The Seine River tells many stories as it snakes along from Paris to the Normandy coast.
One such story is told in the quiet little village of Villequier.
Visiting the Victor Hugo Museum
In Villequier, you find the elegant mansion of the Vacqueries, a rich ship-owning family from Le Havre. They were friends of Victor Hugo, the famous French author. Their former holiday home is now the Victor Hugo Museum, and it illustrates the life of Leopoldine Hugo, the writer’s daughter, who was married to Charles Vacqueries. Theirs was an idyllic but tragically short life; she and her young husband drowned in 1843 just six months after their wedding.
The Victor Hugo Museum also celebrates the work of Victor Hugo himself, as well as his life, loves and family – you see drawings by Victor, some of his great books, photos and period furniture.
We visited the Victor Hugo Museum on a Seine River cruise with Scenic Cruises – bicycling there on fun e-bikes.
You may read more about this charming museum in France in our recently published NUVOmagazine.com article (link at the end of this post).
You can also get a glimpse of Victor Hugo’s complicated life through our photos of the Victor Hugo Museum, shown below.
Born in 1802, Victor Hugo is most well-known for his novels, Les Miserables (1862) and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831).
As a teenager, Victor fell in love with Adele Julie Foucher and married her in 1822. They had four children, and despite both of them having affairs, their marriage lasted.
There are about a dozen rooms in the Victor Hugo Museum, with artifacts, prints and photographs.
It helps if you understand a little French, as most everything (signage, interpretive descriptions, etc.) is in French. We had an English-speaking guide who accompanied us from our river ship (the Scenic Gem), and she was able to bring the place to life for us.
Leopoldine Hugo was Victor and Adele’s eldest daughter.
She was only 19 and pregnant when she died. She and her husband Charles were out sailing on the Seine when their boat capsized. He drowned trying to save her, diving down and swimming underneath the boat six times in an effort to rescue her.
Quite understandably, Victor never really got over his beloved daughter’s death; in his Contemplations collection of 156 lyrical poems, he wrote eloquently of visiting his daughter’s grave:
“Tomorrow, at dawn, the moment the countryside whitens,
I will leave. You see, I know that you await me.
I will go through the forest, I will go across the mountain.
I can no longer remain away from you.
I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Without seeing anything outside, without hearing any sound,
Alone, unknown, back bent, hands crossed,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.
I will not look upon the gold of nightfall,
Nor the sails from afar that descend on Harfleur,
And when I arrive, I will place on your grave
A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom.”
We like the high ceiling in this room! But the bed looks a bit narrow for our tastes :-).
And who is this pretty lady?
She is Juliette Drouet, Victor Hugo’s mistress. A French actress, she and Victor began their affair after she performed in one of Hugo’s plays, Lucrezia Borgia. They remained lovers for 50 years until her death in 1883.
Victor’s wife Adele, along with Leopoldine, her husband Charles and two uncles are all buried in the cemetery of Villequier.
Victor was buried at the Pantheon in Paris.
If you go
Parles-vous Francais? Then check out the Victor Hugo Museum website.
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase
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Here’s a good pin :-).
Our magazine article on the Victor Hugo Museum
See “The Victor Hugo Museum, Villequier: Romance, Tragedy and Revolution,” published December 26, 2017 in NUVOmagazine.com.