I do realize, of course, that I am incredibly behind on posts. So. Let’s finish up by recounting the final leg of my hectic but fun fall break (where I gallivanted across a fairly respectable (in my opinion) section of Europe) and move on to new, more recent events! Ok! Pushing on! Get those creative juices flowing!
It seemed only fitting that I finish my castle-themed vacation with a trip to one of the most famous castles/palaces in the world: Versailles.
Not to insist on giving my readers a refresher in European History every time I write something, but the Palace of Versailles was built in 17th century by Louis XIV, the Sun King:
I’ll let you read all about Versailles and its history for yourselves, but I’ll say this: the Château de Versailles (yup, it’s a château in French and a palace in English. Don’t ask me why) is seen as a powerful symbol of France’s days of absolute monarchy. And it certainly lives up to its reputation.
It’s important to know that, while most of the work is due to Louis XIV, his careful choice of architects, and a large amount of state money (during a time when a lot of French were poor and hungry), parts of the palace were added or modified by his successors. But the bulk of the project was done under the reign of the Sun-King.
So Versailles is ridiculous. It has 67,000 m² of floorspace, which includes 67 staircases and 2300 rooms. And all the rooms look like this:
I mean, it’s incredible. It’s impressive and awe-inspiring and all that, but GAH. I would get a headache after a week of living in Versailles, I honestly don’t know how Louis XIV did it. And I would have been terrified to visit, as a member of the court. I mean, I know that was part of the point, but…sorry, that’s too much decoration. There’s such a thing as too ornate. Entering a new room in Versailles means being overwhelmed by the paintings and the curtains and the fabric and the chairs and the cutlery and everything else. You don’t know where to look or what to study first, because you can’t study all of it – that would take days – so eventually you feel tired and move on to the next room, where the process is repeated. Versailles is just too much. I would not have wanted to see Versailles in its heyday. Seriously, just look at the key to this place:
Anyway. As soon as you leave that giant palace of overwhelming, you’re in the just as famous gardens. I found them much more agreeable than the actual residence (though that’s not saying much).
The gardens and the grounds are lovely (but they lose points for being impossibly gigantic and for renting out golf carts to facilitate tourists being…well, tourists), and many friendly cats roam freely and happily in the almost 2000 acres (in the garden alone) amongst trees, flowers, sculptures, farmland, other castles, grand canal, and nearly 50 fountains.
One great thing about the grounds, however, is the fact that the Châteaux de Trianon are located there (also a town and a farm and sheep and lots of other impossible things). Versailles was not my cup of tea, but the Grand and Petit Trianon are so beautiful!
The Grand Trianon was built for Louis XIV’s mistress, the Petit Trianon for Louis XV’s, though both saw other uses. Louis XIV and successive members of his family or royal guests stayed in the Grand Trianon (seen as a haven from the strict, stressful atmosphere of formal court at Versailles), and Marie Antoinette eventually came into possession of the Petit Trianon, which she used for similar relaxation purposes. See? It’s not just me. Versailles is and was too much. If I were a Lady or a Princess, I would want to live in one of the Châteaux de Trianon. Not only are they of a much more manageable size, they’re a lot more tasteful than Versailles. Let’s compare:
I like the Trianon palaces better, honestly. They’re “simple” in comparison to the glamor and glory of Versailles, but they’re much more appealing.
Yup, much more to my liking. Even if the Temple de l’Amour (above) copied my alma mater’s famous symbol (I kid, I kid). But by far the coolest thing I found was a period clock in the Petit Trianon, the one that was built for Madame de Pompadour…two things that bring to mind Doctor Who’s “The Girl in the Fireplace.” For the non-Whovians among us, Doctor Who is a British TV show that features a time-traveling, benevolent alien called the Doctor who voyages across the universe in a blue police box. …It sounds absolutely crazy, I know, but “The Girl in the Fireplace,” in which the Doctor visits Versailles in the 1700s and runs into Madame de Pompadour, was one of the first two DW episodes I ever saw (the other was “Blink”). Both (for the life of me, I can’t remember which I saw first. But I know I saw one right after the other) were integral in making me fall in love with the series.
The clock here isn’t broken (not that I want it to be…that would mean monsters!), like it is in the episode in question…but still. I wonder if the people who manage the Petit Trianon get a few diehard fans who peer curiously into the fireplaces in the palace. Do they call out to the Doctor, like Reinette in “Girl in the Fireplace,” in the small, wild hope that one of the fireplaces is connected to that ship in the 51st century (and that the Doctor and Rose and Mickey might just happen to be visiting, like they are in the episode)? I like to think so.