France has long lured visitors from around the world. However, there is one group of people who lend a bit of flare to their visits. Celebrities, the rich, famous and powerful…
The 16th and 17th centuries saw a raft of political big shots arrive including Benjamin Franklin, working as a diplomat trying to convince the French of America’s worth as a new nation. The founding father was already known for his scientific triumphs, but he soon became a celebrity. His legendary wit and charm helped him carry the day and he succeeded in making France an important ally in winning the fight against the British.
Peter the Great visited Versailles in 1717. He famously held the young Louis XV aloft and gave him a kiss, something that defied the common conventions of the time. The Tsar left with many ideas on design and architecture, some of which were used in his own Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg.
No sovereign from Britain had set foot on French soil since the sixteenth century until Queen Victoria made an official visit in 1855. The now second longest reigning British monarch came to Versailles to solidify relations with then ruler Napoleon III. It was a successful stay for the Queen and the two rival nations not only signed a treaty over Crimea but also penned a trade agreement which lasted a decade.
The twentieth century brought a new kind of fame to France, and this time it was the streets of Paris that became flooded with their exploits. Famous writers of the day flocked to the City of Lights in search of inspiration. George Orwell went to Paris in the late 1920s before writing his first book. Living in the city he gained experience and gathered material for Down And Out in Paris and London while working in restaurants. The great political writer lived in France for over a year before returning to England where he would go on to become one of the world’s most respected authors.
Ernest Hemingway lived there for six years and wrote his first novel The Sun Also Rises while in Paris. It was also here that he met his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author kept company with other writers while in France including Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.
Stein made her own fame in Paris. Moving there in 1903 at the age of 29 the poet, playwright, and novelist spent the rest of her days in the city. Her home at 27 rue de Fleurus in the 6th arrondissement, became a gathering place for the in-crowd. The Stein Salon hosted the likes of Pablo Picasso, Sinclair Lewis, Thornton Wilder, and Henri Matisse as well as Hemingway’s friends Fitzgerald and Pound.
The south of France became popular in the 19th century. Paparazzi royals David and Victoria Beckham owned a home in Bargemon. Tom Hardy has a home in Saint-Remy. Johnny Depp, Roman Abramovich, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have all fallen for the charms of the area.
It’s no surprise that so many celebrities visit and make their homes in Provence since there are strict laws in France prohibiting publishing photos of someone without their permission. Besides this the peaceful landscape, the sumptuous food, and fine wine are a little corner of paradise.
William Womack is a freelance writer who specializes in short stories. He is a lover of history and travel. His story The Hotel was featured in The Scarlet Leaf Review. Womack lives in Murfreesboro Tennessee.