Viollet-le-Duc is best known for resurrecting Notre Dame from the ruin it had become by the mid 19th century but he also had his hands in a lot of other projects including the restoration of Carcassone in the southwest corner of France and the renovation of Pierrefonds, a castle just north of Paris, that became an occasional residence of Napoleon III. Pierrefonds got its start in the 14th century as a military fortress guarding routes between Flanders and Burgundy. In 1616, Cardinal Richelieu had it destroyed since it was always in the hands of those pesky Protestants. It lay in shambles for centuries until Viollet-le-Duc was commissioned to bring it back to life. And he did so in a manner that he imagined to be true to its medieval origins but ended up being more fantastic and over the top than scholars now believe to be accurate.
If you've visited the Neuschwanstein, the castle built by Mad Ludwig of Bavaria around the same time, you will see the parallels between these two spaces, especially in their theatricality. (Neuschwanstein has been featured in any number of films and TV shows; Pierrefonds is the backdrop for the popular BBC series Merlin.) Then again, sometimes a little wild and crazy is just what you need to get through the day.
For a long time, we were just another typical Washington, DC family: two policy-oriented jobs, two kids, and two cars. Out of the blue, my husband got a new assignment; we ditched the old jobs and the cars (but kept the kids) and headed to Paris for what started out to be a three-year, and eventually became a four-year tour.