Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah, Versailles!

I woke up early, so I could make one last trip down Rue de Montorgueil for our I will miss that trek!  I never did make it all the way to the bottom of the street to visit the famous patisserie, La Maison Stohrer, where Queen Elizabeth, in 2004, went to shop for the royal family's Easter eggs.  I regretted that I had booked us so tightly for Paris tours of one kind or another (we only had three days), that we had no time to explore on our own.  C'est dommage!

Julien met us again, this time to return our security deposit around 8am, and helped us down the 5 flights of worn wooden steps. In 30 minutes, we were at the Hertz rental office near the Louvre. It took us 45 minutes to complete the transaction, and then we looked for a toilet; non existent in the entire shopping mall! The only possibility was a "toilet boutique" (leave it to the French to make a mundane task fashionable) that charged a high price for its use, which included designer TP! Fortunately, it was closed, so we took off, and coped.
Back entrance to Versailles
 We found the way to Versailles easily, but passed the exit since it was not marked clearly. By the time we found it and parked, it was already 11am. Thankfully, I had purchased tickets ahead of time, as suggested by a friend who visited the previous month. Our line, which snaked around for a block, moved quickly and after a short security check, we were in.
First on the agenda was the WC or Water Closet (toilet for us), and we were off to the Palace.  Because we had so litle time, we did not use the audio tour as much.  I was eager to get to the Petite Trianon: Marie Antoinette's mini palace and peasant village over a mile away.

Marie Antoinette as a young bride

Because the Queen felt hemmed in and smothered at the Grand Palais, she had this smaller version built, along with the village, so she and her children could "play" and enjoy a quieter and simpler life (I understood the need).  Her husband, Louis XVI, rarely visited.  Unfortunately, her courtiers (those that took care of her on a daily basis; helping her bath, choose clothes, dress, organize her day, etc.) had nothing do do while she was away, and began to be suspicious of her.  This did not work to her advantage when the revolution began.

On the way to the peasant village

Of course (back on track) Versailles itself was elaborate, with fine paintings of the royal families, furnishings from around the world, and gorgeous bedding and draperies truly fit for the King and Queen!
We enjoyed a display of clothing for coronations, balls, and religious ceremonies that Royalty of that period (18th century) have worn.

The famous Hall of Mirrors

We decided to take a lunch break, and unfortunately, chose an outdoor cafe´that was short on staff, so it  took over an hour for our meal to arrive.  What a waste of time!
Prior to our meal, as we walked out onto the terrace from the Palace and into the gardens of Versailles, beautiful classical music played with an unknown source, as the fountains "danced" in time.  Delightful!
I felt as tho' I was dressed in a fine french gown, waiting to be met by Marie and her husband, King Louis XVI, who had so cordially invited us to their charming garden party; I wanted to twirl and dance my way to Marie's estate.

We lost time again as we overshot the path to the Petite Trianon, and ended up first at the Grand Trianon; the larger of the two palaces (more like summer homes) on her property.  We quickly toured the  building, and then headed for the smaller, Petite Trianon, where Marie spent hours with her family.  It had lovely grounds, with a grotto, stream, bridge, cupola (for theatrical productions), and farther down the road, a complete peasant village with dairy, mill and other out buildings.  Charming!  But not to the common folk of the day: Marie had an expensive version of a shepherdess costume created so she could play milkmaid.  That dress cost more than an entire year's salary which could feed a family of four!  She truly was clueless about what was going on outside the palace...folks were famished.

The mill in the peasant village

Due to lack of time, I didn't have the opportunity to visit the gift shop to purchase a CD or biography of Marie's life, which would have made a perfect souvenir of our visit to Versailles, and a nice addition to our homeschool collection.  That was very frustrating to me!
But, we had a jolly time looking for our first night's lodging at the Chateau de Jonvilliers, just 44 miles from the Palais.  After taking two trips down the same country road, we finally stopped to uncover a brass address plate that had been hidden behind a vine.  Voila!  This was the place, so we drove through the iron gates, and down the short wooden driveway to our B&B; a three story symmetrical building with tall windows and beautiful grounds.  We met Virginie (who had inherited the Chateau) and her husband Richard (an American) and their two home schooled boys.
We were offered a light but tasty evening meal, and then settled down for a good night's rest.

Chateau de Jonvilliers

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