Part of what made the previous 18 months unforgettable was my trip to Paris in August 2009. And, contrary to what I’ve previously written on this blog, Ladurée and Pierre Hermé were not the biggest highlights of my trip. This honor belongs to my visit to the majestic chateau of Versailles.
I’m a bit of a French history geek, and you can’t read about Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette without dreaming of visiting the spectacular palace that was the epicenter of French society and politics. So when I was told I was going to Paris for work, visiting Versailles was my top priority. I bought my ticket online (the best way to do it, because you could end up waiting in line for hours) the moment everything was settled. I arrived in Paris on Friday evening and was on my way to Versailles via the RER C line by 9am the following morning.
I’ve read about Versailles countless of times and seen it Sofia Coppola’s disappointing but visually stunning Marie Antoinette and in dozens of pictures. But none of these prepared me for the sheer scale and majesty of what is, quite possibly, the most beautiful historical building in the world. However, while I could go on forever about how beautiful the palace is, the more amazing thing to me is the history of the building (I told you I was a geek). Walking through the palace, I could not help but think “Louis XVI married Marie Antoinette here!”
or, “Marie Antoinette slept here!”.
One of my particular favorite features of the palace is the secret doorway through which the terrified Queen of France escaped the angry mob that stormed the palace on October 1789.
Without that passageway, history would have been very different indeed.
But enough of the history lessons. If you are not as big of a nerd as I am, there is still a lot to be awestruck by in Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors is as majestic as it sounds. It is one of the most famous rooms in the world, not just for its historical significance (the Treaty of Versailles was signed here) but also for its beauty and architecture: its seventeen mirrors on one side of the room reflect the seventeen windows across that look out into those legendary gardens.
And, well, what about those gardens? I won’t even attempt to try and describe them as the words “gorgeous”, “beautiful” and “breathtaking” would not do them justice. It really was like stepping into another world and a different time, walking through the Orangerie, along the Grand Canal and by the Bassin d’Apollon.
To say, then, that Versailles, for me, was an unforgettable experience is quite the understatement.
“Unbelievable” would be a more appropriate word because until now, it is still incredible to me that I was there. I saw paintings I only used to see in books, I walked were Louis XVI walked, climbed the stairs that Marie Antoinette climbed. Unbelievable. Un-be-lie-vable.