Archive for the ‘Entrée to Black Paris’ Category

We’re on CNN!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
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Monique Y. Wells Presenting Our New Josephine Baker Walk

Monique Y. Wells Presenting
Our New Josephine Baker Walk

Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

We’re super excited about the CNN article that came out yesterday about African Americans in Paris. Entrée to Black Paris is featured in the third—and longest—section! In the article, you’ll find links to Southern Passion Lounge in Paris, Black Paris Profiles, and our newest Josephine Baker walk. Click on the embedded link above to “read all about it!”

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Entrée to Black Paris Blog is One of 10 BEST Paris Blogs

Saturday, October 27th, 2012
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Monique Y. Wells’ Entrée to Black Paris blog is finally getting the recognition we believe it so richly deserves – it has been named one of 10 BEST Paris blogs by award-winning travel writer Mike Gerrard!

Gerrard is a full-time, award-winning author, blogger, and publisher. His numerous publications about Paris include the Top 10 Paris – Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide (DK Travel; penned with his wife, Donna Dailey), Colors of Paris (Thunder Bay Press), and Paris: A City Revealed (Metro Books). As a man who knows the city intimately, he recently made his selection of 10 best Paris blogs. We were thrilled to find our blog among them!

Here’s Mike’s description of Entrée to Black Paris:

What it is: Monique Y. Wells covers a fascinating niche subject – black history, culture and contemporary life in Paris.

Why we like it: Specialist passions make for some of the best blogs, and the relationship of Paris with its black population (for better or worse) provides some stimulating reading. Monique doesn’t just cover the well-documented ground of black writers, musicians and other artists in Paris’s past, like Chester Himes and Josephine Baker, but keeps it current by interviewing black chefs, lawyers and other prominent figures.

Find Mike’s entire list of 10 BEST Paris blogs on the Web site 101 Holidays.

A Visit to the Hometown of Alexandre Dumas
By Monique Y. Wells, Co-founder of Discover Paris!

Thursday, August 25th, 2011
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Statue of Alexandre Dumas
at Place du Docteur Jean Mouflier
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Until recently, every time that I gave my Entrée to Black Paris tour called Black Paris after WWII and told the story about how the remains of Alexandre Dumas were transferred from his hometown of Villers-Cotterêts to the Pantheon in Paris, I would think to myself that I should someday make the short trek up to Picardie to see the original gravesite and the town where Dumas grew up. I made this trek a few days ago, and I am happy to share the details with you!

Last Thursday, Tom and I were treated to a special day trip to the region of Picardie by two friends—Elizabeth and David Berry. We visited the Royal Abbey of Chaalis in the morning, lunched at the Château d’Ermenonville, and visited the town of Villers-Cotterêts in the afternoon. The weather was perfect, the sites intriguing, and the meal sublime!

Down the street from the statue of Alexandre Dumas, which stands in the place du Docteur Jean Mouflier, lies the Alexandre Dumas Museum. For such a small museum, there is plenty to see! The museum consists of three rooms—one devoted to Dumas’ father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas; one to Dumas père (the writer that we know and love—the author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask among myriad works); and one to Alexandre Dumas fils (son of Alexandre Dumas père). Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was born in Saint Domingue (Haiti) of a French marquis and a slave mother; hence, all three generations had African ancestry.

A beautiful portrait of the general, who served in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, dominates the first room. Dumas was part of Napoleon’s Egyptian adventure, but fell out of favor with the Emperor and never received the pension that he was due once he left the army. On the way home from Egypt, he was forced to leave his ship in Taranto (Italy) and was imprisoned at Brindisi. While in prison, he contracted an illness from which he never fully recovered, and died a weak and impoverished man in Villers-Cotterêts in 1806.

Painting of Father of Alexandre Dumas by Olivier Pichat
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

General Dumas’ room contains numerous documents written by him, illustrations of him, and other artifacts.

In Alexandre Dumas père’s room, one finds several portraits and photos of him, his writing desk, a pair of boots, and many other artifacts.

