July 24 of 1802, prolific French author Alexandre Dumas was born.

Best known for writing The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, all of his published works total beyond 100,000 pages and have been adapted to more than 150 films!

Although there are very few recorded anecdotes about the obstacles Dumas must have endured in time of ruthless racism, crucial evidence stands in the memory of his father. Dumas' father was born a slave and became the first black general in French history, and so is widely believed to have been a major inspiration in his son's historical novels.

General Dumas was born in modern-day Haiti. His father was a white French nobleman, Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and his mother an enslaved woman of African descent, Marie-Cessette Dumas. He was born into slavery because of his mother's status, but his father took the boy with him to France in 1776 and had him educated. Slavery had been illegal in metropolitan France since 1315 and thus any slave would be freed de facto by being in the country. Although social status was more important than skin color in French society at the time, there is a lot of meaning behind Dumas’ choice to enlist under his mother’s name instead of his father’s when he joined the military at 24 years of age. He went on to quickly rise through the ranks and play an important role in the French Revolutionary Wars.

Dumas served as commander of the French cavalry forces on the Expédition d’Égypte, a failed French attempt to conquer Egypt in 1798. On the march from Alexandria to Cairo, he clashed verbally with the Expedition's supreme commander Napoleon Bonaparte. When Dumas fell into enemy hands on the return from the Egyptian expedition, the French high command left him to rot for two years in the enemy’s fortress. The new Emperor Napoleon, meanwhile, had expelled black officers from the armed forces and reinstituted slavery in France's overseas possessions.

This war story may sound familiar to readers of Alexandre Dumas as it clearly inspired his many novels of patriotic sons who valiantly keep faith with slighted fathers, who were victims of gross injustice and chase vengeance and vindication. At the start of The Three Musketeers, d'Artagnan's father tells his son, "never submit quietly to the slightest indignity", for "it is by his courage alone that a gentleman makes his way nowadays… Have no fear of many imbroglios, and look about for adventures". He, and his creator, did exactly that.

Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d'Artagnan (who only formally joins them at the end of The Three Musketeers) are gentlemen at arms in the strife-ridden France – and England – of the early 17th century. They dedicate their swords to an ideal of their homeland more than to the scheming statesmen and wayward monarchs who really govern it. This self-fashioned patriotism, immune to the misdeeds of the powerful, feels very close in spirit to the career of the author's father. He was a man betrayed by his superiors, but not by his idealised patrie.

But even in his fame, Dumas experienced racism and was constantly referred to as ‘the negro’ even when the critics and the French society preferred his book to those of his contemporaries. He lacked the financial education and backing of banks as he had fame of spending his wealth as fast as he published his novels. He famously purchased a mansion country-house on the outskirts of Paris and named it Château de Monte Cristo. Another hint at the gray area between his life’s experiences and the imagination of his novels.

In 2002, for the bicentennial of Dumas's birth, French President Jacques Chirac had a ceremony honouring the author by having his ashes re-interred at the mausoleum of the Panthéon of Paris, where many French luminaries were buried. Chirac acknowledged the racism that had existed in France and said that the re-interment in the Pantheon had been a way of correcting that wrong, as Alexandre Dumas was enshrined alongside fellow great authors Victor Hugo and Émile Zola

For your next visit to France you may want to read one of Dumas’ masterworks on the way, and visit the island fortress prison Château d’If near Marseille (which was the inspiration for the novel The Count of Monte Cristo) and learn about the prisoners incarcerated here and get amazing views of the Vieux Port! You can reserve your priority tickets HERE

And if you are in Paris and you want to pay a visit to his to his iconic resting place you can get your flexible-entry tickets to the great Panthéon HERE

"All for one and one for all!"

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The original architects of the medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité had a mission to build a monument to stand the test of time. As much as they envisioned the passing of the centuries, they probably never imagined all the events and the symbolism that would make Notre-Dame de Paris one of the most emblematic and recognizable buildings in the 21st century world. The cathedral's construction began in 1160 as its first cornerstone was set in the presence of King Louis VII and Pope Alexander III, (characters so historical that seem almost mythical now). The main aspects of the cathedral were largely complete by 1260, but Notre-Dame as we know was majorly restored by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1864.

