City of Names: Charles Dickens

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“I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world.” Charles Dickens, 1844.

As a Brit, if you asked me to name a street associated with Charles Dickens, I would immediately think of London. Perhaps I’d choose Doughty Street, the smart tree-lined row of townhouses in Bloomsbury where Dickens once lived and where the Dickens Museum is located today. Perhaps I’d choose Great Ormond Street, home to the world-famous children’s hospital that Dickens supported through readings and recitals. Or maybe I’d name Cartwright Gardens, the stunning Bloomsbury terrace that always reminds me of ‘Who Will Buy’ from Oliver! the musical.

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One thing’s for sure, I wouldn’t immediately think of a tiny little residential square in Paris’ exclusive 16th arrondissement. But that’s exactly where you’ll find two places named after our famous London novelist.

Rue Charles Dickens and its neighbouring Square Charles Dickens are both located near to metro station Passy. They are small, fairly non-descript residential roads. The square boasts a hugely popular wine museum that you can go to for tastings and dinner. The vaulted basements and cellars are particularly impressive.

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Dickens loved France and visited Paris on numerous occasions throughout his life. He summered in Boulogne a few times in the 1850s and then, in 1859, he wrote his iconic revolutionary novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Perhaps the Parisians were flattered by his enthusiastic descriptions of their turbulent city. Or maybe they simply acknowledged his literary greatness.

Square Charles Dickens was opened shortly after Rue Charles Dickens in 1931. By themselves, I’m not sure they’re worthy of a sight-seeing trip. However, if you’re in the area and you’re a huge Dickens fan, go and take a peek. There aren’t many public monuments in his name (he specifically asked that none be built after his death) so this is as close as you’re going to get in France.

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