Sunday, April 8, 2012

Guest post: Our trip to Versailles via San Quentin

After spending the morning wandering the streets of Paris, we decided to metro it out to Versailles. Jenny stayed in Paris in pursuit of macarons, so John, Sarah and I hopped on the RER C line. Since we had scrutinized the metro map and were confident we had a straight shot to Versailles, we settled in for the 45 minute ride. Three quarters of the way into our trip an announcement was made in French. Without our French translator (aka Jenny) with us, we laughingly said, "Sure hope that wasn't something important." Turns out it was. Our straight shot took a detour at some point (just a guess...but pretty sure the announcement had something to do with it!)and deposited us at the end of the metro line. Unfortunately it wasn't Versailles as we had hoped. We found ourselves at the Saint- Quentin stop which, after a frustrating hour or so, became more like a stop at San Quentin. Along with a couple from Brazil who also missed the meaning of the French announcement, and a lot of wandering, we found out how to get back on track....not an easy task in a country where you don't speak the language. Long story short, we found another train which took us to the lovely town of Versailles. After a 20 minute stroll through the village, we finally arrived at the "Chateau".


The word "chateau" as seen on the directional signs in town doesn't quite do justice to the palatial estate of all the Louis'. It's a jaw-dropping sight when the palace comes into view. We learned on our Segway tour of Paris that Louis XIV "made it", Louis XV "enjoyed it", and poor Louis XVI "paid for it"! I think Andre was referring to the decadent years of Paris prior to the French Revolution, but the same could be applied to life at Versailles.

Our wonderful guide also told us that Louis XIV was quite proud of one of his body parts and put it on display whenever possible. Sure enough, Louis' calves were quite exaggerated and prominently displayed in paintings and sculptures at Versailles.

Although John and I had made this pilgrimage once before, it was still pretty amazing. Can we really ever get enough of the Marie Antoinette story? Even though her famous "Let them eat cake" quote is more legend than fact, I must say that walking down the the grand marble staircase with it's worn treads gave me chills imagining the angry French mobs storming the palace in pursuit of ole Louis and Marie. Equally as intriguing was the secret door in her bed chamber through which she managed to escape until she was eventually captured and decapitated.

As we toured the palace, we listened to the room-by-room audio guides. Everywhere we looked, opulence was the order of the day. From the murals on the ceilings to silk brocades on the beds, and gilt covered everything, Louis XIV spared no expense. You could almost picture the grand soirees in the Hall of Mirrors.

When John and I take special trips such as this one, we always look for a souvenir to bring home to hang on the Christmas tree. It's always a treat to look at the ornaments collected through the years and recall our fun. So imagine our delight when we found a hand-felted Louis XIV showing off his sculpted calf in the Versailles gift shop!

Next up was a leisurely stroll through the gardens. In true French fashion, they were very symmetrical and formal. I could just envision groundskeepers trimming the boxwoods with manicure scissors! The hundreds of blooming tulips made for a breathtaking landscape.

Thankfully our return trip to Paris was uneventful and didn't land us back in San Quentin. Every adventure has it's ups and downs, but I am happy to report that it was a wonderful day!






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