Story of the week: Uncovering the life of Jules Verne in Amiens, France

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*photo credit: famouauthors.org

He is one of our greatest ever travel writers, producing 62 novels and 18 short stories to transport his readers to fantastic new worlds.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of his death and his adopted home, Amiens, capital of France’s Picardy region, is holding a year-long cultural festival to celebrate his legacy.

The author in question? Jules Verne, author of Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) and Around the World in 80 Days (1873).

Early years

Verne was born in Nantes but moved to Amiens, home to his wife, Honorine, in 1871.

He went on to produce many of his best-known works from their house in rue Charles-Dubois. The Maison Jules Verne re-opens after renovations in the spring of 2005 as a major museum, showcasing over 30,000 items of Verne memorabilia.

Festival events, however, kick off on New Year’s Eve with 21st Century Voyagers, a giant parade through town accompanied by fireworks and marching bands.

Jules Verne week (March 21-27, 2005), meanwhile, will see Vernians gather in Amiens for a week of lectures, readings and debates.

Weekend break

For a weekend in Paris combined with short festival hop, Amiens is just 70 minutes away from the French capital by car, or one hour by TGV train from the Gare du Nord.

The Unesco World Heritage listed Notre-Dame Cathedral is the largest Gothic edifice in France, while the lively St-Leu canal district has a Left Bank feel and is packed with restaurants; try Les Marissons for a taste of traditional Picardy cuisine.

Verne was an inveterate traveller and made sailing expeditions in his boat, le Saint-Michel, including trips to Britain and Denmark.

But, in later life, he became a leading member of Amiens council, using his influence to champion a new municipal circus.

Verne had always been fascinated by circus arts and, today, Le Cirque Jules Verne remains one of only seven working indoor circuses in France.

Throughout his life, Verne dreamed of a “time when the creations of science are beyond the imagination.”

Now, 100 years after his death, his moment has finally come.

What did you think of this story? Post your comments below.

This story was first published in High Life magazine in 2004.

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