Saturday, March 4, 2017

Visiter Versailles

It seems like the fog and frost set up permanent residence in Paris. I was looking forward to seeing the attraction of the area, like what we saw in Northern France, but it seems the sun wasn't interested in helping us out.

One of the main things I've always wanted to see in France was Versailles. It has been on my top 10 list for Europe for awhile. After taking many classes on European History and one in particular of the French Revolution, who wouldn't want to see the Golden Palace that brought on a revolution? I was expecting lots of gold and was not disappointed. It was evident even from the main gates.

Now the gold was mostly stripped during the revolution in order to pay for the military and the foundation of a new government- a republic. However, the Gate of Honour was restored, as was much of the gold found inside the Palace of Versailles. However, something I did not expect was the very long line outside the gate. The Palace didn't open until 9am and we arrived around 8am only to have a long line in front of us and the area being patrolled by French guards with automatic weapons. Guess they were on high alert for the holidays.

Inside the palace there was artwork everywhere. Inside you were greeted with statues- and heat. I think I appreciated the heat more than the artwork after an hour outside.

Our first stop on the tour was the Chapel.

Next they had a kind of "museum" inside showing off some of the artwork found within the Palace. Some of the artwork from Versailles was actually taken into the Louvre and is still there today, but some was on display. Notice how the frames are also in gold?

They also had the key to Versailles.

Then up the stairs we were escorted through multiple rooms held by the French aristocracy. Before entering those rooms though, you could look down from the 2nd floor and see the Chapel from above.

The King kept the aristocracy living in the Palace with him. It was actually considered an honor to help the King use the "chamber pot" (aka- toilet). Yes, live in wealth and wipe the kids rear. I guess for many it was worth it, Many people have jobs that would pay way less and work longer and harder for the income that they do receive. Anyway, the paintings on the wall and ceiling, the gold encrusted accents and the furnishings covered their apartments. You can tell that no expense was spared. I can't imagine there are many places in the world that are so richly furnished.

One of the most famous rooms at Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors. It's almost 240 feet long with several huge mirrors. Apparently, only the very wealthy had mirrors, so Louis XIV wanted to have the most mirrors and the largest mirrors in Europe. And to help magnify the hall, you have these very tall golden statue/lamps flanking each window and/or mirror.

Then we got to see the King's bedchamber.

One of the things that made me laugh and throw up in my mouth a bit is the portrait of Louis XVI (the Sun King). I'm sorry... just kinda gross. Yeah, clearly women went after him for his money, position, or power and not for his looks.

We also saw the Queen's bedchamber, but I wasn't able to get a good picture of it. Too many tourists blocking the room and working on their selfie poses.

Then one of the things I hadn't heard about at Versailles is the Gallery of Battles. It begins with paintings of the first king of France- Clovis I who converted to Christianity. Then it had the paintings from battles during the Hundered Years War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, It had to be as big a room as the Hall of Mirrors. They also had pictures of important military figures from the French Revolution.

Afterwards there is a long hallway with statues of famous French kings. So Charlemagne, Clovis I, Charles Martel, Louis XIV, Louis XVI, etc...

Lastly was the gardens. Despite the fact that we spent several hours inside the warm palace, when we went outside around 1pm, it was still pretty frigid. We didn't stay long. I'm afraid it was just too cold to be wandering around for a long period of time. The palace grounds covered 1,976 acres. Had the weather been warmer, I would have loved to explore more. We missed the carriage and the opera house, and the other palaces on the grounds- Marie Antoinette's retreat home. But what we did see was spectacular. I'd love to return perhaps over the summer- except I'm not sure if I'd like dealing with the summer tourist crowds.

PS- Since I know Brian is going to make a comment- I did not misspell the title. Visiter is "visiting" in French. See, I'm being culturally sensitive.

Chauffeur's Corner

We woke up at a more normal time and drove to Versailles. Fortunately we had thought enough ahead to purchase our tickets the day before and scoped out what line to enter. We parked fairly easily and within 50 meters of the gate. However, as Stacey referenced, despite being there an hour before it opened, there were several tourist buses that had arrived before us. So we were probably around 500th in line. It took us about 30-45 minutes just to get inside. And it was very chilly which did not help.

Again this was another stop that tied together the history of the region.I definitely wasn't as informed about Versailles as Stacey, but it was a very impressive site even without the history. As you can imagine, considering we had such a long wait in line, the walk through the palace was packed...I can't imagine how bad it is in the Summer. It took us at least twice as long to see everything due to the crowds.

I was more impressed by the bedchambers and Gallery of Battles than the Hall of Mirrors. It helped to understand that mirrors were a significant sign of wealth during that time. As Stacey said, had the weather been warmer we could have spent another hour or so strolling through the gardens.

After we finished, we headed towards Cliche (north suburb of Paris) for our hotel. Fortunately we had left early enough, as the traffic wasn't terrible, but finding parking was atrocious. We had to make the decision to pay $40/day to park in a tiny off-street lot near the hotel - luckily we were the last one in the lot and we only had to pull straight in.

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