The Great Women of Paris: Marie-Antoinette, Joséphine and Marie-Louise

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  • France
  • September 4 – 10, 2022
  • 7 days / 6 nights
  • 7 – 12 guests

Overview

There have been many great women who have helped shape and define Paris, but none greater than Marie Antoinette, Empress Joséphine and Marie-Louise. Join us as we explore Paris through the eyes of these illustrious women.

Marie Antoinette, of course, was the wife of Louis XVI, France’s last monarch, and is perhaps the most famous woman in French history. Among her many accomplishments, she’s renowned for her renovation of a home at Versailles, the Petit Trianon, and the building of Hameau de la Reine. We’ll venture back in time to walk in her footsteps at Versailles while your trip leader (and Marie Anoinette expert) Susan Leduc reveals some of her innermost secrets.

Joséphine’s captivating life story, from her youth in the Caribbean to her reign as Empress of France, appeals to women of every generation. An adolescent bride, her family arranged her marriage to the Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais and sent her to Paris at age 16. Beauharnais lost his head (literally) in the Reign of Terror. Joséphine, now a widow with two young children, became a trendsetting Merveilleuses, one of the most fashionable women in Paris in the 1790’s, and caught the eye of a young Napoleon Bonaparte. At first, their marriage was a scandal as Joséphine was 6 years his senior, but she was the love of his life. Joséphine was a prodigious shopper, but also a patron of the arts. She worked closely with sculptors, painters and interior decorators to establish a unique Consular and Empire style at her spectacular private retreat, the Château de Malmaison, and became one of the leading art collectors of her time. We’ll have a chance to explore Malmaison and its spectacular rose garden.

Last but certainly not least, there’s Marie-Louise. She was the daughter of the Austrian emperor, great niece of Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon Bonaparte’s second wife via a politically motivated arranged marriage. Marie-Louise gave Napoleon an heir, Napoleon II, and her marriage brought about a short-lived peace in Europe, but her lasting impact is in the arts. She redesigned much of the Hameau de la Reine in Versailles.

Realize your own inner queen on this grand tour of Paris as we walk in the footsteps of these three remarkable women.

Highlights:

  • Shop like Joséphine would in the Paris of today and yesterday
  • Visit behind the scenes at Versailles discovering the Hameau which has been refurbished
  • Be awed by La Tour Eiffel sparking as you sip bubbly and dine at a world-class restaurant
  • Rest your head at the only hotel in Paris that looks out over the church of St. Sulpice
  • Indulge in gourmet food and charming bistros
  • Enjoy an aperitif at the recently restored residence Hotel Bourrienne
  • Explore Josphine’s retreat, Malmaison and walk through her famous rose gardens

Your Trip Leader

Leading you in the footsteps of Marie Antoinette, will be the scholar, educator and nationally-certified tour guide, Susan Taylor-Leduc, PhD. Susan has been teaching art history in Paris for over 25 years, and is a specialist of the gardens at Versailles. Her book, Marie-Antoinette’s Legacy: The Politics of French Garden Patronage and Picturesque Design, 1775-1867 is forthcoming with Amsterdam University Press. Suffice to say, she knows more about Paris, it’s gardens and Marie Antoinette than anyone you’ll ever meet. But most importantly, she’s an absolute delight to be with! You will love your time with her.

A enjoyable cruise we will be taking on this tour.

Itinerary

Day 1 – September 4th, Sunday

Arrival Day

Upon arrival you’ll taxi to our hotel. We’ll meet up in the afternoon at our elegant left bank Hotel Le Recamier, named after another Merveilleuse*, Juliette Recamier, one of the most beautiful women who survived Revolutionary Paris. We will have a welcome glass of champagne here in their lovely garden and meet our guide, Susan Taylor-Leduc.

This evening we will dine at the celebrated old-world bistro, the Fontaine de Mars on classic French food prepared perfectly. This is where President Barack Obama took his wife Michele back in 2009 on the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

*A Merveilleuse was a member of a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris after the Revolutionary terror. Joséphine became one of the trendsetting Merveilleuse with Juliette Recamier and Fortuné Hameln whose home we will visit on Wednesday.

