Wednesday, May 12, 2010

FrancoFiles new address:

Okay, this is it. My last post here at
Time to travel!

I hope you'll visit from now on at

You'll find the new and improved FrancoFiles web log and a bunch of other cool stuff besides.

Example: Be the first to pilot the prototype iPhone/iTouch/iPad app of the Time Traveler Paris Tours itinerary of the French Revolution: Beware Madame La Guillotine... Coming Summer 2010!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Napoleon Bonaparte's Civic Legacy

Today, I'd like to share a recent Q&A I had with a FrancoFiles Fan and her Studious Son who is writing an extended essay on the larger-than-life character of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The two were interested in Napoleon's civic achievements, not just his battles, both successful and disastrous, about which much has been written.

Hi Sarah,

I found your blog on Google. I have a "stumper" for you, which I cannot find the answer online. Anywhere! Here goes: Under the dome, at Les Invalides, Napoleon's coffin is surrounded by bas relief sculptures that represent his most significant civic achievements. What are those achievements?

Surrounding Napoleon's porphyry sarcophagus under the dome of the Chapel at Les Invalides are first a ring of 12 statues of angels, called the "Winged Victories". They symbolize Emperor Napoleon's victorious military campaigns - of which there were 40 or so battles. Inscribed in the mosaic floor at the Victories' feet are the names of his eight greatest victories: Austerlitz, Marenco, Pyramides, Iena, Friedland, Wagram, Moscova, and Rivoli. The Winged Victories stand guard over Napoleon's remains with laurel wreaths in hand, a symbol of victory dating back to Roman times.

On the circular wall just behind the Victories can be found 10 bas relief sculptural panels that commemorate and honor Napoleon's administrative and political achievements as well as his public works. The most significant of these achievements is the Napoleonic Code, which represented the final and perhaps most lasting break from France's former rule by Absolute Monarchy. It placed all French people, no matter their family background, rank, or ties with the church or nobility, under the same system of justice and law. After the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, promulgated during the Revolution, the Napoleonic Code is perhaps one of the most important political documents in the history of democracy. Even today it remains the basis of law in some 80 countries.

The various public works celebrated in the bas relief panels include canals that brought potable drinking water to Paris; bridges; grand streets and boulevards such as the rue de Rivoli; building projects such as the Louvre extension; and monuments like the Carousel du Louvre, all spear-headed by Napoleon. He is remembered for institutionalizing the stock exchange in Paris and building La Bourse, which continues to house the exchange today. He is credited for the idea of centralized government, having carved France up into a series of departments and created localized governments that answered to him. Napoleon is also to be thanked for modernizing the postal system by numbering houses consecutively along odd and even sides of streets to ease delivery of letters and packages.

Any study of Napoleon Bonaparte should consider his great achievements in addition to his elusive military campaign for "La Gloire" that led, finally, to his being sent into exile half way around the world. For even the Emperor is remembered for having said: ...more important than the winning of 40 battles is the civil code, which will live forever.


If you have a question about French history and culture, please don't hesitate to ask!

by the author

Friday, April 23, 2010

Beware Madame La Guillotine - Pilot Tour!

On Thursday, April 1, 2010, as part of their study of the French Revolution, the 8th grade class at the International School of Paris took a walking tour of the era with Charlotte Corday. Charlotte is known for having assassinated Jean-Paul Marat, radical journalist and proponent of the Reign of Terror. She blamed Marat for destroying the true revolution. She felt that his death would bring an end to the fear and bloodshed tearing her country apart. She decided to do it herself.

Her tour, Beware Madame La Guillotine, prototype itinerary of the Time Traveler Tours, recounts her journey to end Marat’s life, and her own. She narrates the last four days of her life, from July 11, 1793, when she left her Norman home, until her execution on July 17th.

ISP students followed her movements, from the Palais Royal, birthplace of the French Revolution and where she bought her weapon; to Marat’s home near the revolutionary hot spot, Le Café Procope, where she stabbed him through the heart as he soaked in the bath; to the Conciergerie, where she was imprisoned, tried, and labeled an “enemy of the revolution”. Charlotte was guillotined at the Place de la Revolution (now the Place de la Concorde) six months after Louis XVI and two months before Marie-Antoinette.

“Very compelling [to view the Revolution] from the perspective of the characters” who lived it, reports one ISP 8th grader. “I liked how we learn more specifically [about the Revolution]. And get to know the places that related to Charlotte,” said another.

Overall the students liked the experience: “Cool trip.” “Interesting and fun.” “GOOD JOB! And well done!”

Images by Julia Luu, Intern, ISP External Affairs.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Time Traveler Tours go to Bologna

On March 22, 2010, at the acclaimed Bologna Childrens' Book Fair in Italy, Sarah read from the prototype historical itinerary of the Time Traveler Tours, Beware Madame La Guillotine, to rave reviews:

On the evening of 13 July 1793, I found Marat thus, in the bath at his apartment around the corner from his press. It was my third visit to his house that day. The first two times – once in the early morning, then at mid-day – I had been turned away by Simone. This time, however, I succeeded in gaining entry. I climbed the steps to Marat’s door, one heavy foot at a time, and plucked up the courage to knock yet again. I was confronted once more by a scowling and suspicious Simone, but before she could dismiss me a third time, I offered her, with a slightly trembling hand, a letter addressed to Monsieur Marat. I had written the letter myself, in the heat of the afternoon after my second failed attempt to cross his threshold. The letter stated that I had come to name names; that I was prepared to give him information regarding the missing Girondin “Enemies of the Revolution” that he sought.

Who would suspect a 24-year old girl?

