Well, today I finally made it to Versailles. After all these years. Poor Chelsea and Rachel, they thought I was kidding when I said I'd need them to take a picture of me in every room and with every painting. But in return they had me as a tour guide so hopefully that made up for it.
We got up super early so we could get there when it opened, only to find out that Versailles was on strike until 10:30. We were not amused, especially as it was cold and rainy and we could have been warm and snuggly in bed instead of out in the rain. Me, being the genius that I am, had of course not even brought my sweater. So we hung out in McDonalds until it opened, then stood in the freezing rain forever moving through the line to get through airport security. But it moved pretty quickly and despite the fact that my shoes were soaked and I was shivering I was so happy to finally be in Versailles that I didn't care.
First we did all the main rooms- Marie Antoinette's bedroom, the hall of mirrors, all that. As expected the tourists there behaved like animals which was just disgusting. After that we did the much less crowded but no less beautiful Dauphin's and Mesdames' apartments. By that time it was sunny and warm and beautiful so we walked through the gardens and did a bit of Petit Trianon, looking at the house and peeking into a few of the nearby buildings including Marie Antoinette's little theater which was AMAZING. I actually wasn't as excited about the Petit Trianon as I was for the chateau, but I LOVED it. I want to live somewhere just like that some day. It was so peaceful, especially compared to the zoo that was Versailles, and I can totally understand why Marie Antoinette would want to escape there. I mean I was uncomfortable just being one of the onlookers at Versailles, I can't imagine being on display there all day every day by people that were ready to hate you for any little mistake. The house was so light and neoclassical compared to the baroque heaviness of the chateau, and the gardens were gorgeous, it was a place you could just breathe and relax.
I could of course go on for ages about how beautiful everything was but I don't think that's necessary. Just to be in the place I've wanted to go to for so long, to walk through the same halls that once saw the Louis (XIV, XV, XVI), Madame de Pompadour, Marie Antoinette, Rose Bertin, it was the most incredible feeling. I was just completely surrounded by my favorite history ever. And the thing is, I've read a million and one essays about how everything in Versailles is meant to reflect the power and glory of the monarchy, and all the gardens did the same thing, blah blah blah, and one of my selling points for getting this scholarship was that I could read that a million times but I can never truly understand until I experience it for myself. And the thing is, NOW I feel like I really do understand. On an intellectual level I knew all about the politics of the Versailles architecture and gardens, but to get to actually experience it for myself just settled it in an emotional spiritual physical intellectual way that no essay ever could. I'm just so grateful for this scholarship and the opportunity to experience my beloved European history.
Just in case you, like me, went on a mission to see every Marie Antoinette portrait ever, here's the locations. The portrait of her and her children where she's wearing the deep red robe a l'anglaise with the fur trim is in the chateau in the main rooms. The official portrait in the cream colored grand habit is in the billiard room on the ground floor of the main house at the Petit Trianon. The famous portrait of her in the blue robe a l'anglaise holding the flower (the one that was made to replace the portrait of her in the chemise a la reine) is an extraordinary painting and on the second floor (first floor to my European readers) of the main house at the Petit Trianon. The more I stared at it the more I was moved. Those are the ones I found, I'm still wondering where the portrait of her in the blue grand habit is.
After we got back to Paris and had some dinner, we all went to the Sacre Cour, a gorgeous Romanesque cathedral at the top of Montmarte. You can see the whole city from there. Except the Eiffel Tower which is blocked by a tree. Stupid tree. But anyways we watched the sun set over the city which was lovely. We also went inside the Sacre Cour. There happened to be a mass happening, and it was so magical to experience the grandness of the cathedral with that beautiful medieval music in the background. We each lit a candle and said a prayer for some one. I know I'm not Catholic, but it's impossible not to feel close to G-d in a place like that and it's all the same G-d anyways. It was a really moving experience, we all cried.