Please welcome back David Burke and his column David Burke's Writers in Paris.
After writing The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, Queen Margot, and The Three Musketeers’s sequel Twenty Years After -- all in two years, 1844 and 1845 – Alexandre Dumas was so wildly successful that he was able to buy five acres on a hillside overlooking the Seine in Port-Marly and realize his dream of building himself a château, one on his own scale— larger-than-life.
“J’aime qui m’aime” was his motto, “I love whoever loves me.” And he meant it.
He inaugurated his earthly paradise on July 27, 1847, with a party for six hundred guests.“Friends” kept flocking, but he turned no one away. The thought of this genial giant pouring out pages to feed a mob of hangers-on appalled Balzac, himself a prodigal spendthrift. But Dumas thought he could write himself out of any hole.
Six months later, he was broke. His creditors forced him to sell the property the following year. But the Château de Monte-Cristo remains. It is Renaissance in style with portraits of writers he admired on its elaborately sculpted façade. His own portrait resides above the front door, along with his family’s coat of arms and the “J’aime qui m’aime” motto.
On the grounds, amid springs and false grottoes, he also built a little Gothico-Savoyard pavilion called the Château d’If where he could isolate himself to write.
Hilly footpaths thread the wooded park overlooking the Seine, where there is a labyrinth and a pond. Passionate about cooking and eating, Dumas, stocked the pond with 2,500 fish and 1,200 fresh water shrimp.
Dumas’s son, Alexandre Dumas fils, called his father “a big child I had when I was very little.” The Château de Monte-Cristo is solid evidence of that.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM PARIS:
By train, take the RER express suburban line A1 to the town Saint Germain-en-Laye. It can be boarded at several stops in Paris, including such central ones on the A1 line as Châtelet Les Halles, Saint Lazare/Auber, Charles de Gaulle/Etoile. From the Charles de Gaulle station it makes nine stops to Saint Germain-en-Laye.
From there you can walk 1.5 miles to the Château. Directions for the walk are found at the Saint Germain-en-Laye station. I walked there in about 10 minutes. But you may take a cab.
The chateau is open every day except Monday from April 1st to the 1st of November. For the hours, check on the excellent website of the Château de Monte-Cristo, in English and French, www.chateau-monte-cristo.com
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New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
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