Welcome to this week’s Sunday Sojourn, where I’m handing over to Angela Wren, who’ll be taking us on a tour of one of my favourite cities – the glorious Paris. It’s been really hard to post this without adding my own comments all over the place (mostly in agreement, I will note). Galleries is my favourite shop in the world, for one thing. Over to you, Angela (don’t make me too jealous though!)…
Hello Jennifer. Thank you for inviting me to be your tour guide today.
We will be on foot and, despite this beautiful sunshine, some rain is on the way this afternoon. I suggest you and your regular readers bring umbrellas.
We are standing in what is called locally, place de l‘Étoile (Star Square) because there are twelve streets radiating out from this junction. We’re facing the avenue des Champs Élysées and behind us is the Arc de Triomphe and the square that surrounds it is really place Charles-de-Gaulle. The exterior facades of the arch commemorate the victories of Napoleon and the frieze that runs around the top contains a series of shields that name battles from the revolution and across the empire. On a more sombre note, the tomb of the Unknown soldier is at our feet. The flame of remembrance is rekindled each evening at 6.30pm and the inner walls bear the names of men who fought, and those who died, for their country.
As we stroll down the Champs Élysées to the rhythmic thwack of the car tyres on the cobbles as they negotiate the arch, apparently unmoved, perhaps I need to add a little more context. This busy road junction was already here in the late 18th century and it was Napoleon Bonaparte who commissioned the arch in 1806, after his success at the battle of Austerlitz. The design was inspired by the great roman arches of ancient times and, if you want to see a real roman arch, you will have to go to Orange in the Vaucluse, over 600K’s south. Napoleon didn’t see the arch completed; King Louis-Philippe I (reigned 1830 –1848) ensured that happened. But in 1840, the carriage bearing the Emperor’s body passed beneath it.
Just ahead of us now are the Tuileries gardens, which stretch between place de la Concorde and the Louvre museum. Before you rush into the museum to look at the Venus de Milo or the Mona Lisa – which is disappointingly small – please look at the museum’s exterior. There has been a building on this site since the 13th century. Then it was a fortress built by Philippe-Auguste (that’s Phillip 2 to us, of the House Capet) who reigned here from 1180 until his death in 1223. As a working castle that needed to defend itself, the Louvre was surrounded by moats with gated entrances and defensive towers. But it was Louis XIV, in 1662, who decided that the palace needed some serious improvement and he engaged Bernini. So, please pause for a few moments and look at the colonnades and the clock tower and the intricacy of the masonry work. Whilst inside the museum, remember to look up and wonder at the stunningly beautiful painted ceilings. I’ll be waiting in the gardens.
A brisk 20 minute walk takes us to the 9th arrondissement via avenue de l’Opéra with its wide aspect, its shops, cafés and restaurants and the usual bustle to be expected in a city this size. At this junction, if you take a left you can make your way to rue de la Paix, the Bond Street of Paris. For those of you with the appropriate bank balance, Cartier’s is at number 13! But I’m heading straight on to our next little adventure, Galeries Lafayette. And no, this is not about shoes and handbags! I want to show you the central atrium in this lovely building, which was originally a haberdasher’s, founded by Alphonse Khan in 1895. If you look up, you will see the coloured glass of the dome and the decorated balustrades that were designed by Ferdinand Chanut in 1910. I can also recommend the chocolaterie here if you want to take home a small gift.
From here we will take the metro to Pigalle and our final location, Montmartre and the basilica of Sacré-Cœur in the 18th arrondissement. The name means martyr’s mount and the hill stands a little less than 150m above the city. The three domed basilica was begun in 1895 but not competed until 1914 and consecrated in 1919. The interior is decorated with colourful mosaics and from the steps you can see across the whole of the city.
It was in this area that I decided my central character, Jacques Forêt, would be born and brought up before he moved to the Cévennes where my book, Messandrierre, is set. There’s a naturalness to the streets here, a sense of the unexpected and a freedom that I don’t think exists in the formality of the heart of the city.
Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.
Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.
But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.
Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?
Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.
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