How many of you have been to France? How many of you wish you could? How many of you don’t care where you go just so long as it’s far away? Then come with me, let me take you on a little tour of my town.
Last week, I read a book called The Secret Life of Josephine, by Carrolly Erickson.
Now, this is a novel, so the author took some fantastical artistic liberties with the story, but I can forgive her because 1) She acknowledges in her own words that it is “frothy historical entertainment,” and 2) she wrote an actual biography on Josephine, so it’s evident that she can separate fact from fiction. At any rate, any book about Josephine has to at least make a nod to the Château de Malmaison, her beloved personal residence. At the time, it was just outside the town of Rueil. It has been nearly 200 years since she died, so, as you can imagine, the growing town has crept up around the château grounds (largely expedited by the fact that much of the land had to be sold off in parcels after her son’s death). Officially, the town is called Rueil-Malmaison; they really are inseparable in spirit.
Reading about a location that is so familiar to me naturally made me homesick for France and specifically for Rueil. My heart ached to be there, to just take a walk, to enjoy the scenery. Then I had a great idea! Even though I can’t be there physically right now, I can visit with my eyes and a few mouse clicks thanks to Google Earth. If you have never tried this before, it just takes a quick (free) download to be able to use it. Once there, type in the name of a town you want to visit and, through the magic of satellite imagery, it will fly you there. Then, it gets better! If you click and drag the little yellow man down to the satellite (or map) image, it will take you to street view that you can just keep clicking along, “walking” down a street. It is admittedly creepy that Google has taken pictures of, well, just about everywhere, but I decided this time to suppress that shuddersome feeling and use Google to my advantage. Free trip to France!
Let’s start close to Malmaison, admiring the narrow walled streets along the way. Don’t forget to look side-to-side, peek over walls, and even look up occasionally. There are all kinds of things to see!
Click the screencap photos! (You’ll probably want to right-click and choose to open in a new tab, otherwise it will open right here).
If you keep heading this direction, you will come to a place where it shows Avenue du Château de Malmaison to the left. Turn there and you can walk up almost to the front gate, with a glimpse of the château at the end of the drive (If you want a small tour of the château itself with better photos, you can see my post about it here).
We’ll skip ahead a little ways to one of my favorite streets, the Avenue de l’Impératrice Joséphine.
I always loved how the street lights were hung so elegantly across the road. In December, they added Christmas lights across. So pretty! Keep walking on down this street and soon, you’ll get to see Josephine herself, welcoming you to the Parc de Bois Préau. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see blue gates on your right. Turn and take a peek into the beautiful park.
Last, I’ll take you to where I lived, in centre ville.
If you go towards Boulevard du Maréchal Joffre and then keep following it, you will end up right in the heart of Rueil where you can see the old Mairie (town hall). I hope you enjoyed our little tour!
Now, whenever I feel that tug at my heart, I can go visit some familiar places and ease the ache a little bit. Several of the businesses have changed since we were there, but the buildings remain largely the same, and there’s some comfort in that. Not bad for free, right?