|Château de Versailles|
Lydia poses in front of the statue of Louis XIV (the fourteenth,) who built this getaway retreat in the country known as Versailles.
Famous hall of mirrors at Versailles. They are restoring about three quarters of this room presently.
Louis was into all things Roman. All the Romanesque things here are really seventeenth century creations.
Vinyard at Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet in Versailles.
At the end of the day, a weary commuter waits for his train. A weary traveller takes his picture.
Thursday, October 20
I turned off the alarm and we slept in a little. After we got up, I took a pill for my headache (from the wine? I only had one glass,) got ready and we headed out to the little bakery we had gone to the previous Sunday. The streets were livelier than they had been then.
At the bakery, wet met a sweet older lady, Martine, and her dog, Ginger Ale (or just Ginger.) She was born in France, but worked for Air Canada in Montréal and spoke excellent English along with that sophisticated French accent. You know the one I mean. She told us about a Renoir exhibit outside the city. Lydia got directions, since Martine was so enthusiastic about it.
But, we aren’t going there today. Today is Versailles. At Versailles, just southwest of Paris, is a gigantic palace built by the “Sun King,” as he was called, Louis XIV (the fourteenth.) Tired of the grimy streets of Paris, he moved out here to the country to get away from it all and turned his dad’s hunting lodge into Europe’s palace of palaces. Bring your walking shoes if you visit.
We took an abbreviated (somewhat,) Rick Steves tour of the main part of the palace and a breeze through the gardens and that took a solid half-day. Did I mention that there is tons of walking?
Louis XIV was a kind king who was approachable, even though he had been treated badly when he inherited the throne in 1643. He was, at that time, only four years old and too young to assume power. After coming into power and wealth in 1661, he exacted the best revenge. He lived well.
No kidding! This enormous palace is room after room of incredible opulence—marble and gold, busts and statues, chandeliers and mirrors—all beyond cataloging. Then comes the backyard, with its flowered gardens, manicured greenery, and hundreds of fountains.
Louis XIV rules for seventy-two years, outliving three of his heirs, and good on ‘im, I say. From what I’ve read, he seems to have been, for a royal, pretty tolerant and decent (though flawed, naturally.) There would be only two more kings in France after him. The last king, Louis XVI (the sixteenth) and his sweet, though detached, wife, Marie-Antoinette, were each made a foot shorter from the top following the Revolution in 1789.
After a while, with all the nobles and their entourages milling about, even the country get-away became too busy. What to do? The king and queen built a get-aways from the get-away. Just out back, about a half hour’s walk off the back porch, they built the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon. Near the Petit Trianon, where Marie-Antoinette liked to hang out, she built a little hamlet to remind herself of simpler times.
Though it had a working mill, productive fields, and live animals and though the Queen even stayed overnight and ate the produce grown there, the hamlet is more like a Disney version of a peasant village than a true representation of the grueling life of a poor farm community. It was a life-sized playhouse for Marie-Antoinette and her friends.
On our 30 – 40 minute walk back to the palace, we saw even more fields, trees, hedges, and fountains. We had to whip our dogs (feet) to get us back to the train station for the half hour commute back to Paris.
Tomorrow we are planning an off morning and then a frou-frou French supper at 7:30 p.m. – a “take it easy” day.
Read more about day 6 on Lydia’s blog.
Paris Vacation, Day 6 21 comments