Monday, November 29, 2010

Virtual Paris: How I wrote a book set in Paris without being there

I knew I wanted to write a book set in Paris before I’d even come home from my 2007 trip there. But by the time I was ready to start writing, I had a big problem. I found that I was able to rely on my memories of my visit to the City of Light when it came to some of the more memorable aspects of my trip, like my first sight of the Eiffel Tower. But I had completely forgotten smaller details such as street names, metro stops, and what wing of the Louvre housed certain artwork. Thank God for the web!  Here are some of the online resources I used to research Paris.

Google Maps-Just type in Paris France and you will get a map of the city. Click satellite and the map changes to satellite view and you can zoom in and out. But the best part is the street view feature. Type the name of a landmark, or a street address, in the search box and drag the little person icon over to the map and you’ll get a street view that can be turned 360 degrees.  This really came in handy as I was writing the scenes where Maya and Simon were on the run or I had to describe areas of Paris I didn’t get to see when I was there.

Louvre Virtual Tours & App -There are scenes in the book set both inside and outside the Louvre.  I was able to use Google maps for the outside scenes. But there were areas inside I needed to describe. Luckily, you can go the Louvre’s website and do a virtual tour of the different wings. There is also a free Musee du Louvre app you can download from iTunes that has details on 50 of the museum's major artworks, as well as photo and video tours, and info on the museum's opening times, prices and contacts! Did I mention it was free?

Palace of Versailles Interactive Map-There is a key scene set in the garden hedge maze in the gardens of Versailles where Maya is attacked. The scene takes place in the Encelade grove. If you’d like to see it and the other beautiful sights at Versailles, just go to the website and click on the interactive map to see inside of the palace as well as the grounds. And for a couple of bucks you can download the Gardens of Versailles App from iTunes!

Paris Metro Map-My trusty metro map was invaluable when I was in Paris. It was invaluable when I was writing TPS. Unfortunately, my well used map fell apart and I lost half of it! Luckily there is an online version! And for less than a buck on iTunes, there’s also the a Paris Metro App

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery-There aren't any scenes in The Paris Secret set in the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery. However, Pere Lachaise, the Jesuit priest for whom the cemetery was named, makes a very brief appearance in the book. I didn't get a chance to tour the cemetery when I was in Paris but anyone can tour it virtually!

There was a time I wouldn't dream of writing about a city I'd never been to. But even though my first instinct is to actually travel to a location for research, with so much great info online I now feel a lot more confidant if I can't make the trip in person.

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