Magic Moments

Reading the madeleine excerpt from Swann's Way while you sip tea and take a bite of your madeleine in Illiers-Combray. Standing in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Cabourg (Balbec) with a view of the beach. Unforgettable experiences that bring Proust's prose to life.

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VISIT THE SITES where your favorite authors lived and wrote.
Readings ... discussions ... lectures.

PROUST IN PARIS - MAY 6 - 12, 2016

Sign up: Contact Mary Ann Zimmerman, SWT Tours

SWT Tours is the only travel company that offers a unique Proust tour focusing on Paris, Illiers-Combray & Cabourg (Balbec)

Our May 2015 Proust tour, our third Proust tour over a period of 10 years, explored new Proust related sites with Bill Carter, eminent Proust biographer and scholar leading the way

Top, left and right, Mirougrain, more than a stone house, clad in giant boulders and spectacular. Inspiration for an event in Proust novel.
Center: Lunch at Chalet des Isles, restaurant on an island reached by tiny ferry.

Proustís bedroom with original cork lined walls at Musee Carnavalet


The complete Itinerary of our Proust tour is below:



May 6-12 2016


Right: William Carter, left, in a relaxed mood with Nic Drogoul, his research assistant.

Day 1 - Friday May 6

Arrive in Paris. Transfer on your own to our hotel, a boutique 3 star hotel in what we believe to be the best location of Paris, the 6th arrondissement. Hotel Bonaparte, 61 Rue Bonaparte   +33 1 43 26 97 37

3 pm: Taxi to Musée Jacquemart-André, a beautifully preserved 19th century mansion that gives us a vivid picture of the kind of house where Proust was often entertained. Excellent audio tour. Nice tea room if you’d like to stop for tea or coffee. Interesting exhibit of 40 impressionist paintings in Normandy. Finally, we will walk briefly through Parc Monceau, the park that Proust frequented as a youth. We will also visit the new Hotel Swann with a lobby that sparkles with Proust memorabilia.

Day 2 - Saturday May 7

10:30 am Taxi to the Musée Carnavalet, the museum devoted to the history of Paris. Proust’s bedroom is the main attraction for us. His cork-lined room combines furnishings from his last three apartments. The principal item is the brass bed in which he slept as a child and wrote much of In Search of Lost Time. We will also visit the “room” of one of Proust’s best friends, the poet Anna de Noailles, and the portrait of the priest who was to read him his last rites. Also at the Carnavalet, the Madame de Sévigné connection and portraits of famous writers. This is the best place in Paris to buy Proust souvenirs.

After our visit to the Musee , we will walk over to the beautiful Place des Vosges where Bill Carter will discuss the Dreyfus Affair. In the far corner of the Place is the fabulous small Victor Hugo museum. An unexpected delight.

Church at Saint-Éman, and the lavoir (washhouse at Saint-Éman). - Photos: Nic Drogoul

Laperouse lunch has been cancelled because the restaurant no longer serves lunch. They would just serve our group lunch but at an exorbitant price. We have come up with a great alternative.

7pm Champagne and hors d’oeuvres at the Laperouse bar. We will be able to see the private dining rooms. We will be joined by Bill Carter’s good friends. Liz and Bufprd  Norman. Former French professor at Yale and a well-known musicologist

LAPEROUSE ADDRESS: 51 Quai des Grands Augustins. Walkable from Hotel Bonaparte. Ask Concierge for directions.

Day 3 - Sunday May 8

8:30 am: Leave on our private mini-van for Illiers-Combray, about an hour and a half from Paris. Visit “Tante Léonie’s house”, the Church Saint-Jacques, walk the Méséglise or Guermantes Way. Madeleines (of course) and a reading and discussion of the famous episode. Lunch at Restaurant Les Aubépines, a simple 5 room hotel and restaurant. Lunch is not included.  There is a 13.50 euro menu.

2:30 pm: Tour of “Tante Léonie’s house” given only in French. Bill Carter will translate.

Illiers-Combray, St. Jacques Church - Photo: Nic Drogoul

Visit to Mirougrain.

We will visit the Church of Saint-Éman that dates from the sixteenth century. On the grounds of the church is an ancient lavoir (washhouse) that is still in use. The spring that feeds the lavoir is the source of the Loir River that runs through Illiers and is also the source of the Vivonne in Swann’s Way.

We will take a very short ride to see the gate and country house named Tansonville. Proust took this name for Swann’s Combray abode. The house is privately owned and not open to visitors, but the name, gate, and façade are as Proust saw them.

Time permitting: we will ride by the château de Villebon, whose name Proust first used for the Guermantes. Bill will see if a short visit of the interior can be arranged. The property is privately owned.

Return to Paris around 6 pm.

Day 4 - Monday May 9

9 am: Meet in the lobby. Depart for a several hour tour in our private mini-bus exploring Paris from a Proustian view. We make a pilgrimage to Proust’s simple grave at Père Lachaise cemetery. We will stop by 109 boulevard Haussmann to see the stationary shop (Papeterie de Luxe) where Proust bought his writing supplies. The facade and windows are virtually unchanged.

