Sunday, November 04, 2012

Paris - Day Five, Part One

Links to all posts in this series:
Paris - Day One
Paris - Day Two
Paris - Day Three, Part One
Paris - Day Three, Part Two
Paris - Day Four
Paris - Day Five, Part One
Paris - Day Five, Part Two

It's taken awhile, but I'm finally chronicling our last day in Paris. We began by taking the RER train from Paris to Versailles, which is about 13 miles outside of Paris. Unlike the gray day we visited Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter, this day was marvelously sunny and warm.

I have (too) many photos to share, but the main thing I have to say before I begin is that Versailles is absolutely humongous! There's no way to share the scope of the place in photos. You'll just have to take my word for it that the palace is huge, and the grounds are overwhelming. The first two photos below were taken from well below the gate. Those buildings are all sections of the palace.

Moving up closer, check out some of the details. One thing you'll notice in the photos is that there is gold everywhere. Another thing you'll notice is that there's also a lot of marble.

Now, we'll go inside. Our first stop is the chapel. Bear in mind, this is a private chapel for the royal family and their guests, not a public worship space.

Visitors to Versailles soon notice that there is artwork everywhere: busts, sculptures and paintings abound throughout the rooms and hallways. The palace was built to impress and intimidate visitors. Given the typical standards of living in the 18th century, I'm sure visitors to Versailles were duly impressed with France's wealth. Well, with the wealth of the French noble and royal classes at any rate. By the time they got theirs, there wasn't much wealth left to trickle down to the masses.

Just in case I forgot to mention it earlier, I should tell you that gold and marble can be seen everywhere throughout the palace.

This is the famous Hall of Mirrors. One wall is lined with mirrors, the other with large picture windows. And the ceiling is lined with chandeliers. This is a grand, impressive room.

More sculptures and busts. And gold and marble.

Now, what you've been waiting to see - the bedrooms, or at least the beds, of the king and queen. I'm sure you'll be able to sort out which room belonged to whom.

One of the palace's most interesting rooms is the War Room, which is lined with busts of French war heroes and paintings of battles that were significant in French history.

Americans will love this one: it depicts the surrender of the British army to American and French generals at Yorktown, the final battle of the American Revolution.

Several of the hallways throughout the palace are lined with busts and sculptures of significant French citizens - kings and queens, of course, but also writers, philosophers, artists and musicians. Behold, a bust of composer Jean Phillipe Rameau. 

King Louis XIV, the Sun King.

And Blanche of Castille, wife of Louis XIII.

As I noted in a previous post, Napoleon Bonaparte's presence looms large in France. Here he is decorating the top of a doorway.

This is the Marquis de Lafayette, who assisted the American revolutionaries in their struggle for independence.

Before we go out to the garden, we'll look at just a bit more of the palace finery.

Now that you've seen your fill of gold and marble whatnots, we'll move outdoors. Unfortunately for us, the fountains were not operating the day we visited the palace. If we have an opportunity to return to Versailles some day, we'll be sure to time our visit to coincide with a fountain display. All of the photos below were taken from within 1/4 mile of the palace's back door. The grounds extend well beyond the lake you'll see in the distance, and far to the sides of the gardens and wooded areas visible in these photos. In other words, the palace grounds literally extend farther than the eye can see from the palace.

I would love to see this fountain in full flow.

After spending well over half a day at Versailles, we returned to Paris. As we walked from the train station to our next scheduled stop, L'Orangerie Museum, we put our padlock on a bridge. After locking the padlock, I tossed the keys into the Seine River. Now, per tradition, Dave and I are stuck with each other forever.

After crossing the bridge, we paused a few moments to enjoy the sunshine just outside of L'Orangerie. Take a good look at the map in David's hand, because that's the last time you'll see it. I know that because it was the last time we saw it. Given that turn of events, we had no choice but to leave town the next day.

L'Orangerie was one of my favorite stops of the entire week. The star attraction at this museum is a display, stretched across two large oval galleries, of Monet's Water Lilies paintings. The paintings, nearly 2,000 square feet of art on eight large canvasses, depict a pond scene at various times of day. It's really an astounding work. Yes, I'd go back and see it again. And again.

Believe it or not, we had one more stop to make in Paris before packing our bags and leaving town on a train the next morning. If you want to know where that stop was, you'll have to come back and read the next post. 

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