Friday, March 9, 2012

Grand Tour, Part 5: The Palace of Kings

We’ve been having so much fun in Paris. We spent an afternoon at the Museum of Natural History and Botanical Garden, which also includes a menagerie of animals in their natural habitats. So innovative! We shopped and walked until we had to soak our feet at night. Of course we took in a drama at the Theatre Francais. But there’s one thing more we must do in this area, something many an English lady and gentleman seem compelled to do: Visit Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles outside Paris started as a hunting lodge, but after it was acquired by King Louis XIII and enlarged by his son and grandson, it became one of the most elaborate and extensive palaces in Europe. At one time, it housed more than a thousand courtiers and their families. By the mid-1700s, it was filled with finest artwork, statuary, and furnishings. The surrounding acres of gardens had been tamed into rigid patterns that defied nature.

The Revolution changed all that. It served as museum, then hospital, and all the major pieces it had so proudly boasted were sold, sent to museums, or otherwise dispersed.

So now, we wander through ornate rooms where kings and queens have trod, our footsteps echoing in the emptiness. The ceilings hearken back to the days of greatness, while murals, too large to be moved, hint of the grandeur that once dominated here. One can only wonder what the tree called Le grand Bourbon, planted in the Orangery and said to be over 400 years old, would tell us if it could speak. Careful not to disturb the workers manufacturing arms in one part of the palace, we make our way back to our hired coaches, sobered.

But we cannot leave Paris on such a note! Off we go to the an evening at Académie Royale de Musique, an opera house where some of the magnificence of the Bourbons lives on in the elaborate sets and authentic costumes. And don’t forget, tonight we must have the servants pack our things, for tomorrow we head out of Paris, on our way to the Alps!


QNPoohBear said...
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QNPoohBear said...

Paris has been such a whirlwind of activity! I confess to having sneaked off to the Left Bank to admire the handsome students and their revolutionary ideas. They're so dashing and handsome! I do hope they're careful not to foment another revolution so soon though.

Regina Scott said...

I wondered where you were off to that afternoon! What's Paris without a little revolutionary spirit?

Lo Hughes said...

I am really loving all of these 'Grand Tour'posts! So much fun! I was wondering, would these British guys on tour often peruse foreign girls for their hand in marriage and then take them back to England? Or, was romance kind of off limits on such a trip? Perhaps they were still considered too young for settling down?

Regina Scott said...

Lo, from the first-hand accounts I've read, the English lads looked and longed but seldom made firm commitments. Some accounts talked of how the French women were so much more ethereal than the English ladies, so free, and so thinly clothed. :-) Another essay warned parents about the seductive powers of European women and their harmful effects on young impressionable gentlemen. Remember too that the young men were often accompanied by those "bear leader" tutors, who I imagine would be very careful of their charges lest the parents refuse to pay!