Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vacation 2: Versailles

Thursday. We walked a couple blocks from our hotel to the pont de l'Alma, and caught the RER commuter train out to Versailles. The trains are just god's way to get around here, as you seem to always be only a block or two from a station, and everything is clean and quiet. The trip out to the town of Versailles took about half an hour, and the walk from the station to the chateau was about 1/2 a mile.

There's not much I can write about Versailles that has not been said a zillion times before by skillzier writers than moi. For that matter, no photo we can take of the place with our cheap little pocket Canon Sure Shot can hold a candle to the billion existing professional photos readily available. But you can't say nothing: the place is just so incomprehensibly over-the-top that I don't think I've seen anything even in the same solar system of extravagance. You can kind of see how people would lose themselves and their sense of perspective by hanging around the place, as it doesn't dip a single toenail in the waters of reality.

But you know what makes it worse yet? The guy who had it built abandoned the Louvre for it, somehow deeming that structure (which, before I saw Versailles, made me think that a revolution was inevitable against any regime who would build such a place for governmental use) inadequate to his glory. Given the additional steps he took to meet this vision of self, one can see that there were in fact things that the Louvre lacked as a royal residence (like, say, hot and cold running endangered species blood). Susan and I said again and again today that even if you jesused the place magically into existence, it would bankrupt a modern treasury just to run and maintain it: thousands and thousands of people, all employed (or enslaved) to no definable end. And of course it wasn't jesused into existence, but resulted from toil of some 45,000 workers over decades. Hell, I feel the urge to behead some government officials just thinking about it. With this structure, all the aforementioned sins of the church vis-a-vis Notre Dame, St. Sulpice, St. Eustache, Sacre-Coeur, Madeleine, Trinité, Ste. Clotilde and the others are hereby absolved with a bellowed "holy shit!" when you first lay eyes on it (and at regular intervals for the rest of your tour). The extravagance of Versailles makes Notre Dame look like an outhouse.

Without further ado:

The courtyard. This is only about 1/2 the palace.

The world's biggest carriage park.

The back of the chateau, overlooking the gardens. This is, literally, 1/4 of the "house."

The vaunted Hall of Mirrors. 280 feet long.

Susan says: "Look, no spray-on ceilings!"

Virtually every ceiling is painted like this.

The king's bedchamber. Love the Royal Featherduster-Thynggies on top.

Who needs picture windows with views like this?

The Royal Chapel.

Ceiling thereof.

The no-photos-allowed opera house (Hey, I don't read French!).

Mundane hallway.

One of probably 100 statues in mundane hallway.

The gardens (no, not for vegetables).

The view out the servants' bathroom window. (Well, almost.)

About 1/2 mile away, on the property, the Queen has her own chalet.

The queen's specially-imported peasant village.

The Queen's house in peasant village. (No, really.)

We caught the RER back to our station and went thru a fantastic local market near our hotel for a bit of shopping and some chinese for dinner (oddly, French Chinese is different from American Chinese, which I can only assume is different again from Chinese Chinese). Then back to the hotel to change shoes, and we walked over to the Champs Elysees to pick up where our shopping extravaganza left off the other day. The Champs Elysees is like a cross between New York's Times Square and Chicago's Magnificent Mile, very touristy and suffocatingly busy and really electric. (Sorry, no camera for this.)

I love how the streets are kept clean (very clean, actually) with a daily army of green-clad workers with little, pointy green witch brooms, flicking trash and cigarette butts out to the curb where a rush of water takes them away. I love the hee-haw sirens, and the buses with the route & stops clearly printed on the bus's side. I love that there is a bakery on every block, and that every restaurant spills out onto the sidewalk.

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