“Is It Weird That Versailles Is Making Me Less Homesick?”

November 10, 2009

As you can tell from the title this is going to be an entry about one of France’s touristy places. However, as the title also hints, I felt oddly comfortable there, in spite of it being one of the world’s most well known palaces! I’m introducing my visit with some history of the palace as I remember it from high school!

Versailles was built by Louis XIV, of France, also known as “The Sun King”. He is arguably the most well-known king of France, but it was his great-great-great grandson Louis XVI who married Marie Antoinette and was king during the French Revolution. (The large gap between the three kings is due to many deaths, the extremely long reign of Louis XIV, and the young ages at which Louis XIV and XV became kings).  Louis XIV chose to build Versailles outside of Paris for several reasons. One reason was to escape the city and its possibly angry inhabitants, and another was to have a palace large enough to house everyone important at court, keeping them close to the king, and keeping them well entertained, so he could rule over matters of state unimpeded. Louis was a great patron of the arts, and he was frequently associated with the Greek Sun God Apollo. The sun was his personal symbol, and it is everywhere at Versailles.

Close-up of the fence, with the sun for Louis XIV

Close-up of the fence in front of the palace (note the sun!)

Unfortunately last Saturday the sun was being timid, so cold, wind, and occasionally pouring rain greeted Jane, Andy, Aisha, Alanna, Caroline, Lucy and I as we arrived at the palace. Despite the weather, tourists were everywhere! Thus they are a part of nearly every photograph, including the one I took of Jane. (She had to study for an exam so she went just to see the exhibit of Louis XIV art, but I have proof that we were together for a minute!)

Jane in front of the palace!

Jane, with Versailles waaaay behind her!

I knew that Versailles was big, but I was shocked at how large the building is, how expansive the gardens are, and at how many outbuildings there are to visit! We were there for about 6 hours, and we still didn’t see everything. I’ll be going back when it’s warm in the spring for certain, since I missed Marie Antoinette’s various buildings.  The palace itself was a never ending collection of art, furniture, and amazing chandeliers! I wasn’t allowed to take photographs with a flash, but I tried to take some pictures anyways since I knew that the chandelier’s were something my Gram would love!

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This picture is for you Gram! (It's hard to see due to the light in the photograph, but many of the chandeliers were a beautiful smokey purple color which was really striking with all of the gold)

We made it through the palace, and then visited an incredible exhibit of art featuring and relating to Louis XIV. I never knew that one person could have so many marble busts made in just one lifetime! The one room that was not up to my expectations was the Hall of Mirrors. I was surprised at how much smaller it was in real life than in my imagination-the only part of Versailles to be smaller than I had imagined. The room was beautiful, and it was not actually small, but all my life I have heard of this room and it didn’t quite have the impact I expected. Though to be fair I think in large part this was due to the overpopulation of tourists, many of whom you can see in the photograph. It was none-the-less beautiful, but I imagine that filled with the sumptuously dressed guests of Marie Antoinette’s wedding it probably would have been even better.

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Outside of the palace is where I started to feel at home. It began during lunch when two girls came up to us and asked if we were American (my friends and I were speaking in English). They were Mormon girls on their Missions in France for the year, and they were really kind and super excited to meet up with some other young Americans! Seeing them and chatting for awhile made me feel a little less homesick for my best friend MacKenzie (though they were of course no substitutes). For some reason it made a world of difference! The homey feeling continued when I saw two people riding horses in front of the Grand Canal (a man made cross-shaped canal that is a mile long) with people rowing sweep in racing shells behind them!!!!

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Le Grand Canal

Horses of course remind me of the farm and the racing shells reminded me of high school! As a note to those of you who are familiar with crew, (Cranbrook or otherwise) the boats had fantastic timing, the weather was crisp, the sun was briefly shining, and the sound of the blades hitting the water was in perfect unison, and you could hear it even as they disappeared in the distance, because the afternoon was that silent. It was honestly breathtaking.

Women's 8-sweep

Women's Eight-Sweep

And the day only got better from there! We walked all over the enormous property, I saw a flock of sheep, and there was even a black one, just like at home! Caroline told me that Marie Antoinette used to dye her sheep different colors, but I don’t know if that is actually true. We were running out of time, so we decided to skip Marie Antoinette’s house and go straight towards her gardens instead, so we could find somewhere to snack like royalty!

This was not just any snack however. We had bought a box of Paris’ most famous macaroons. The company La Durée has a gift shop at Versailles, and we decided that it was the perfect place to try the colorful, delicious, and very expensive treats. We bought a gift box of 6 (one macaroon for each of us) but we shared all of the flavors, since trying just one seemed impossible! Multiple photographs were taken of and with the bag, and we chose with care the beautiful little grotto by a small pond, near where Marie Antoinette used to eat ice cream. They were heavenly and so worth the price! Not every day of course, but as a very special treat!

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Photo shoot with the bag in the main garden

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The box

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The Macaroons (left to right-blackcurrant violet, orange blossom, coconut lime?, red fruits, pistachio, and lemon)

They were sooo delicious, and as we ate the last bites the sky started pouring rain, and a gorgeous rainbow appeared! We stood in awe under a rocky outcropping, staring at the rain and the rainbow, which appeared to end right at the “Temple of Love”!

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The rainbow and the Temple of Love

The photograph of course does not do justice to the rainbow, which was actually incredibly vivid and complete. The rain fortunately stopped soon, and we were able to walk back to the main building, where I snapped a picture of the setting sun! What a way to end a day at the palace of the Sun King! A bientôt!

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