Versailles

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!”

The chapel at Versailles

or, “Marie Antoinette slept here!”.

Grand Appartement de la Reine

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.

If these walls (or doors) could talk

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.

The Orangerie

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

“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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Year (and a half) that was

Yes, I know that, technically, I should only be covering the last calendar year. But the last half of last year was too amazing to leave out, and I didn’t have a blog to recap last year, so I’m including those six months here.

I think I could, without a doubt in my heart, say that the last eighteen months have been the most amazing and exciting in my life. I’ve never had so many wonderful experiences cramped into such a small timeframe (relative to the rest of my life, that is) that it needs to be commemorated somewhere. If and when I fall into a “my life sucks!” rut (which, let’s face it, happens to everyone, except maybe if you’re Gisele Bunchen or Kate Middleton), this will be a reminder that, no, not really. My wildest dreams came true last year and a half, so I pretty much have no right to complain about anything in the following year and a half (not that that would ever stop me).

So anyway, here goes. A recap of my wonderful 2010 (and July-December 2009):

1: Getting to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup live in South Africa: All football fans dream of getting to watch the World Cup, and I am no exception. But never, ever, in a bajillion years did I think that this dream would come true. It was just one of those things that was never goning to happen, unless of course I had another dream come true and ended up marrying Prince Harry (‘cause we would get VIP tickets, of course). But it did happen without Camilla being my stepmother-in-law.

I got to watch, not one World Cup match, but FOUR. Actually, sitting here and writing this, I still can’t believe that it happened. Thank goodness I have tons of pictures, because when I’m old and gray, I could prove to myself that, yes, I was there when Messi and co. beat Korea Republic 4-1, when David Villa scored that goal from fifty yards out,

"El Guaje" warming up, Chile vs Spain group match

that I was sitting right alongside the goal when Asamoah Gyan missed that crucial penalty for Ghana and was in the fifth row, alongside the goal during that tortuous match between Spain and Paraguay.

The moment that almost gave me a heart attack, Spain vs. Paraguay QF at Ellis Park

And as if getting to watch wasn’t enough, I got to watch Spain. TWICE. Which brings me to…

2: Spain WINNING the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa: It was a two-fold dream come true. Not only did I get to watch the World Cup, but my beloved Spanish National Team deservedly won their first ever World Championship. And, really, like #1, I still can’t believe they did it, even when I watched every single second of every match, whether on the telly or in the stadium.

Viva España!

It’s amazing how something totally unrelated to me can make me this happy, but it did. And it still does.

3: My destined meeting with Andy Roddick: I guess it’s a theme, huh? As with #1, never in a million years did I think that I would actually get to meet Andy Roddick, much less get his picture and an autograph. But with what I can only and reluctantly describe as fate’s intervention, I did. And it’s a good thing I got a picture and the autograph for proof because I think I’ll be needing physical evidence of it actually happening, since it was so heartbreakingly unlikely to begin with.

4: Versailles: I guess among all my dreams that came true over this 18-month period, this was one of the more achievable ones, but that doesn’t make it any less special. I swore to myself I would visit the legendary chateau in my lifetime after watching Sofia Coppola’s screen adaptation of the Antonia Fraser biography of Marie Antoinette. I got my chance last, last August (in the summer too, when the seasonal features are open) and it was as grand and as beautiful as I imagined it to be. And while its beauty is surely reason enough to go, for the wannabe French history buff like me, Versailles’s historical significance is even a greater draw. The number of times my jaw dropped and the hairs on my arms stood on end at the sight paintings I only saw in books and of rooms I only saw in pictures were too many to count. And, yes, I must blog about the visit soon.

5: John Mayer in Manila: It had all the makings of a disastrous night, really (less than ideal location, less than engaging artist, RAIN) but it still turned out to be quite awesome. While a couple (or five) more songs would’ve made it a perfect night, hearing Edge of Desire, Heartbreak Warfare and Slow Dancing Room (aka the most heartbreaking song ever written) live made the long wait and the cold, wet rain well worth it.

So how can my 2011 top 2010 (and half of 2009)? If I get to go to Spain, watch the El Classico in the Bernabeu and Madrid beat Barcelona 7-0,  then get tickets to the Gentlemen’s Final at Wimbledon where Andy finally beats Federer then get tickets to the Backstreet Boys concert in Manila with ALL FIVE members performing, 2011 will for sure be better than 2010. But, barring that, 2010 has enough memories to keep me happy and grateful the next year… or decade.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Spanish team photo from FIFA.com