Yesterday was the day. The weather looked great. I had completed my reading, planned the journey and left for Versailles. Everything went smoothly. I went to the tourist information office and paid the 10 percent commission because there was absolutely no queue. They were really very friendly and helpful. After leaving, I approached the Palace and entered the short line into the entrance around 10 am.
Gold was my first impression. Gold was my last impression. Gold was the motif throughout the experience. Grandeur describes the Palace and the Gardens. They are big, vast, and the one thing I will leave France etched into memory is the giant scale of so many of my experiences. Paintings, Palaces, Churches, and Boulevards are all big. Exhausted describes how I felt after the 10.42 miles that I walked yesterday.
I went into the experience thinking that I was not really going to react well to the pomp and excesses of wealth that I will (frankly 99.9 percent of us will not) never achieve or understand. I know that much of the palace is in many cases not decorated with the actual original objects; however, they have done a great job making it all seem authentic as much as possible. I appreciated the light and beauty of it all and certainly have an improved understanding of some of the history of France. I actually left the experience liking King Louis XIV. I’m not sure I would really like him in real life, but I left the Château feeling like he had some level of accessibility for his people and that he wanted to govern well for them so that they could lead good lives. The secession of rulers after him was of course answered by a very tumultuous history of revolution. The palace conveys the King’s divine connections to all kinds of historical gods, his sense of power, a celebration of French technologies/inventions, and the fact he was a knowledgeable individual with an investment in art and musical culture. Beyond Louis XIV, there is plenty of history through the rules of Napoleon, and the citizen King, Louis-Philippe I. Some surprises for me were versions of David’s paintings Coronation of Napoleon and Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Since the Louvre had the Coronation under wraps for restoration, it was impressive to see this version that David also painted.
These pictures emphasize some of those thoughts along with some of the things from the gardens, which are also vast. The gardens are in the winter condition at the moment with numerous statues covered and fountains that are not running. I found one section with blooming daffodils and that is the extent of the floral display at the moment. So, it is fascinating to see what goes on in the dormant months and a couple of my pictures show that. The geometry of the landscape and the French Control over nature is clear.
I made it down to Marie-Antoinette’s section of the compound and saw the Grand and Petite Trianons, the Temple of Love, Grotto and Belvedere. Did I see everything? No. I gave it a pretty good attempt.
It is great how this whole thing started as an escape from city life when it was initially constructed as a hunting lodge. Even Marie-Antoinette’s wish to get away from it all manifested itself in strange ways.
I left the Palace around 5:15 pm and received my final flicker of Gold as I glanced back at the palace. My feet hurt a lot, but it was a beautiful day.