A week ago, I flew to Paris. The forecast was bleak – rain everyday – so we decided to spend the first day in Paris in Versailles, since it was supposed to be the best weather of the trip.
Versailles was built as an escape from the city life of Paris & the overrun palace in the middle of it all. That palace is now the Louvre. Our friends Ellie & Elizabeth sold us Rick Steves’ Paris guidebook (if you remember my post about Barcelona, you’ll remember my craaazy obsession.), so I read out loud the entire guide to Versailles. I should probably consider being a tour guide as a career path.
Louis XIV built Versailles not only as an escape, but also as a distraction. He invited all the powerful nobles there to spend time in a fantasy world – and also leave Louis alone so he could rule France. Smart move and it definitely paid off.
However, Versailles is a disgusting example of the extravagance that was the 19th century royalty of France. (At least, that is what I think.) One look, and a tour of a miniscule part of the Chateau & gardens was enough to make me completely understand why there was a revolution.
“I don’t think there’s quite enough gold plating in this palace…”
The best part of the Chateau was the absolutely, incredibly, enormous gardens. The ones close to the Chateau are sculpted and perfect. There are tons and tons of fountains – and during the summer they sell 8 euro tickets to the fountain shows. I wish at least one or two had been on while we were visiting, but they weren’t.
“That’s anachronistic.” Gray told me, after noticing the mini tractor in the gardens. That, my dear readers, means something that is not in its correct historic period. Or a mini tractor in a 19th century garden. This is what happens when you spend a lot of time with an english major. :)
This was built about a mile from the main château as part of an escape from the crowds at the main château. It was an “escape from the escape.” It reminds me of how anytime my family takes a vacation we need a “vacation from the vacation” after coming back. (Am I right, mom?)
According to Rick Steves, Marie Antoinette longed for the simple life of a peasant. And so she built a small mock village on her land, and would dress down in simple clothes and “supervise” the peasants there. This was my favorite part of the whole estate – it was so cute and simple. But I still think it’s insane that she built an entire little village on their land.
The gardens were gorgeous and we spent an hour or so sitting in the grass along the side of the mile-long manmade pool and watching tourists rent canoes and attempt to go down the pool. SO entertaining.
Seeing Versailles was such a valuable experience – and so worth every penny (it was free with my student visa). The gardens were so huge and pretty, but the decadence and extravagance of the buildings was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe how absolutely unnecessary so much of this was. It’s no wonder that oppressive taxation and starvation drove the french people to revolt against the monarchy.
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