Desk of Alexandre Dumas
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Here is a lithograph portrayal of Dumas that is unlike any other that I have seen:

Portrait of Alexandre Dumas
by Jean-Pierre Moynet
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

There is also an original version of The Three Musketeers, which is open to the title page…

Original printing of The Three Musketeers
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Alexandre Dumas père left Villers-Cotterêts in 1823 to seek his fortune in Paris. He went on to become France’s most prolific writer, a distinction that he still holds today. He gained and lost a couple of fortunes, traveled widely, and generally lived life to the fullest. He spent his last days in the care of his illegitimate daughter, Marie-Alexandrine Dumas, and died in the town of Puys in 1870.

In the room dedicated to Alexandre Dumas fils, the illegitimate and subsequently legally recognized son of Dumas père, there is a colorful portrait of him…

Portrait of Alexandre Dumas fils
by Edouard Louis Dubufe
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

and a letter that he wrote to his father, published in Le Petit Figaro in 1868,

Letter from Alexandre Duman fils
to Alexandre Dumas père
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

as well as other documents and artifacts. Dumas fils’ first play, The Lady of the Camelias, was an enormous success. It was the inspiration for Verdi’s opera La Traviata. He was inducted into the Académie Française in 1874 and awarded the Legion of Honor in 1894.

When we left the museum, we walked past the house in which Dumas père grew up…

House Where Alexandre Dumas père Was Born
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

on the way to the cemetery where the family plot lies.

Dumas Family Plot at Cimetière de Villers-Cotterêts
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Buried here are Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, his wife Marie-Louise-Elizabeth Labouret, and the daughter and son-in-law of Alexandre Dumas fils. As indicated on his cenotaph, the remains of Dumas père were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris in 2002.

Cenotaph for Alexandre Dumas père
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Alexandre Dumas fils was not buried in the family plot. His grave is located in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

Discover Paris! and the Toni Morrison Society Conference in Paris

Sunday, November 7th, 2010
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Toni Morrison
(c) Discover Paris!

The Toni Morrison Society is holding its sixth Biennial Conference in Paris, France from November 4-7. Called Toni Morrison and Circuits of the Imagination, it is the first conference that the group has hosted outside the United States in its seventeen years of existence. Highlights of the event were the induction of Toni Morrison into the Legion of Honor; her receipt of the “Medaille de Grand Vermeil” from the City of Paris; a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye; and the dedication of a bench on rue Louis Delgrès, which is one of the sites in Paris where the city commemorates the abolition of slavery in France’s colonies.

Discover Paris’ role in the four-day conference was to give a tour of sites relevant to African / Diaspora history in the French capital. Monique Y. Wells, co-founder of the travel planning service, provided commentary to approximately one-third of the conference attendees during a three-hour bus tour that covered the city yesterday. Wells not only reminded participants of events such as the 1956 Congress of Negro Writers and Artists that was held at the Sorbonne, but also regaled the group with little-known facts about African-American personalities who lived in Paris during the 20th century. In particular, the story of painter Beauford Delaney’s final “Paris years” struck a chord with the group. Wells recently founded a non-profit association called Les Amis de Beauford Delaney to resurrect the memory of this painter.

Monique Giving Bus Tour Commentary
(c) Discover Paris!

Though it rained for much of the tour, the skies cleared sufficiently to allow the group to stop at Place Josephine Baker for photographs. Upon reboarding the bus, Wells relayed the story of Baker’s last performance run in Paris, which took place at the Bobino theater just a couple of blocks away from the square that now bears her name.

Participants Gathering for Group Photo
at Place Josephine Baker
(c) Discover Paris!

Among the various services that it offers, Discover Paris! has been providing private walking tours, self-guided itineraries, museum visits, and excursions on African-American history in the French capital since 2000. This set of activities has recently been rechristened Entrée to Black Paris™. Its new mission is to increase awareness of the contribution of all African Diaspora peoples to the richness and diversity of contemporary life in the French capital.

When asked to describe her reaction to the opportunity to participate in the Toni Morrison Society conference, Wells said, “It is an honor and a privilege to contribute to this historic event in support of Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and the Toni Morrison Society. Since 2001, Discover Paris! has been working with the conference organizer Professor Janis Mayes on her Paris Noir summer study abroad program. We are very pleased that she selected us to be a part of this program as well!”