Day 6 – Friday
Today we went to Versailles. We were afraid that the rail strike might affect our trip, but everything went smoothly. Versailles is one of those places you read about and you pictures of, but the reality is still overwhelming. It will never be my favorite place because my tastes tend toward the natural and simple, but it is magnificent. You walk up a wide boulevard toward a gold-leaf gate. Behind it is one of the largest palaces in the world. It had been an impressive hunting lodge for the Bourbon kings, but Louis XIV spent a vast amount of the state’s treasurer turning it into the most beautiful palace in Europe. He viewed himself as Apollo re-incarnated and called himself the Sun King, and the decorations of the palace draw heavily on Greek and Roman mythology. Each room is a different vibrant color and the curtains match the wallpaper. There is so much beautiful marble of different colors that one wonders if any were left in Italy when the architect finished. The Hall of Mirrors is as magnificent as you’ve heard. It was here that the King of Prussia was declared Kaiser Wilhelm I of the German Reich after defeating the French in 1871. It was also here that the Germans signed the papers that acknowledged their defeat in World War I. We also visited the smaller palaces, one of which was built for Marie Antoinette. The Grand Triaton was worth seeing, and was a much more pleasant building than the daunting Chateau. And the gardens were lovely. We were simply too exhausted to walk down to the faux village that Marie Antoinette built so she could play dairy maid with her friends.
I honestly do not know what I think of Versailles. Parts of it are stunningly beautiful, especially the Hall of Mirrors, but some of it is almost garish. Looking at all the gold on the gates makes you understand why the Revolution happened, but it is a shame the mobs pillaged the palace and destroyed so many beautiful things. The grounds are lovely, but I much prefer the English style of gardening to the French stylistic approach. Marie Antoinette’s little personal palace was a bit disappointing, but the mobs left almost nothing there but the marble walls. We stopped at a confectionary shop and the nice woman behind the counter gave me a free macaroon to taste. I tasted and gave it to Julie who appreciates such things more than I do. And we bought a variety pack of chocolates. The chocolate eggs were beautifully decorated like bird eggs and very yummy. Versailles left us exhausted, and we had a long rest before venturing out for dinner at the Tunisian Restaurant next door. The owner was extremely friendly and the food was excellent. It was a first time thing for both of us. I was so stuffed with couscous and stewed vegies that I could barely move, but the very hot, very sweet, mint tea was the perfect digestive!