Thursday, June 13, 2013

{European Travels} Paris Day 3

London: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4
Paris Day 2: Notre Dame and views from the top

After spending the past two days gallivanting around Paris, we decided we would take today to get outside the city. Destination: Versailles. I had been looking forward to visiting the palace ever since we first decided to go to Paris, but I did not expect to be as enamored as I was. I fell foolishly in love with this place, imagining what life was like and if Marie Antoinette and I would be best friends. 

Okay Okay, I know. The royal family lived in excess while the common people were suffering and starving. But still, their life was glamorous and seemingly magical. Let me dream and be naive, please. 

The day started out cold and windy and it only got wetter from there. We left Paris at 7:30 and arrived at the town by 8:30. After a quick breakfast, where we finally enjoyed the recommended croque madame and croque monsieur, we got to the palace at 9:45. Even though the Museum Pass got us in for free (ticket price=25 euros) and let us skip the ticket-buying line, it did not, however, let us bypass the security check. One hour later, we were finally inside the golden gate. 

Back when good 'ole Louis the XIV was king, he was tired of the political and busy life in Paris and moved his residence to Versailles. However, the grounds and most of the palace were public territory, allowing lords and peasant alike to enter its gates. 

This center structure is the original chateau, once a small hunting lodge for boy Louis XIV. His bedroom is where the three arched windows are located. The king later expanded the lodge by attaching wings along the side.

We followed the crowds inside, weaving through the Dauphin's and Mesdames Apartments, home to each king's son and daughter-in-law. Up a flight of stairs we came to the Royal Chapel, where the royal family attended Mass every morning and the wedding of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette was held.

Next was the Hercules Drawing Room, where balls and receptions were held to entertain and impress. Now who wouldn't have loved to be at one of those parties? Silk dresses. Wigs. Dancing. I'm in love.

Passing through the Hercules Room, we entered in the King's Wing, were Louis loved showing off his personal collection of paintings, playing pool, and woo-ing the ladies of the court. And, turning the corner, we spilled out into the Hall of Mirrors.
The hall is nearly 250 feet long with 17 arched mirrors, matched by 17 windows with breathtaking views of the Gardens. Mirrors were still considered a luxury at the time, so this hall screamed of wealth and prosperity. Hanging along the painted ceiling are 24 candelabras.

Once through the Hall of Mirrors and the King's Council Rooms, we came to the Queen's bedchamber. The royal life was constantly on display; everything was in public. Crowds of noble ladies would greet the Queen each morning, taking turns to help her dress, and applaud over the way she sipped her tea and nibbled her croissant.

After seeing more dining rooms, drawing rooms, and reception halls, we continued into the History of France section, lined with paintings of important men and events. 

Hoping it had warmed up a bit over the few hours spent in the palace, we made our way to the backyard, aka: The Gardens.

Here is where I became even more impressed with King Louis the XIV. The planning, detail, and engineering that went into designing 800 hectares (1 hectare= 10,000 square meters; 800 hectares= a butt-ton of land) is incomprehensible to me.  
 The Royal Drive, also known as the "Green Carpet"

Down the Royal Drive is the Apollo Basin, showing the King rising up out of the water in his horse drawn carriage. All the fountains in Versailles are gravity powered. Underground streams, pumped into Versailles by the Seine River pressure, feed into smaller pipes at the fountains, shooting water in to the air. 
Looking back up the Royal Drive to the Palace. 

Behind the Apollo Basin is the Grand Canal; you can't miss it. The man-made canal is in a cross pattern and one mile from end to end. Louis' motto: "Why visit Venice when you can just build your own!"

Winding through the miles of perfectly sculpted garden paths

It was about 2pm, and 4 hours in we were only half way done. We decided to stop for lunch a the palace's restaurant. Josh loves to whistle while he contemplates appetizers. 

After refueling, we headed out on the 30 minute walk to the Trianon Palaces and Domaine de Marie Antoinette. Like I said earlier, the King moved to Versailles to escape Paris; but when the King wanted to escape Versailles, where does he go? Well, as Louis would tell you, build a new escape!

The Grand Trianon, the king's private, pink-marbled residence away from the main palace: the flower gardens were changed daily for the king's pleasure.

The gardens behind the Grand Triannon were daintier than the main palace, but just as beautiful and detailed. We couldn't help but feel romantic.

And when you want to escape even more!? You just build a farther-out retreat! Money was obviously never a concern.

The French Pavilion, where my BFF Marie spent evenings listening to music or playing games with friends.

The Temple of Love

The Belvedere, Rock, and Grotto

About an hour+ into our walk, we came to the Petit Trianon, Marie's home base. Here she was able to get away from the fast, sophisticated crowd at Versailles. She had her husband build her a theatre, where she and her friends could act out plays and entertain their families.

But even that wasn't enough. Being a queen was obviously hard and dreadful. Marie dreamed of the simple life of a peasant, minus the labor, poor food, and bad smells. She created Hamlet, a small private "village" where she could pretend to farm and raise animals (when really, her servants did all the work).

Marie, can't we be best friends?! That is, until the French Revolution comes and they want to chop off your head. I'll don't think I'll stick around for that. 

Come back Monday for our last day in France!

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