I’ve been down the rabbit hole of research quite a lot since I started writing historical fiction. There are whole worlds to explore in the diverging tunnels of the rabbit hole. It’s so called in reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when she followed the scurrying white rabbit down his burrow.
Enter at your own risk for like Alice you may feel dwarfed or bewildered by what you find. You like Alice, will find yourself in an alternate universe. Lewis Carroll perfected these alternate worlds inhabited by alternate animals and humans like the Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter. But it can be fun and you can learn lots about the world. It is a different perspective to everyday life.
Follow the rabbit down the hole
The tunnels take you here, there and anywhere, but not usually at all in the right direction. Like life, there are many detours from your intended destination. Like the time I was researching Paris in the nineteenth century and stumbled across les guinguettes. Once discovered, never forgotten, so I had to put this never before encountered object in my latest book at the time The Last Hotel.
So, you might wonder, and justifiably so, since I haven’t told you yet, what is a guinguette? Well, it is a riverside and even sometimes a treehouse drinking establishment. Yes, you read right. It’s a bar on a riverbank, or up a tree. These refreshment bars soared into popularity in the outer areas of Paris because of the alcohol tax within Paris.
And you could end up a tree
Just outside the circular confines of Paris, residents flocked on the weekends to drink at a quaint little cafe/bar by the Seine or Marne River, or ascended ladder stairs to enjoy a higher view upon a tree-top wooden platform. Tree houses were not just for kids. The idea of ‘up a tree’ came from the Robinson Crusoe book by Daniel Defoe. In case this does not ring a bell, it’s a story about a man marooned on a deserted island who takes to living in a tree.
This book excited a bar keeper in the 1850s, so he constructed a little restaurant in a tree where folk could climb up to enjoy champagne and roast chicken. Voila, les guinguettes de Robinson. The idea really took off and some guinguettes even offered a slippery dip to come down by. Imagine that after a few glasses of champagne! Whee! It’s so fun to get in touch with your inner child.
I hope by now you are enjoying a wonderful sense of nostalgia for yesterday. Either that or you have already scurried back out of this blog-rabbit-hole. Just so you can see some sense of reality in this post, I will inform you that the guinguettes are, or have made a comeback in Paris and Montreal, Canada. Everything old is new again. It gives new meaning to the expression, ‘he’s off his tree.’ After too much champers, it would be easy to fall out of the tree.
Escape the adult world
It seems fitting that I refer to Alice in Wonderland and these adult treehouses in the same article. Lewis Carrol’s book is a tale for children that is really for adults. There is so much to unpack there for grown-ups. But are we ever really grown-up?
There is a parallel between Wonderland and the treehouses for adults. They are both pure escapism and what’s wrong with escaping reality. It keeps us sane. It helps us unwind. Lose yourself up a tree or down a tunnel.
This is the wonder of a trip down the rabbit hole via google or now AI. Years ago, we just had books and films. Now there are more ways to tunnel away from life, get inspired, laugh and learn a lot about our marvellous world. Bon Voyage, mes amis!
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.