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Walk in the footsteps of the famous

What do Gustave Flaubert and André Malraux have in common? François-René de Chateaubriand and Leslie Caron? Each in their own way has left their mark on the region, the former in Sens and the latter in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. Surely this is an opportunity to see what they were able to discover here!


Écrivains célèbres en visite à Sens : Malraux, Mallarmé, Hugo et Flaubert

These 4 famous French writers once stayed in Sens. Do you recognize them ? Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo, Stéphane Mallarmé and André Malraux. - Photos CC0 Public Domain

He made " a delightful journey from Melun to Montereau by the edge of the river, beneath vine-covered rocks, in the baking sun ! ". After arriving in Sens, he stayed in the Hôtel de l'Écu before walking through the streets of the town so that he could best describe them in his realist novel, Sentimental Education. As you've probably guessed, " he " is Gustave Flaubert ! 

A less cheerful event was André Malraux's arrival in Sens during the Second World War. After being injured he was cared for at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. He then lived under house arrest in Collemiers, where he formed the "Group of Ten" with Jean Grosjean. You can also find a square named after them, the place des Dix in the village adjacent to Sens. He would next escape, simply by taking a train from the station in Sens; "a comfortable escape " he would later comment.



Flaubert and Malraux were only here for a short time, whereas Stéphane Mallarmé, lived and grew up in Sens. You don’t have to look far to retrace his steps: the school he went to is named after him and there is a street which also bears his name. The poet was very critical of provincial Sens, only one hour from Paris. He still appreciated the beauty of its monuments however; for example, in his writings he describes, in his own style of language, the north rose window of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral:

"Angels white as hosts sing their ecstasy accompanied by harps imitating their wings, cymbals of native gold, pure rays fashioned into trumpets and tambourines resounding with the virginity of young thunder."

Another place of inspiration for Stéphane Mallarmé were the banks of the Yonne. The flow of water, the bridge and Saint Maurice Church with its bell tower provided a setting to be admired and a place to watch the woman he fell in love with passing by.


L'église Saint-Maurice et les bords de l'Yonne, l'un des lieux préférés de Stéphane Mallarmé. 

The bank of Yonne River, one of Stéphane Mallarmé's favourite places. - Photo Pierre Pichon


Artistes illustres à Villeneuve-sur-Yonne : Chateaubriand, Joseph Joubert, Leslie Caron, Toulouse Lautrec, Auguste Renoir

These artists lived or were invited in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne : Chateaubriand, Joseph Joubert, Leslie Caron, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir. - Photos CC0 Public Domain


The charm of the medieval town has attracted many an artist. First, the moralist Joseph Joubert, who fell in love with it when he came here to visit his wife's family. Located at 18 Rue Joubert, the house still belongs to the descendants of this man of letters and good friend of François-René de Chateaubriand

The actress Leslie Caron made a lasting impression in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. While walking on Saint Nicholas Bridge, her heart was captured by two abandoned 15th-century boathouses. She turned them into La Lucarne aux chouettes, a restaurant serving traditional French cuisine.

Villeneuve-sur-Yonne also played host to some of the finest artists from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gathered around Thadée and Misia Natanson who had a residence, "Les Relais", in the south of the town. Among others were Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Jarry, but also Francis Picabia, Edouard Vuillard. You can discover some of their works at the lovely Carnot Museum and Art Gallery !