Day 2 – September 5th, Monday

Central Paris & the Palais Royal

Today we have a chance to explore the Hôtel de la Marine, with its magnificent views and expertly restored eighteenth-century interiors. As we overlook the Place de la Concorde, we will discuss the French Revolution, peering over the site of the guillotine where Marie-Antoinette was executed in 1793. Joséphine would have visited here because the building was the storehouse for all French furniture and she would have selected furniture to redecorate all her residences in turn creating the Empire Style.

Lunch today will be at the café Laperouse at the Hotel de la Marine the quintessential ladies who lunch type of place.

After our tour we will stroll down the Rue de Rivoli, built by Napoleon as part of his city planning projects. We will pass through the Tuileries gardens, where Napoleon and Josephine lived in a former chateau which is now destroyed.

We will tour the Palais Royal and Les Passages, which were the precursors to modern day malls. Joséphine was familiar with these gardens and shops.  Les passages are covered passageways built in the late 18th century to house restaurants and shops so “the” ladies of the day wouldn’t get rained on or be dirtied by mud from the carriages rumbling through Paris.

Free Time this afternoon for further exploration or relaxation.

Tonight we’ll meet up at hotel and walk over to enjoy dinner at Le Recamier, a place that specializes in soufflés.

Day 3 – September 6th, Tuesday

Meet Malmaison

Today we’ll enjoy an all-day visit to Malmaison, Joséphine’s treasured country house and gardens. Decorated in the antique style, between 1800 and 1802. Malmaison was the seat of the French government, a place where Napoleon liked to gather his ministers. Great political decisions were taken within these walls. After crossing the first vestibule in the shape of a tent, you are plunged into the heart of Joséphine’s daily life including her dining room, salon and bedchambers.

We will discover her penchant for collection and then explore the gardens where she collected rare birds and plants. Fascinated by botany, Joséphine cultivated exotic plants alongside her important collection of roses. The discovery of the rose garden and its some 150 varieties of flowers represents a true olfactory journey!

These gardens inspired the botanical artist Pierre Redouté who recorded some 250 roses from her collection.

After our visit will enjoy lunch in the town of Rueil Malmaison at Sapristi. Then our day will close with a chocolate tasting recalling Josephine’s own sweet tooth.

After some unstructured time back in Paris, we’ll have a change of pace and dine at the Italian resto, Le Cherche Midi a short walk from our hotel. They’ve been around since 1978 and the antipasti and homemade pasta transports you to Italy!

Day 4 – September 7th, Wednesday

MEET Les Merveilleuses

This morning will start with a relaxing lie-in or an exploration of  your neighborhood on your own. Free time in Paris is essential!

Starting out in late morning we’ll visit the Louvre where we’ll discover Imperial Art from Joséphine’s time including historical paintings dedicated to Napoleon as well as portraits of Joséphine and her friend Madame Juliette Recamier (the namesake of your hotel).

Lunch after the Louvre  will be at the glorious Michelin starred Grand Vefour where Josephine and Napoleon dined often. It’s considered the oldest restaurant in Paris.

In late afternoon we’ll venture over to the Hotel Bourrienne, a recently restored townhouse and a fine example of interior decor from this period, and one of the only places to see this. The Hotel Bourrienne was the residence of Fortunée Hamelin (1776-1851) daughter of the rich plantation family from St Domingue (today the Dominican Republic) who befriended Josephine in the 1790s. The interior decoration, in the style of the Directory/Consulate period and has been preserved and beautifully restored.

At this delightful palace, we’ll enjoy a private apéro-dînatoire as we toast to our good fortune. An apéro-dînatoire is a French cocktail hour with delicious hors-d’oevres.

