Yesterday the whole family hopped on the subway and then onto a suburban bus to visit le Château de Malmaison, the country home of Josephine Bonaparte. We planned ahead to take the tour with Paris Walks, an outfit that provides daily two-hour walking tours in English, all around Paris and occasionally to parts beyond. I've taken quite a few of their tours over the months we've been here and enjoyed them all. You can certainly tour Malmaison without a guide but it was definitely worth the extra money (especially for the kids) to hear all the interesting and amusing anecdotes about Napoleon and Josephine and to learn about the customs and mores of early 19th century France that are reflected in the architecture and decor. Josephine kept the house after Napoleon divorced her and spent her last days there. Supposedly he still loved her but since she couldn't provide him with an heir, he disposed of her for a younger babymaking machine. Ironically, although his second wife Marie-Louise bore him a son, Napoleon's reign was so short, scarcely ten years, that the empire was gone long before the dynasty was built.
Upon her death, Josephine's son by her first husband had to sell off the house and all its furnishings to pay her debts. It changed hands several times, finally becoming a property of the French state and many of the furnishings were bought back. There are lots of interesting details -- a council room with the feel of a campaign tent, a library with a set of hidden stairs leading up to Napoleon's bedroom, and some rather famous paintings including Jacques-Louis David's portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps. If you've only got a few days in Paris, it's probably not worth the hike. But if you've got a little more time, put it on your list.