Photo: Nic Drogoul

NEW...for the first time in our Proust in Paris itinerary, the Bois de Boulogne drive by includes  the Allée des Acacias where Odette and Paris society strolled and the Jardin d'Acclimatation where Proust played as a child. This park is now  the site of the just opened Frank Gehry designed LVHM contemporary art museum.

Lunch...a few minutes ferry ride will take us to the Chalet des Iles, a restaurant in the middle of the small Lac Inferieur. Lunch on the terrace weather permitting.

7pm. Optional Proust dinner. Everyone has signed on. More details at hotel.

102 Boulevard Haussmann where Proust lived and wrote for many years - Photo: Nic Drogoul


Day 5 - Tuesday May 10

8:30 am - 8:00 pm Departure for Cabourg (Balbec) in Normandy. It’s a three to four hour journey by bus depending on the traffic. On arrival we will tour some of the many Proust sites that include: In Dives-sur-Mer (Balbec Plage)…the tiny train station, the church, the ancient marketplace.

Lunch at Grand Hotel...everyone must have the same lunch...we are repeating the same menu as last year : asparagus with poached egg, salmon, dessert: Pain gene, stewed apricot mousse : almond cake with apricot mousse, almond milk , wine and coffee included in tour price.. Readings on the beach (weather permitting). Time permitting, a brief tour of key Proust sites in Trouville.

Carter is working on including a special visit in the area.

The majestic Grand Hotel in Cabourg (Balbec) Photo: Nic Drogoul

Approximate return to Paris…around 8pm.

Day 6 - Wednesday May 11

A taxi ride to the Musée d’Orsay…Proust’s portrait by Jacques-Émile Blanche. Proust owned this portrait until he died in 1922. Visit the Manet paintings there, one with Baudelaire, Proust’s favorite poet, and the portrait of Robert de Montesquiou, reputed to be the inspiration for Charlus. Bill Carter feels the Louvre is too crowded for our group visit. He will supply a list of paintings that interested Proust.

After lunch, you can use your museum pass to visit the Louvre on your own. Or you can buy a ticket on line, about 22 euros, and visit the Frank Gehry designed LVHM museum in the Bois

Optional farewell dinner at Brasserie Lipp

Day 7 - Thursday May 12

Leave for home or for Venice - Venice Group departs hotel at 5am for airport

William Carter bio

William C. Carter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama. His 900 page biography Marcel Proust: A Life has received wide world acclaim. Notable book by New York Times, Best Book of 2000 by the Los Angeles Times and Best Biography of 2000 by the Sunday Times of London. Harold Bloom has written that Carter is "Proust’s definitive biographer".

In 2013 he received the Gold Medal of the Prix Renaissance bestowed by the French Government.  In November 2013 in celebration of the centennial of Proust’s novel, Yale University Press published Swann’s Way, the first volume of Carter’s new annotated edition of Scott Moncrieff’s famous translation of In Search of Lost Time. Yale University Press will publish the succeeding volumes until the entire novel is complete.

What these accomplishments don’t convey is William Carter, the man, brilliant interpreter of Proust’s novel. Affable and humble. And a great companion.

Nicolas Drogoul received his degree in French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and now works as a freelance photographer. Nic’s photographs of places (Paris, Illiers-Combray, Cabourg) that inspired Marcel Proust, were published in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: Marcel Proust A Documentary Volume. These pictures have been exhibited and acclaimed at a series of other venues. Nic continues to work as William Carter’s research assistant for Yale University Press’s new annotated edition of In Search of Lost Time.

Mary Ann Zimmerman, president of SWT Tours has been reading Proust for over 10 years at the Mercantile Library in New York City and with a private group that read 10 pages a month.

She created her Proust in Paris tour  after taking on Illiers-Combray and Cabourg (Balbec) on her own.
 Was it possible to take the train to Chartres, then make a 3 minute switch to another track and train to Illiers-Combray ?After running up and down steps, it was an easy emphatic “no way.” Getting to Cabourg by train was no less involved requiring a $50 taxi ride from train station to Cabourg.

SOLUTION: Proust in Paris takes you to destinations by private mini-bus, expensive but worth it.

Before turning her attention to travel and SWT Tours Mary Ann was a journalist, editor on 5 magazines, Creative Director of a large New York based pr agency. Owner of Tablirie, a mini-national chain of tableware boutiques. Author of a cookbook that took her to 22 countries. Two round the world trips, at one point in her career, as a publicist for French wine, as many as 5 trips a year to France.  Every part of Mary Ann’s varied career contributes to her lifestyle approach to Proust in Paris.

Costs:  $3975    6 night hotel room, single occupancy, no single supplement. Includes breakfasts, Private mini-bus 15 passenger transportation for ½ day Paris, full day to Illiers-Combray and Cabourg (Balbec) Meals: Laperouse and Chalet des Iles in Paris: Grand Hotel lunch in Cabourg. All 3 are multi-course meals.