Simone took the letter and shut the door with a slam, leaving me alone on that drab, inhospitable landing. I could have turned around right there and then. But Marat was just on the other side of that door. I took a long, deep breath, and held it. Would I again be turned away? If so, so be it. Or would I meet the monster Marat at last?

I met my enemy in a small, square room with a brick-tiled floor. A map of France hung upon worn wall-paper. His tub was the shape of a sabot, an old wooden shoe. A board lying across it served as a writing table so that Marat could work on his articles and conduct his interviews even while soaking. To keep warm, he sat upon a linen sheet, the dry ends covering his bare shoulders. A second sheet draped across the tub and writing table offered him a bit of privacy from his visitors.

Marat was strange and unpleasant, thin and feverish. His head was wrapped in a filthy, vinegar-soaked handkerchief. On his skin were open lesions that reeked of decaying, rotten flesh. My eyes began to tear, struggling so against the fumes of death and medicine that I did not at first notice Marat motioning me to take the chair placed beside his bath. I sat as requested, my head turned toward the window, searching the still, hot summer air for what little breeze might chance to come my way. And in the gloom of evening’s waning light, Marat took great pleasure in scribbling down one by one, his head bent over his writing table, the names of each of my beloved Girondin friends.

Once finished he raised his head, his blood-shot eyes met mine for the first time. He proclaimed viciously, hate dripping from his lips, “We’ll soon have them all guillotined in Paris!”

At that moment I knew I had justly come. I pulled out my knife and stabbed Marat right through the heart.

One blow was all it took. I felt the knife penetrate flesh, bone, muscle. It was shocking how easy it was.

Marat died almost instantly.

For more on Beware Madame La Guillotine and other tours in the Time Traveler Tours Paris series, see


Baudry, Paul-Jacques-Aimé. Charlotte Corday. 1860. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Les Sans-culottes

Isn't this a great picture? Just this week, I received permission to use it in the prototype itinerary of the Time Traveler Tours, Beware Madame La Guillotine.

It is a hand-colored copper engraving by Braun & Schneider, Munich, c. 1880, that comes to me from the Collection KulturBuro Schodel, It pictures les citoyens sans-culottes of the French Revolution.

Who were the "sans-culottes"? This excerpt from Beware Madame La Guillotine explains all:

The term “sans-culottes” first appeared in the French lexicon in 1790 during the French Revolution. Initially, it described the poorer members of the Third Estate* who wore full-length trousers (pantaloons) rather than the knee-length culottes fashionable among the bourgeoisie and nobility. The expression quickly came to refer to the radical revolutionaries, both rich and poor, who styled themselves “citoyens sans-culottes”.

In addition to long trousers, the sans-culottes were also often seen wearing a conical red cap, known as the “Phrygian Cap” or cap of liberty. The same cap was worn in ancient times by both the Greeks and later the Romans. For them, as for the French revolutionaries, the Phrygian Cap symbolized freedom from tyranny.

During the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars, the term sans-culottes referred as well to the ill-clad and ill-equipped volunteers of the Revolutionary Army.

As for news on the likelihood of obtaining photos from the RMN (see Phrases & Expression: Sabotage), I managed to get through to the Paris reps who've bounced my case to their affiliate in New York. I'm hoping very much that this means progress! Cross your fingers for me.

*The Third Estate was that portion of the French population (approximately 96%) that was neither part of the Church nor to the Aristocracy in France of the
Ancien Régime. For more on the Third Estate and the French Revolution, click here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Phrases & Expressions: Sabotage

So almost all good news regarding the spring launch of the first itinerary of the Time Traveler Tours:
  • The website is up and running at;

  • I selected a POD specialist to set up the print version of the prototype itinerary;

  • I've partnered with a mobile device specialist to program the iPhone application for the first itinerary;

  • I've acquired permissions to duplicate many of the images selected to illustrate the first itinerary; but...

...most of the desired images, all hailing from the era of the French Revolution and therefore in the public domain, are in French museums and are controled by a single agency. And it appears that this agency may be demanding a healthy sum for their use. A sum I will not be able to pay.

I'm working on finding a resolution to the problem. And no doubt there is one. But in the meantime, it feels like sabotage.

Did you know that the word sabotage originates from French? The story goes like this:

Back in the early 19th century, as the Industrial Revolution took off in France, laborers dropped their shovels and pick axes and left their ancestral fields for work in the growing numbers of factories and coal mines. They sought a better life; they hoped for a better economic future for their families. But work was hard and conditions were unbearable. People were pushed to phyical extremes on bellies that remained empty day after day after day. They soon found that there was no hope.

In those days, poor French laborers wore a type of wooden shoe or clog called a sabot. And when their hunger became unendurable and their hope forgotten they rose up as one to strike. They used their wooden sabots to jam the machines of the factories all over France. With their sabots they stopped all production; they sabotaged the captains of industry.

Today, it feels like the behemoth that is the French bureaucracy is sabotaging the future of the TTT. But we,too, shall overcome.

Stay posted...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Announcing: The Time Traveler Tours Website

It's happening, folks! The Time Traveler Tours are going live. They now have their very own website and blog.

So today is moving day: I'm packing up FrancoFiles Fun Facts and moving over to I'll continue posting in both places for a little while, until I get the new site sorted, but will eventually move over there full time.

Drop in and visit me at, where you can...
  • Continue to get your Fun Facts fix,
  • Post your questions to the TTT Forum,
  • Chat me up in the TTT Discussion space, and
  • Follow the latest TTT products and their development.
Looking forward to seeing you there! Click here to get there now. And pass our new address on to all your friends.

With thanks for your continued support,