Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday At Versailles

Jane and Michael have joined us from Belgium for the weekend in Paris. How wonderful that one can get on a train and whisk across borders in Europe for a weekend. We have settled on The Palace of Versailles as an entire day outing for Saturday. It is still coolish and windy, but we know this by now and are prepared in our respective layers. We will take a train out of Paris to the Palace.

The line to enter is long, but not as long as it is during the high-season. As we are waiting for our tickets and entry, Michael is practicing his new Dutch lessons and piques the interest of the young couple behind us. They actually speak Dutch, so now we have some new conversation to fill in the wait time in the breezy, not moving (much)line. We are all coveting this young man's scarf that has an added hood. His wife thinks it makes him look like a vagrant. We all think he looks warm.

Finally, we get to tour the Palace. We all feel that it is rather austere in it's beauty. Much of the original silver is now gone, sold to support war. It seems a bit "off-season" so to speak. Much of the Palace is under rennovation, so we tour the first floor. While the hall of mirrors and it's salons are indeed magnificent, both Jane and I agree that they should spend a little more time with their housekeeping and that a good dusting of the chandeliers is in order! Things in Paris twinkle, but this is the country after all.

After touring the first and ground floors, we decide to head outside to walk through the gardens down to The Grand Trianon. Located to the north-west of the château de Versailles, it is on the site of a former village purchased by the sovereign. The Trianon was to be a place to rest, a private space, reserved for concerts, celebrations and even light meals, to which Louise XIV wanted to invite only the ladies of the court; later it was for family use. From every room there is a view onto the gardens. It would be wonderful to see in bloom, but even the well maintained hedging is effective in this season of dormancy. We all think that this is the coziest of spots and preferable to the vast halls in the main palace. Guess in another life we were not nobility. "As told by Madame Campan, her first chambermaid: "She [Marie-Antoinette]had a real taste for her retirement at the Trianon; she went there alone, followed by a footman, but found staff there ready to receive her; a caretaker and his wife, who then acted as her chambermaid."" The chateau was largely re-furnished for the Queen. It was something we could become accustomed to.

Along our walk we could see the Queen's Hamlet, with sheep grazing on the grounds, as well as the French Pavilion. It's a long way along the avenues and the groves. There were many many people enjoying the bit of sunshine and crisp air of the park and even some rowers on the canal.

It was a huge day. Negotiating large cobbled walks and lengthy distances. The train ride back to Paris gave us an opportunity to rest up our feet and look forward to a hearty dinner at Le Procope. There was no negotiating footsteps at this point, we wanted to know exactly where we were going and how long it would take us to get there. We all enjoyed a warm cozy meal and had enough renewed energy to make the trip home on foot! Bonne Nuit.

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