Day 5 – September 8th Thursday

Napoleon, Josephine & Marie-Louise at Versailles

Napoleon and Josephine did not live at the chateau, but Napoleon  dreamed about it. When he divorced Josephine he turned to the Grand Trianon, partially decorated by Josephine, to have his own country house.  This day tour begins with a trip out to Versailles to discover it in an altogether new way. We’ll enjoy a special look at the Apartments designed to celebrate Napoleon and Josephine at the chateau.

Then we’ll train to Grand and Petit Trianon starting with a light lunch at Angelinas.

In the afternoon we will visit the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hameau, commissioned  by Marie-Antoinette, but refurbished for Napoleon’s second wife, Marie-Louise who lived there from 1810-1815. Napoléon’s Hameau has been recently restored to period when Marie-Louise was in residence.

After a big day, we’ll return to Paris for dinner on your own and a night of rest and relaxation.

Day 6 – September 9th Friday

The Left  Bank: Being Josephine in the 21st Century

This morning  we will take a walking tour to left bank, with a stop at the Officine de Buly, a cosmetic shop dating back to 1803 when Joséphine set the fashion for cosmetics, beauty and style for her entire generation.

We will meet for Lunch at Le Café Bonaparte in the center of Saint Germain des Près.

After lunch we will give you some free time for last minute shopping on the ever-chic Left Bank .

We will end our Joséphine-infused adventure tonight on the Seine with a cruise and a delightful dinner orchestrated by the one and only Alain Ducasse, a world-famous chef, on his specially designed, electronically powered, cruise boat. This enviable location allows us to enjoy views of the sparkling Eiffel tower as we celebrate our week-long exploration into a forgotten Paris. We’ll toast to our discoveries and the lasting friendships made.

Day 7 – September 10th, Saturday

Today, our trip comes to an end. but first we must have a hearty breakfast together. May this be just the first of many trips to Paris and la Belle France.

“America is my country, but Paris is my home”, Gertrude Stein.

 

Trip Notes:

  • GG2P reserves the right to alter the itinerary based on weather or availability, as well as exciting opportunities that might crop up!
  • Vegetarians & Vegans - Not to worry – you will be well fed in all restaurants as well as those allergic to seafood or gluten. Options are plentiful.

 

 

Trip Cost

Trip Cost: 6,000 Euro*

 

  • * All our trips are organized and priced based on single occupancy at all the places we stay. (Everyone gets their own fabulous room)! If you’re traveling with a friend/relative, or would prefer to save some money by sharing a room, we can usually organize double occupancy and a reduction in cost.
  • * Unless stated otherwise, all our trips are priced in the home currency of the trip’s location. However, as a convenience to our US-based customers, we will invoice you in the equivalent USD calculated at the exchange rate at the time of invoice.
  • Interest-free, monthly payment plans are available. Please inquire.

What’s Included?

  • Everything stated in itinerary above including all meals and some wine with dinner
  • All guides
  • All wine and chocolate tastings mentioned
  • Lodging at 4* hotels
  • Museum or other entry fees
  • A special party at the Hotel Bourrienne
  • All transport in Paris and to surrounding towns we’ll be visiting

What’s Not Included?

  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • Any personal souvenirs or purchases
  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • Additional wine, beer or spirits beyond what is offered at meals
  • Travel insurance and trip medical coverage (required)

I’m interested, so what do I do next?

If you have questions, press the Inquire Now button above, and complete the form. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

If you’d like to come, press the Reserve Now button above. You will be prompted to complete a form with your pertinent details, put down a refundable $250 deposit, and . schedule a time to speak with a GG2P representative. We like to speak with everyone before they embark on their first trip with Girls’ Guide to Paris & Beyond. This allows you to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have. These are intimate, small group trips; a quick yet personal conversation allows you to get to know how our trips work and make sure it’s right for you. If it’s not, we’ll immediately refund your $250 deposit.

If it’s a Go! after your call, we’ll bill you for a non-refundable deposit, usually 35% of the trip’s cost (less the $250 place-holder deposit, if you already paid it) and your place is reserved. At this point, you’re committed to the trip, so we recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance to protect you in case your plans change unexpectedly. The balance will be due approximately 2 months before the trip.

Our cancellation policy is here.

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