from the Bastille metro station. The 19th century living quarters have been restored and turned into a museum. Among the highlights–ornate furniture designed by Hugo himself, a gorgeous Chinese room, and the room where the writer died. (Some of the other rooms are recreations from other homes he lived in.)
Impressionist Painter Claude Monet derived great satisfaction from his gardens, which he himself planned. And of course his most famous series of paintings, The Water Lilies, was painted right here as he looked at his water lily pond. The home is in the tiny, picturesque town of Giverny, and nowadays, you can also visit an Impressionist Museum. This place is a photographers dream. The window I’m peeking out of is Monet’s bedroom.
Chateau le Galliard was designed by Richard I of England and Normandy. He earned his nickname of Richard the Lionheart for his ferocious battles during the Crusades. When we left Giverny, we were heading for Rouen, intending to end the day at Honfleurs, on the coast. But in one of those lovely serendipities that strikes sometimes while traveling, a friend had given us a very old book with a picture of the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s castle ruins just a bit north of Giverny. The ruins looked very romantic and I had read and written about several books on Richard, so I said, “Let’s just take a look, on our way.” WELL! The ruins are now partially restored so you can see the glorious form of the original castle; the setting is stunning—although it takes a small hike to get to the hilltop location; and we could have spent a whole day there. As it was, we missed Rouen, but were delighted with our out-of-the-way find, and enthusiastically recommend it to travelers.
Unless you are a devoted and careful reader of A Traveler’s Library, or attracted to little known fiction of the early 20th century, you probably did not recognize the home of Louis Bromfield, a Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist. I visited his experimental farm, Malabar, in Ohio when I took a press trip to Mansfield. The architecture of the farm house, which he mostly designed himself, blends French (from his years living in France) with preservation of historic Ohio River properties, and a nod to India, where he also lived in an area called Malabar. I wrote a guest post at Attainable Sustainable about Malabar Farm, and a book review here.
I was a bit surprised that more people did not recognize the Texas white house of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Those are Texas’ state flowers, the bluebonnet in the foreground, and of course Lady Bird Johnson was known for her campaign to preserve and plant wildflowers in public places. The house is near Fredericksburg, Texas, which I visited on a press trip. I felt that I understood Johnson a whole lot better after seeing his spread here in Texas hill country overlooking the Pedernales River.
Only one reader guessed John Adams (his son John Quincy Adams would have counted, too, although this house is before his time)The town is Quincy, Massachusetts, near Boston. The proper pronunciation makes the “c” sound like a “z” rather than hard as in the fruit, quince. John Adams was born here, and he and Abigail lived in a fancier house they built later on the same property. (which is also open for tours) Adams is one of my favorite figures from American history, so it was a delight to visit his farm in Quincy. But the biggest delight was the private library built on the property by John Quincy Adams. It gave me a big case of building lust, and made me think I should learn more about book-loving President John Quincy Adams.