the moveable feasts

For the glory

with 4 comments

The French seem to be very proud of Versailles, which I find curious. It’s the palace and gardens that housed the French monarchy for a little over a hundred years, up until the King and Queen were kicked out in 1789 and got their heads placed on the guillotine at the Place de la Concorde. The palace came to represent, and still represents, the ancien régime—a regime dominated by extravagance and absolute, corrupt (and pretty useless) power. And yet less than 50 years later after Marie Antoinette hit the grave, it was declared that Versailles would become a museum to show “all the glories of France.” Oh, that allure of power and wealth! But hey, it is really pretty:

versailles
gardens of versailles
the entrance
picnic-ing at versailles
vanity or submission
room of mirrors
it was actually pretty cool
a bedroom, isolated away
her place

I finally got around to visiting the grounds last Sunday, after already being in Paris for 10 months. Things are like that though—I finally went to the Louvre last month, and only after I was basically forced to because I got a free tour and a zero-wait time out of it. But really, do I want to spend the entirety of my Saturday or Sunday around swarms of Americans, waiting in line to see stuff that in and of itself isn’t really as interesting as a whole lot of other things that have zero swarms and zero wait time? (More on this type of opportunity cost later, if I ever get around to writing some version of a Paris guide on this blog). So I’ve been putting Versailles off, “until the spring when things are pretty and nice again.”

I ended up having very similar feelings to the place as I did to that of the Louvre: happy I went, happy to have it over with. I wasn’t so impressed with the actual palace itself (“it’s really just room after room” “the French really like their gold—they’re not very good with moderation, are they?” “Really, they should’ve just put in hallways, would’ve made it easier than having to walk through every single room”) but the gardens were actually seriously cool. The “backyard” is a view of fountains and a long, rectangular lake set on a slow decline that make it look majestic and calming at the same time. Statue after statue of ancient greek gods with some classical music playing in the background helped things, too. And guys, these “gardens” are immense—I think I walked somewhere around 6 or 7 miles that day by the time I left the Versailles grounds.

The north-east corner of the gardens, dedicated to Marie Antoinette’s “Hamlet” as well as the weirdly-shaped pink marble Trianon buildings that housed Marie Antoinette and later Napoleon I in the 1800s, was probably my favorite part. It was cool to imagine that Austrian lady prancing around, hiding from her husband and who knows what other real-world responsibilities that waited for her in the main palace (this is not intended to have a self-righteous, reproachful tone to it—after all, I think the type of person that goes off to Paris to become an au pair for a year knows a thing or two about escaping reality).

It seems to be well agreed upon that she and her husband Louis XVI were pretty worthless rulers, but hey, we have to at least credit them for setting that fire under the French people to have the confidence to completely gut their government and start afresh with nothing but the ideals of égalité, fraternité and liberté to back them. And, for what it’s worth, it’s often said that it was Antoinette who brought croissants to France from her home in Vienna. Which is really just so fitting—Marie Antoinette, once loved and hated and now loved again for everything she helps France represent.

for the glory of france

“For all the glories of France” — France, the country who has as an intense fascination for all things gilded in gold as it does for holding strikes in the street to protest inequality. It might have served just as well to write up there on that entrance to Versailles a line from Rousseau: “Man is born free, and everywhere in chains.”

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Written by Amy

May 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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4 Responses

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  1. I love all your photos, especially since I didn’t get to see it when we visited there. In your second photo, of “the gardens of Versailles”, it looks like there are several “things” in the water in the far pool – were there statues in the water, or were people swimming, or maybe all boaters? The grounds do look immense! I can’t imagine it being more crowded. I think it’s about as many tourists as I could bear to share the experience with – must be crazy busy in summer! Why is it in the movies that they always have the place mostly to themselves (Midnight in Paris)?

    Sheryl

    May 27, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    • Hahah mom if you think this looks crowded I can only imagine what you’d think of the place on a Sunday in August. It was bad, but it’s only gonna get worse. Paris is prettier in the movies, no doubt about it

      Amy

      June 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

  2. “happy I went, happy to have it over with” THANK YOU. I felt the exact same way with the Louvre, and many hyped up tourist “must-see” things. I didn’t even go to the Vatican for that exact reason. Will I regret it someday? Maybe. But until then I’ll enjoy the time I spent doing other things.

    Those are some really pretty photos though.

    Michelle

    May 29, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    • Yeah some hyped up stuff is worth it, but honestly the Louvre wouldn’t make it on the list of my top five museums in Paris… I saw the vatican and I loved it, but I definitely know what you mean – good for you for not feeling obligated to go somewhere only because every other person has. And thanks

      Amy

      June 1, 2014 at 10:51 am


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