Monday, October 7, 2013

Passport to Paris: Versailles

Lundi, 7 octobre.

I just got back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Paris -- two nights, three days, over 600 photos. So as you might imagine, there's simply no way I can fit the whole trip into one (or two!) posts. Instead, I've decided to take my time and share as many photos and fun facts with you as I can. I don't think I'll explain everything chronologically, but I will start with our first stop in Paris: Versailles!



I've been dreaming about visiting Versailles for YEARS and have never stopped whining to my parents about not taking me there when I was little(Hear that noise? That's the ungrateful alert.) Molly had never visited either, so we decided early on that it was going to be a must-do on our trip to Paris. We hopped off the train in Paris and headed straight back out -- on the train bound for Versailles!

We were in love with the area before we even saw the castle -- but how could you NOT when the pastries look this good?! (At Versailles, eating a sandwich within view of the palace is simply the classiest thing one can do.)


After scarfing down our sandwiches, it was time to go! But we didn't get far before having to stop for photos ... because at Versailles, even the front gate is absolutely breathtaking.

 

The great thing about a long line is that it gives you lots of time to take pictures!








Heading inside... la Chapelle Royale, where the royal family would attend daily mass and where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were married. We weren't able to walk inside, but you can take a virtual tour here!

 



Versailles has been through a lot since it was built by Louis XIV (including a little thing called the French Revolution during which it was basically trashed), but has been mostly restored to its original glorious state.

Take the Mesdames' Apartments -- originally the rooms of Louis XV's six daughters, they were were turned into a museum by Louis-Philippe (the last king of France, who ruled -- and moved into Versailles -- for a few decades during the 19th century). They've since been restored and can be seen as part of the chateau tour! They're pretty fab.



However, parts of the palace were completely changed by later rulers and those changes are still visible in the palace. Added by King Louis Phillippe, this is the Galerie des Batailles. The walls are covered in giant paintings of famous battles. Molly and I found our personal favorite -- the Battle of Yorktown!


In another one of Louis-Philippe's additions ( I found my favorite statue -- Charles "the Hammer" Martel. Ever since we learned about him in tenth grade history class, I've thought his nickname was one of the funniest I'd ever heard.


Unfortunately, my memories of most of the castle have sort of blurred together. I wish I'd done more research before visiting so I could have known what to be looking out for in each room -- like the secret door in Marie Antoinette's private chambers through which she escaped when French citizens stormed the palace in 1789! (Now I know...) But I did have an amazing time wandering around from room to room, staring at the ceilings (and accidentally bumping into the most stereotypical of tourists). I knew that Versailles was ornate and overwhelming, but it's really so incredibly opulant that it almost hurts. So here are a bunch of pictures that I can't quite identify -- but that are DEFINITELY worth seeing!

 




 



There was one last stop to make before leaving the palace ... la Grande Galerie, now known as the Hall of Mirrors. The room features 357 mirrors spread out among seventeen arches -- if it's impressive now, just imagine how crazy it must have been a couple hundred years ago! It is basically the very definition of chouette. 



If anything could top the Palais de Versailles, it's the palace gardens. Just kidding. Nothing tops the Hall of Mirrors, no matter how many perfectly-trimmed mini trees you put in it.


I just really love fancy flower pots, okay?!

Our last stop in Versailles was one of my favorites. Unlike the queens who preceeded her, Marie Antoinette sort of cleaned house at Versailles. She redecorated the queen's chambers and even had a special retreat constructed in the palace park. Le Hameau de la Reine (or the Queen's Hamlet) was a miniature working farm, complete with a farmhouse, mill, and dairy. Marie Antoinette even brought in animals and servants to pretend to be residents of her little village! I had heard that this stop was an absolute must-see: beautiful and, since it's a bit of a hike, with only a fraction of the tourists of the palace and the main gardens.

 





For some reason, it was this little faux-village that really hit home with me. An extravagant palace for royalty and nobility is one thing, but the idea that an entire miniature village (and a miniature palace, le Petit Trianon) was constructed on the whim of one woman is, for me, the real symbol of the extravagance of the French monarchy. No wonder the French revolted!

Which reminds me ... we ended our Friday walking around Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris and the place where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed. Talk about coming full circle! Although things might not have ended so great for Louis and Marie (a sobering fact that it's easy to forget when wandering around the palace), Versailles and its grounds are definitely still an incredible reminder of the power and wealth of the French monarchy at its peak.

Thanks for the memories, Versailles!

2 comments:

  1. Delightfully written! The only I remember about Versailles 1986, is the Hall of Mirrors and the gardens. That little village was amazing! It looked like a movie set. Thank you for taking us with you on this journey!
    Love, Mommy

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  2. Is that real gold when you see gold trim on buildings?

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