Guernsey: the inspiration behind Les Misérables

Date Posted: 20/03/2013

Fans of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables can get behind the real story by booking a group trip to Guernsey where the author penned the famous novel turned musical, turned film, in 1862.

Celebrating the release of the film on DVD, here is a suggested collection of Hugo-related attractions in Guernsey, including his bizarrely decorated house, local haunts and cliff top inspiration.

Eccentric decorating at Hugo’s house

Visitors can explore Hauteville House in St. Peter Port’s Old Quarter, where Hugo lived during his time in Guernsey.

The house is eccentrically decorated with second-hand furniture and bric-à-brac collected on Hugo’s excursions around the island.

Doors are made from tables, columns have been created from table legs, tapestries decorate the ceilings and wood panelling is made from old chests.

Hugo was also intrigued by light, reflection and mystery so there are tricks with light and mirrors in several parts of the house, as well as hidden cupboards and secret staircases.

Hauteville House is open from April to September (excluding Sundays) and entry is £7 per adult. Group travel organisers are advised to pre-book.

A secret meeting spot

The Victoria Tower in St. Peter Port was erected in honor of a visit to the island by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846, and was a frequent secret meeting spot for Hugo and his lover, Juliette Drouet. If you look closely, you’ll find their initials carved into the wall.

Collect the key from the Candie Gardens, Museum and Gallery which opens the door to the 99 steps up to the top of the tower.

Hugo’s favourite places

Explore Guernsey with an expert guide who’ll lead you on inspired walking tours through St. Peter Port, passing Hugo’s favourite haunts and dedicated sites.

The two-hour tour will take participants to the house a few doors down from Hauteville House at number 20, where Juliette Drouet lived.

The couple would communicate by tying coloured hankies to the railings outside their homes with different colours signalling different moods and messages.

You’ll also visit Castle Cornet where Hugo was fond of walking, plus see the granite statue of the author in Candie Gardens.

Inspiration on coastal footpaths

Hugo’s walks along Guernsey’s 39 miles of coastline were so frequent that his striding figure became a familiar image to the islanders.

Having spent 15 years living in Guernsey, these years were reportedly the most productive of his life and he is said to have drawn inspiration from the beauty of the island. He wrote some of his most famous works here, including Les Misérables and Les Travailleurs de la Mer.

Hugo is known to have written in the morning and then walked the cliff top paths in the afternoons, and his statue in Candie Gardens is in this familiar walking pose (pictured).

Visitors can follow the coastal paths themselves to find their own inspiring views, or opt for a guided walk.

Getting to the island

Flights to Guernsey from London Gatwick are available with Aurigny and Flybe.

Departures from several regional airports are also available, including Southampton with Blue Islands.

This list of sites was compiled by VisitGuernsey. Group travel organisers can visit the official tourist board website for further advice on planning a group visit to any of the featured sites and attractions.

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