THE ROUTE SO FAR
(1) London • (2) France
Base map: Designed by Freepik
KEY SITES: Days 4-5, North France
The moment we stepped off the Eurostar in Calais, we were confronted by this. Not the greatest impression in the world, especially with the grey skies (though, to be fair, we didn’t get to visit the township itself). I don’t think Monty had the best impression of Calais either, which is why I chose to display The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.
After picking up our hire car in Calais, we drove to Fromelles, just south of Lille. This picture is of the Pheasant Wood Cemetery, the resting place of hundreds of Australian soldiers killed in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles. I have displayed Peter Barton’s The Lost Legions of Fromelles, which is a superb account of that horrific day.
Our next stop was the village of Pozières in the Somme, which was described by Australia’s official war correspondent C.E.W. Bean as being “more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”. Here the fantastic and highly recommended book Fromelles and Pozières by Peter Fitzsimons is shown amidst the crosses.
The final stop on Day 4 was Mont Saint-Quentin, just north of Péronne. This was the site of a decisive and hard-won battle the Australians mounted against the Germans during the Allied summer offensive of 1918. The action is well detailed in Adam Wakeling’s The Last Fifty Miles, which is displayed here.
First thing the next morning, we visited the monument at Le Hamel. This is the site of the first and famous 93-minute Combined Arms battle commanded by the Australian General John Monash. Here the Monash biography by Grantlee Kieza is shown overlying a remnant German trench that the Aussies captured during the battle.
Fittingly, our final Great War stop was at the Australian National Memorial just outside Villers-Bretonneux. It was here, on Anzac Day 1918, that two Australian brigades forced the Germans from the town, and where thousands of soldiers are now buried or otherwise commemorated. Here I display Peter Fitzsimons’ account Victory at Villers-Bretonneux.
I found Amiens to be a delightfully eclectic mix of city and rural town. We had lunch just down the street from the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, the stunning Gothic church shown in the picture. The hundreds of carvings of people that adorn the walls made me think of the Silent City in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, which is why the book is displayed here!
KEY SITES: Days 6-7, Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Welcome to Paris! We waded through the immense crowds along the Champs-Élysées to get our glimpse at the iconic Arc de Triomphe. It made me that much more excited for the upcoming Tour de France! I chose to display I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson here because (1) it was a sunny day, (2) it has an “arc” on the cover, and (3) I could imagine Noah and Jude appreciating the artistic nature of the architecture.
It’s not a trip to Paris without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We caught it on an excellent day, with the sun beaming down to really bring out its bronze colour (who knew?). I’ve displayed the book The Fall Up by Aly Martinez because the cover has always reminded me of an upside-down Eiffel Tower. It’s also a romance novel, and the Tower is supposed to be a symbol of love ❤
Because ma famille has little taste for the finer things in life (sorry, guys!), I took myself off for an evening trip to the Louvre Museum. This picture, of the iconic pyramid and palace, was actually taken from the inside! And, because visiting museums and gallery always has me thinking of art thieves, I’ve displayed Heist Society by Ally Carter.
By night, the renowned medieval Catholic cathedral Notre-Dame was stunning. Located on Paris’ Île de la Cité, it was only a rather long walk from our accommodation 😛 Of course, what other book could I display here than Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame? I haven’t read the book or seen the movie (shame!) but I know it fits!
Our second and last day within Paris we spent in the artsy district of Montmartre. I loved the hustle and bustle and made a number of purchases. Standing on the crest of the mont, with Sacré-Cœur at my back (see below), gave me a bit of A Game of Thrones vibe, which is why I chose to display the well-known George R.R. Martin novel here.
The Sacré-Cœur basilica on the summit of Montmartre was a superb place to visit, especially because of the view over Paris it afforded (see above). I have displayed Jenn Bennett’s The Anatmonical Shape of a Heart (also published as Night Owls) because cœur means “heart” in French, which is in the title, and because I could totally see Jack daring to graffiti its walls 😛
Late in the evening we made a final visit to the Moulin Rouge cabaret with its iconic red windmill. I admit that my knowledge of the site is basically limited to what I learned in the Baz Luhrmann movie, so take from that what you will. Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway is shown in this image because its “hero” Nicholas performs cabaret (and in drag—he’s so awesome!).
KEY SITES: Days 8-9, Champagne & Burgundy Regions
Château de Dormans
Dormans is a lovely little village in the Marne department of France’s Champagne region, and it is home to this fantastic thirteenth-century castle. This image is taken of a turret around the back, beneath which a series of tents were set up. It reminded me of one of my favourite novels, Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr, which is displayed here.
We stayed a night in the city of Reims, which is commonly considered the “capital” of the champagne district. The image shows a barmy summer night on the main drag and displays Tinnean’s Forever, the third book in her spy/spook series. Champagne is kind of a recurring theme in the series, and one of the characters is shown holding a glass on this over!
How awesome is this little town?! Many of the buildings are surviving sixteenth-century half-timbered houses, and they were just spectacular. Here I have displayed Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom. Although the weather in Troyes was the complete opposite to Ketterdam, the dark, narrow and winding streets were somewhat reminiscent. Plus the cover’s colour scheme is just too perfect!
We also spent a night in Beaune, which is a walled city that is considered the “wine capital” of Burgundy. A stroll through the streets at dusk was quite picturesque. I wasn’t sure what book to display on this image, but I went with Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows because (1) I used Crooked Kingdom for Troyes on the same day (see above) and (2) the colour scheme also works well.
KEY SITES: Days 10-11, French Alps
Okay, so Geneva isn’t in the French Alps and isn’t even in France, but we made a bit of a detour to have lunch in this stunning city. I fell in love with the lake-and-mountain visage immediately and was shattered we had to leave after 90 minutes. Here I have displayed Half Wild by Sally Green, which has a number of chapters set in Geneva.
Our main stop in the French Alps was the charming town of Chamonix. It was somewhat disconcerting to be standing in the summer sun, surrounded on all sides by snow-capped mountains (go figure)! I have displayed Eragon by Christopher Paolini because it was all to easy to imagine I was in the Palancar Valley.
We took a cable car up to Aiguille du Midi which afforded us this fantastic view of Mont Blanc, which stands over 4,800m above sea level. Despite the discomfort of being above the hypoxic level, the beautiful weather made it worth it. Here I have displayed Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury as the scenery reminded me of the Nigh Court.
Grand Balcon Nord Trail
After Mont Blanc, we walked for a few hours (about 6km I think) along the Grand Balcon Nord Trail. Though exhausting, the views of the mountains and Chamonix were spectacular. I chose to display J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit here, because come on. That picture looks exactly like a scene out of one of those movies!
Grotte de Glace
At the end of our long, hot walk, we were rewarded by entering the ice caves in Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier. I even received a few nice cold drops of water on my head! Displayed is Icefire by Chris d’Lacey because it heavily features ice (surprise!) as well as polar bears, and there is a bear sculpture here.
Are you travelling at the moment? Have you been to France or read any good books that are set there? What are your favourite French places?