Friday, July 17, 2009

Come for Revolution, Stay for Cake

Here's what I did for Bastille Day:

We got a group together and headed out to Versailles and then Chartres Cathedral. Generally, tour guide books tell you that it takes a day to do each, but, thanks to my mother's traveling training, the group got through both in one day. However, by the end they looked a little like this:

We saw soooooooooo much, it's no wonder everyone was exhausted. So, here are some highlights of the day.
We got on the train to head out to Versailles, but unbeknown to us, the train we got on started the trip to Versailles, but actually was headed to north Paris... We got to do a little back tracking. When we got to Versailles we headed to buy tickets and found out there were some performances going on and they were about to turn on all the fountains in the gardens. Go look at that first picture again. That's how all the fountains looked. AMAZING!
After eating lunch in the gardens and listening to string quartets we set off to the Trianon and the Marie Antoinette Estate. The Trianon is the "little house" behind Versailles. If I ever own a house that big, I will have made it very very far in life. Cool things I learned about the Trianon were that when Marie Antoinette showed up she practically renovated the place, going as far as to have her predecessors initials removed from the banisters and her own placed in. *cough* narcissist *cough*

The Trianon was also interested because it showed a much more private life of the King. Every thing at Versailles was on display to the public, and the king only had a little space to himself. In the king's bedroom there was only a third the room courtiers couldn't access and they all were in there watching him get dressed in the morning. At the Trianon there were no barricades, suggesting to me, that this was where the King didn't need to worry about the lack of space at court. Compared to Versailles this really is a little cottage, full of rooms for the king to enjoy life.... not that there wasn't plenty of that at Versailles, but you get the picture.
After being in the Trianon we went behind into more secluded gardens. They were lovely, and less "groomed" than the regular gardens. Again, seeming to fit the cottage idea. At the back of the gardens we were met with this:

This is the Marie Antoinette Estate. Gorgeous. I would never ever return to Paris if I could come here instead.
This estate is where Marie and the ladies of the court would dress up as shepherdesses and traipse around wondering why the commoners were so upset with their clearly idyllic lifestyle of simplicity and poverty. Yeah, they were rather sheltered/ignorant. But hey, if you thought that commoners lived in circumstances like that estate, you'd be hard pressed to pay attention to complaints of the masses.

Versailles itself was stunning. The crowning jewel of the French court at it's height, and a triage hospital at it's lowest. When Louis XIV moved to Versailles it was a "mere hunting lodge" and by the time it was stormed by the masses under the reign of Louis XVI it was a gilded court of wealth and pleasure. Under Napoleon it was turned into a museum, and during the siege of Paris in late 1800 the hall of mirrors was used as an operating room. Today it functions as a museum showing what life would have been like for the royal court. The audio guide was good, but rather lacking in that I couldn't ask it questions and only in some rooms would they get into any of the cool history. Some things, obviously, would never have been written by historians of the time, but we have plenty of clues as to what life was like for the King and I was disgruntled that the guide didn't give more. Alas. However, it did point out all the art work, for which I was extremely grateful, because otherwise I would have had absolutely no idea what I was looking at.
So, here are the highlights from Versailles. The royal chapel was beautiful:

And there was a really good statue of Louis XIV at the age 26:

My favorite room was this one:

This is the room that the kings would have met with their cabinet to take care of the affairs of the kingdom. Obviously they didn't do such a hot job, but it is a cool room none the less. From this room Louis XIV and XV would have made decisions about the wars that they entered in with neighbors and these wars actually were what lead to the revolution, because they are what helped bankrupt the country more than anything else. Ironic since the second leader after the end of the monarchy would be more war hungry than any king of France ever was...
And here is the Hall of Mirrors for all of you:

At the back of the palace they had a gallery of paintings representing all the major french victories that the French had prior to 1680 (ish, I don't have the exact date). And yes, there were French victories. Otherwise, here in France I'd be able to communicate much better than I can. It's just in the last three hundred years or so that the French have really done poorly, and really, if you look at their history, I can't blame them for not wanting to fight.
After finishing Versailles we headed to the train station and bought tickets to go to Chartres Cathedral. This cathedral is arguably one of the best examples of High Gothic architecture in all of France. It was beautiful, and actually the main architect for the SLC temple studied it before starting his sketches, so you can see a strong resemblance. Particularly in the second picture of the front.

The inside had some incredible stained glass windows, see:

And here are flying buttresses:

We stopped in a cafe for dinner and then caught a late train home, getting us back around midnight. Yeah, it was a long day. But it was so much fun.

Other highlights:
~We jumped from a moving tour bus at Versailles, don't worry it wasn't moving fast, but it was comical. We got to a speed bump, threw open the door and started jumping out... all the while Amber was yelling "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
~Just because something looks like a walkway, doesn't mean it is. And should you misjudge, they'll go all crazy French on you. Good times.
~The things you remember as a kid, don't always line up with reality... tragic.
~Just because cupid looks decent from one side... doesn't mean he really is.

1 comment:

  1. So I'm curious what didn't line up with what you remembered from the last time.