On Saturday we went to Versailles, the opulent palace of the last monarchs of France. The palace itself is crazy decadent. It seems like the rooms will never end, each leading into another expanse of golden candelabras, ceilings painted with Greek gods, and the pouffiest beds you have ever seen.
Beyond the palace, a 40 minute hike takes you to Marie Antoinette’s mini palace and gardens, which would still probably fit half my street at home. Apparently the queen tired of busy life at the real palace, and needed a home away from home within her home to retreat to.
There’s also the Grand Canal (which looks like a GIANT water fountain) within the gardens where the king would import gondoliers from Venice to row them up and down the river. And that’s nothing to say of the endless fountains hidden away in the green groves of the gardens. Each of them are unique and breathtaking.
It’s easily the most beautiful place I’ve been in my life. Just the gardens alone were paradise, and we didn’t even see half of them. It’s hard to believe that so few people lived there, but then that makes the French Revolution so easy to believe when you can picture someone starving and desperate, seeing all this avarice and wealth.
The next day, I trekked to the Musee d’Orsay. It’s right across from the Lourve, but I got off at the wrong stop and had to walk a half hour there. That’s not really a punishment though, when it’s a gorgeous sunny day along the Seine. Vendors sell books along its banks, children run and chatter back in French to their parents, and a man in a straw hat dapples paint across his easel.
Orsay was quite lovely as well. It was once a train station, and it is a shade similar to Grand Central. It houses paintings and sculptures from Impressionists like Manet, Renoir, Pizarro, Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh. I’m realizing that it’s quite one thing to see a painting in art books and Wikipedia, but it’s quite another to actually be able to walk right up to it and see the brush strokes, the texture of the paint, and to imagine the artist’s mind as he lured beauty out of blank white canvas.
After the museum, Jes and I went to Notre Dame Cathedral. If the French had to do one thing, and one thing alone, it was to create splendor wherever possible and for them, it’s always possible. We lit candles for family members and friends and walked quietly through the cavernous chapel. The infamous gargoyles, which were originally gutters, are so weird looking!
That evening we knew we had to be up early for our journey to Nice so we went to see the Bling Ring, subtitled in French. It was… Pretty embarrassing. I was cringing as an American in a theatre full of Parisians. I wanted to tell them that we’re not all like that!
We have three nights left in France. I have learned to say pardon and merci over and over again. Most of the people here are kind and helpful, though English was a lot more prevalent in Iceland. Paris is different than New York and London, but it’s still a city that is full of vibrant people, chances for adventure, and enchanting beauty.