Viollet-le-Duc’s restoration began in 1844, ten years after the publication of Victor Hugo’s classic novel Notre-Dame de Paris (a.k.a. The Hunchback of Notre Dame), which he wrote in part to raise awareness of the cathedral’s decaying state. After the Napoleonic Wars, Notre-Dame was in such a state of disrepair that Paris officials actually considered its demolition. Can you imagine? It is strange to think city officials of their times wanted to strip Paris of their most emblematic monuments (the Eiffel tower was supposed to be taken down after its display at the 1889 world fair).

Approximately 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually (meaning an average of 30,000 people every day), making it the most visited monument in Paris. Until the roof caught fire in 2019. It is important to mention this damage came about during a period of renovations. A renovation program proposed in late 2010 with an estimated cost of €100 million, including a €6 million budget for the cathedral's spire. These renovations began in late 2018. In the evening of April 15 2019 the cathedral sustained serious damage after burning for about 14 hours, including the destruction of the flèche (the timber spirelet over the crossing) and most of the lead-covered wooden roof above the stone vaulted ceiling. President Emmanuel Macron said approximately 400 firefighters helped to battle the fire in the same speech where he promised to restore the damages. A short time later, the idea of an international design competition for restoration proposals was mentioned by fire brigade official, Philippe Demay.

Restoration proposals came as fast as the internet allowed architects from several countries to submit all types of proposals. From a rooftop deck, to an ultra-light beam to be projected as replacement of the old spire, to a new colorful full stained-glass cover, even to a metallic structure representing a flame. You will find our selection of modern proposals below.

Which one would you have chosen and why?

(You can write your answer in the comment section below)

1- Proposal by Designer Mathieu Lehanneur

2- Clément Willemin, of French design company BASE Paris

3- Proposal by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut

4- Proposal by Alexandre Fantozzi, of Brazil’s AJ6 I Arch Properties Design

5 - Proposal by Vizum Atelier, a Slovakian-based design company

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After being closed for several months amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Louvre Museum has once again opened its doors. This was the longest period of time the museum has been closed since World War II and it represented a €40 million drop in revenue since it normally welcomes an average of 30,000 visitors per day. Nowadays the entrance capacity has been shrunk to welcome no more than 10,000 visitors per day, and it only sold 7,000 tickets on its first day back. We must keep in mind that an estimated 75% of the Louvre's tickets in 2018 were purchased by international visitors.

The visitor carrying capacity is not the only adaptation to the Pandemic by the world-famous museum. One-third of the museum remains closed, including the galleries devoted to the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, as well as the lower level of the Islamic galleries. Face masks are obligatory for all. Tickets must be reserved online with a specific entry time. Social-distancing signs and hand-sanitizing stations are placed in almost every room, juxtaposing the classical artworks around them. Visitors must follow a one-way tour throughout the museum to avoid bottlenecks and avoid large congregations.

On our visit to rediscover one of our favorite places in Paris, we were eager to experience the Louvre without the normal summertime crowds. We were especially curious to see how DaVinci's 'Mona Lisa' has been adapted. Being one of the most iconic paintings in history, the Gioconda's mysterious smile has become on

e of the city's most coveted photo spots. Normally, a massive crowd of people surrounds the painting from every angle, holding out their smartphones with a frozen smile to take their 'selfie'. Now, almost everyone who enjoys seeing the painting in person also sn

aps a photo of it but the experience is very different in times of COVID.

As you can see in our photos, there is a large tabloid sign at the entrance of the room detailing all the pandemic safety measures at the entrance of the line. The delineated line space covers most of the gallery space and is marked with blue distance dots on the floor. Every visitor politely followed the rules and we all advanced from one blue dot unto the next with patience and a meter distance from each other. The time it took for the person at the front to take a 'selfie' marked the tempo at which the line advanced. Is a 'selfie' still good if wearing a facemask? Most visitors seemed to think so, perhaps it humorously adds extra mystery to the number of smiles photographed? We did see a few visitors take off their masks to take their portraits next to the DaVinci's masterpiece, but they were met with disapproval as most of the crowd shook their heads. However, no apparent punishment came their way.

If you wish to prepare your visit to the Louvre at times of Covid you can find the new adapted itinerary that has been designed for this special times HERE

Choose your Flexible tickets (cancellable up to 24 hours before visit date) HERE

We wish you a 'bonne visite'!

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