June 23, 2014

Paris Part 7 (The Concluding Chapter)

Our final days in Paris were memorably spent, as were the beginning and the middle of our days in Paris. My grandparents headed back to the States as Mom and I made our way to Versailles, France. The Versailles Chateau is, obviously, the center attraction in Versailles, although the town was so quaint and adorable and picturesque full of very nice people.

That's another part of the Parisian experience that was "missing". There is a giant stigma stating that Parisian men and women are stuck up or snobbish or rude. We did not find that to be true at all! As long as you respect them and treat them the way a person should be treated, they'll treat you the very same. They're very helpful and nice and don't deserve that stereotypical attitude.

This statue, whose metal bears a strong resemblance to La Liberté Éclairant le Monde, is a sculpture of Louis XIV aka "Louis the Great" who ruled as King of France for 72 years and 110 days, the longest reign in European history

Versailles, as with everything else in France it seems, is undergoing some work to give the aging Chateau a facelift. And like all French women, she is truly aging with a fine grace.

Being the architecture junkie that I am, the beautiful curves, points, and shadows of the Chateau's frame delighted me. The classical-style architecture photographs just gorgeously. (You can find the Palace of Versailles' website here)

The massive gilded gate that protects the entrance to the famed chateau should be an indicator of just how rich the monarchs that lived here once upon a time were. It's a gold. gate. Like, real gold. As are the tops of the roofs. Interestingly enough, during the revolution, the chateau along with every other royal status symbol was ransacked and the pieces were sold to help pay for the tremendous cost of overhauling the government. Did not one of them think about melting down the gate? (Maybe someone did and this gate is just imitation gold *gasp* call the Illuminati!)

Actually, I did my research, and the original golden gate was in fact torn down during the Revolution. The current gate is an imitation of that gate. So. There you go. (But it was real gold leaf covering the steel in the original.)

The gate itself is massive, recreation or not

Once inside the palace's gates you get the feeling of just how huge it is (plus the giant line on the outside waiting to get in)

Mom and I booked a private strolling tour of the palace complete with a guide with a microphone and headset. She gave us tours of the King's private apartments and the old theatre that is still used today and was used in the three day celebration of Marie Antoinette of Austria's wedding to Louis XVI the then Dauphin and future King of France. 

I strongly encourage booking a private or semi-private walking tour like we did because you do not have to wait in the giant lines to get in and get to see things very few other people get to see.

The palace is approximately 67,000 square meters and sits on 25 square miles of land

The place is just huge. That's what you need to know. It's just huge. The ornate furnishings extend throughout the giant place and everywhere you look it's just shrouded in extravagance.

The style of the architecture, the columns and square framed doorways and windows, is quite Roman and Greek neoclassical and can be found in many temples and villas in Italy or Greece. That was probably a major factor of why the Parisian architecture just drew me in so much, anyone who knows me knows I'm obsessed with ancient Egypt even more so than architecture and that also lends itself to the Roman world in conquest. 

Even the tiniest details like lamps or candelabras or desks were so ornately furnished with such extravagant furnishings every turn of a corner was even more breathtaking than the last

I mean, come on. The King had his very own velvet toilet seat cover. How awesome would that feel on a sore bum after a long day of ruling and eating cake?

The private music room, one of many many rooms in the King's private apartments, was one of my favorites simply because of the gilded moldings on the door. One of the King's daughters, a Princess that was eventually shipped off to a convent with the rest of her sisters, was a music buff and loved playing music in this private room.

Even the dishes used by Marie Antoinette and company were extravagant. It's incredible to see so many of them surviving to this day!

The Palace has had to purchase many features of Versailles as they were all sold during the Revolution. They garner many donations from wealthy private investors who help to restore the palace to its former glory. However, the Louvre palace that is now a grand museum has refused to return some of the artwork that was collected from Versailles and the two are now locked in a battle over returning the collections that belong in Versailles.

I loved the symmetry of this passageway leading out of the King's dining chambers (that's plural chambers)

The theater was the most ornate thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Including Napoleon's apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed however I managed to snap this one of the ceiling of the giant theater. The floor of the stage rises and falls t the touch of a mechanical button and the orchestra pit is one of the biggest ever included in a theatre. The backstage area containing all the scenery and costumes and props is just as huge as the theater itself. They still perform shows and ballets and operas at l'Opera Royale and you can find what shows are being staged, as well as information about the rest of the chateau, here

After our private tour concluded in the theater, we set out to explore the rest of Versailles. Unfortunately, it was more crowded than Wembley Stadium when One Direction is playing! (I had to) We toured for a while longer before taking a little snack break and heading outside for some fresh air.

La fresque du plafond est magnifique, non?

Now I want a giant oil painting of myself on a horse in my house!

La célèbre Galerie des Glaces où Marie Antoinette a transmis sa procession à la chapelle de mariage. 

I didn't feel like digging through my luggage for a skirt and decided comfort was the best when touring the 9th largest Palace in the world. (Surprisingly, Buckingham Palace is 7th, the Forbidden City is 4th, and the Louvre holds the number one spot!)

Of course ma mère et moi were hungry after a long morning of touring so we stopped at our go-to pastry stop: Angelina. Our final time at Angelina. Très triste. 

My pastry…

…and Mom's

Angelina remains my favorite place for anything chocolate and for hot chocolate. Seriously, if you're in Paris it's worth the lines and the price. Go at least once. C'est très délicieux. 

The giant gate is spotted again!

And again!

The courtyard of the enormous palace

After our final Angelina treat, we headed out to tour the famous grounds. The construction put a bit of a damper on it, but not enough for me to speak badly about the experience. The grounds were just as beautiful as the interior of the grand palace. 

Does anyone else picture the scene in Princess Diaries where the guard is chasing after that dog that is chasing a cat? 

Ma belle mère et moi à la Palais de Versailles 

The architecture of the palace is just as breathtaking if not even more so around the back facing the royal gardens. The bushes and statues and lakes and fountains really put the entire building into perspective. 

I mean this palace just keeps going and going and the grounds seem to go on forever. We actually ran into someone who comes to the palace's grounds everyday to train for a marathon and even he has not reached the extent of the grounds yet. That's saying something. 

After our day at the palace, we toured the town of Versailles and ate lunch at the cutest little café, sitting right in-between the trees lining the street division. Everything is more magical in France, even the pomme frites. 

Out of everything I learned in France, there was one major thing I took away that I didn't even contemplate before I went there. 
The Parisians walk faster than any other people I've seen on Earth. Sometimes you nearly have to skip or jog to keep up with them. And yet…the atmosphere surrounding every true Parisian and every aspect of Parisian life is more relaxed than I have ever seen it. And I think the reason for this is simple: we as the American society that we are, we jump into life. We sprint, race, jump, pogo stick, zoom into life. Parisians lean and stroll into life. Sure, they stroll faster than anyone else. But still, they stroll. The confidence and ease they have with themselves and with every aspect of their lives is refreshing and sort of washes over you like a rainstorm. They say Parisian women age like the fine wine and cheese France is known for. They emerge from the pack an elegant 70-something who can rock a red lip and a scarf like nobody's business. Their face is absent of any and all worry lines. And why? Not because they used Lancôme or CoverGirl or Maybelline. It's because they don't worry, they laugh. 

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