The Magical World of Jules Verne

If you are lucky enough to travel through France and have time to visit other cities as well as Paris and Versailles then I recommend Nantes, birthplace of the renowned author Jules Verne and Amiens where the “House with the Tower” is located and where he wrote many of his works.

Jules Verne is often described as the “father of science fiction,” and among all writers, only Agatha Christie’s works have been translated more. He is such a successful and popular author worldwide that many people forget that he was French.  Verne wrote numerous plays, essays, books of nonfiction, and short stories, but he was best known for his novels.

Part travelogue, part adventure, part natural history, his novels remain popular to this day.  You might even say that he was one of the first travel bloggers of his time.

Many of his novels have been made into movies, television series, radio shows, animated children’s cartoons, computer games and graphic novels.  

Jules VerneJules Gabriel Verne was born February 8, 1828 in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer but quit the profession when he visited Amiens to be the best man at his friend’s wedding, he fell in love with the bride’s sister (and the city). And as the story goes, the rest was history – he died in Amiens on March 24th, 1905 of diabetes mellitus). Verne rests in the serene Cimetière de la Madeleine, beneath Albert Roze’s sculpture of him, which is titled “Towards immortality and eternal youth”.

After major renovation works, the “House with the Tower” in Amiens, where Jules Verne lived from 1882 to 1900, turned into a museum once again offers visitors a space where the imaginary world and the daily life of the author mix. This luxe 19th century mansion witnessed the success of the writer, who wrote most of his “Extraordinary Voyages” there.  The house reveals the personality, sources of inspiration and memories of Jules Verne and is well worth a visit if only for a small glimpse into the fertile machinations of his brain . Verne’s most famous and enduring novels were written in the 1860’s and 1870’s, at a time when Europeans were still exploring, and in many cases exploiting, new areas of the globe.  Exploiting cultures and land is still a popular pastime for many today!  Pity!

 


 

The first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus was named after Captain Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Just a few years after the publication of Around the World in Eight Days, two women who were inspired by the novel successfully raced around the world.  Nellie Bly would win the race against Elizabeth Bisland, completing the journey in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.

Today, astronauts in the International Space Station circle the globe in 92 minutes. Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon presents Florida as the most logical place to launch a vehicle into space, yet this is 85 years before the first rocket would launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Again and again, we find the scientific visions of Verne becoming realities.


 

In 2007 a combined art installation and steampunk amusement park on the site of a former shipyard opened.  Île de Nantes is a 337-hectare island in the centre of the city of Nantes, on Brittany’s western edge.   Les Machines de L’île is a 21st century mechanical wonderland where visitors can catch rides on twirling sea creatures – Participants can choose to ride on three levels of mechanical creatures: squid and crab on the lowest level, suspended fish on the second and boats and jellyfish at the top – a breathtaking juxtaposition of old, new – and weird.

The island’s biggest showstopper, however, is a 48-tonne mechanical elephant. The creature, which carries 50 riders, stomps the entire length of the park – from the entrance, across the shipyard and past an old warehouse to the carousel, before looping back to discharge passengers and wait for new ones. The wild ride takes a half hour.  When this majestic beast emerges from its steel cathedral, it is a moving piece of architecture that sets off for a walk. The passengers on board can see what makes the engine and moving feet tick. A machinist will welcome you on board, tell you about its life and set off its trumpeting. As part of the crew, this is an invite for timeless travel in the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Mechanical elephant in Nantes

Quotes from Jules Verne

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.

We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.

The sea is everything.  It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe.  It’s breath is pure and healthy.  It is an immense desert where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence.

Either of these cities would be worth a visit but both would be fantastic.  Happy Trails!

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