Museum pass guarantees no waiting in line for Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. All sites in Illiers and Cabourg. Entrance to Carnavalet (it’s free) and Jacquemart André.

Not included: Airfare to and from your home city; transfers to and from airport.  Lunches, dinners not specified in itinerary, coffee stops, wine and alcoholic beverages. When dinners are not part of tour price, we always offer options of eating as a group or on your own. Concert tickets not included in tour price. Transportation: around Paris not included. Taxis on shared basis.

Our group of 9 Proustians came from South Africa, Colorado, Michigan, Idaho, Alabama and Maryland. They were a retired judge and his wife, 3 lawyers, a doctor and more.

The group’s evaluation of the Proust in Paris validates the whole concept of our tour. Read what they had to say…

The SFO Proust tour was the trip of my life, and I have travelled quite a bit throughout the world. I've been to France many times, but it is an entirely different experience to go there with the incentive of seeing and hearing about Proustian sites, and Proust's work, so brilliantly presented by Professor William Carter. To be "in loco", with a friendly, well organized group, in the comfort of good programming, transportation and orientation of Mary Ann and the Proustian team is, at the frantic times we live in,  like an ultimate luxury of being a few days , in a bubble of high thinking, art, spirit, and the unparalleled charm of France, which is rendered so accessible by the guidance and  instruction of Professor Carter, and the sites' artistic emphasizing of Nick Drogul's photographic eye. A perfect and complete tour, without even having to mention the adequacy of the places picked for the group's shared meals, as well as the quality of such meals. Last but not least, I have to mention the prestige of Professor Carter's bringing the participation of French Proustian characters and scholars, with their rich, local touch. For those who like Proust, it is the trip of a lifetime, and for those who would like to know Proust better, it is the most wonderful opportunity. I am grateful I got to know of it, through Professor Carter's wonderful Proust "on line" course, and I am proud to be able to recommend it.
ED, Colorado
And a separate follow-up email ….
We are even thinking that if you guys make this tour next year, I might have found more people to take it, and we would even do it again. Let’s see!

Hi, Mary Ann. Just a note to indicate how much this trip has meant to me. I tend to read Proust in terms of his intellectual oppositions: for instance, the intense social hierarchy so the Guermantes, as opposed to the aestheticism of Swann (the two "ways"). But I have always been aware that Proust loves to work on many levels at the same time, and that the physical locations of his story -- Paris, Combray, Balbec -- have genuine importance not just as background but as an integral part of his story. This trip has helped me appreciate this dimension much more deeply. I am grateful to you for having arranged it, and in particular for having obtained William Carter as our "guide." Thanks again!  --

“A wonderful experience for any Proustian. It gives a whole new perspective on the novel and inspires a reread. All planning and arrangements were excellent, especially the 3 very special lunches. The presence of Bill (and Nic, of course) added  in many ways,  immeasurably to the experience. Highly recommended."
B & R South Africa

"A literary tour, is, in many ways, like a wine tour or a tour of great art works. The difference, of course, is that with the literary tour, you may really come from, what it felt like to be in those places, what the food and drink you know, the taste or provenance of what  you are seeing and experiencing.But you don’t really have a visceral sense of where the literary works you love came from, what it felt like to be in those places, what the food and wine tasted like what it was like to be there.

And there is what Mary Ann Zimmerman’s Proust tour gives you…a sense of living the Proustian life… If only at a distance in time. It’s difficult to explain feeling like this but just as Proust’s art came alive as he recaptured his experiences in memory and over time so our little group’s understanding of Proust’s art came alive as we stood where he stood, breathed the air he breathed, gazed over the horizons he saw. And the time that separated us from Proust dissolved."
KM Alabama

My passion for the prose of Marcel Proust led me to sign up for the group tour. Doing an organized Proust tour led me to locales I would not be aware of on my own.
Such as the cork bedroom furnished with the actual cork from Proust’s bedroom…seen at Musee Carnavalet. This experience was enhanced  was enhanced a hundred fold with the
Accompaniment of renowned Proust scholar , biographer, Dr. William Carter.  The side trip to Illiers Combray was particularly moving as we toured Tante Leonie’s house  and
Heard readings from the novel by Dr. Carter. Transportation and lunches arranged by Mary Ann Zimmerman were well done and much appreciated.

BF Ann Arbor, Mich.

Travelling with Bill to discover the places that Proust discovered and was inspired by particularly lliers Combray has been a delight, Seeing those places and listening to Bills’s narrative
Has brought the great novel to life for me. The excellent lunches with delicious chocolates. Bill and Mary Ann, thank you for making this experience a reality for us.
KL, Idaho

Dr. Carrter’s deep knowledge and ability to communicate it has clarified and deepened my appreciation of Proust’s writing. I would love to do another trip with him. He
Introduced us to French Proust scholars who gave us entrée into more places, books, insights.

SP California


Mary Ann Zimmerman     917 880 6732