Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day 137. Versailles

Today we devoted all day to Versailles. Mind you, we started a bit late, and it took forever to get there and to make the long line, so it was close to noon when we entered the grand reception room. The palace is magnificent, and it must have been something to see it in its days of glory, but I can see how such excessive luxury triggered the reaction of the common people that eventually led to the French Revolution.

The best part of the palace are the gardens and surrounding estate, which in the time of Louis XIV comprised an area as large as that of modern Paris. Nowadays they cover an area of 1,600 acres, so there is no way you can visit all in half a day. We chose to visit the “Le Hameau de la Reine”, a model village that Marie Antoinette had built so she and her many guests could play at being simple country folk. Everything is carefully landscaped, with an artificial bubbling stream, waterfalls, a lake, and many cute bridges.

In this part of the gardens there are also two palaces, “Le Grand Trianon” and “Le Petit Trianon”, which the three last Louises used to entertain their guests or to have secret encounters with their favorite courtesans (the most famous of whom was Madame Pompadour).

We ended with a walk through the “Grand Canal”, which is bordered by dozens of beautiful statues. Chrissy made the observation that all the females had one uncovered breast, and a careful survey demonstrated that, but for two exceptions, it was so. In fact, the same observation could be made of most of the non-religious paintings in the castle and in the Louvre. Was it a fashion in the court of the Sun King?

By the time we left Versailles we were tired and thirsty, so I made a beeline for the first terrace bar I saw, but then Chrissy played on me one of my own tricks and said that surely the terrace bars farther down the avenue were nicer. So we walked and walked, from one to the next, and all the time she kept saying that the next one would be nicer. Finally we reached the end of the avenue, and she finally agreed to sit down in the very last terrace. And we sat, and we sat, and nobody came. So we sent Anna to order in the restaurant and found out that they were closed! Rats!

Our final fling in Versailles was to go to the market, to buy all sorts of delicious and smelly cheeses to bring back to Germany. People kept giving us funny looks in the metro, as if wondering who was responsible for the pungent smell that surrounded us.
Shortly after we got home Samir arrived with all the makings of a barbecue, and after a half hour of preparation he treated us to a delicious Mediterranean salad, a mountain of “pommes frites”, and a special type of thin sausage that he buys at the Muslim store. We were famished, and duly honored his efforts by eating with delight everything that he put in front of us. Hmm, life is good!

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