Sunday, June 3, 2012

Paris, Day 5 :: Versailles

Versailles has got to be the most luxurious and ridiculous palace ever constructed.  It began as a hunting lodge in 1624 and slowly transformed into the bohemith it is today.  It officially replaced the Louvre as the official royal palace in 1682.  It was a brilliant move on the part of Louis XIV, who happened to be a pretty brilliant guy.  By moving the royal and state headquarters 30 miles outside of Paris, it gave Louis XIV all the power.  He would invite other kings from all over Europe to his palace.  He'd feed them, entertain them, and give them whatever earthly pleasures they wanted.  He would watch them marvel at the sheer size and opulence of Versailles.  No one had ever seen anything like it.

In return, King Louie XIV got the final say on every decision.  He had all of Europe by the short and curlies.  He was in complete control.  And you'd think that that kind of power would go to your head, but King Louie XIV was a fair and great king- everyone loved him.  The people called him the Sun King, because like the sun he gave life and warmth.  More on him later...

On the train to Versailles.  

100,000 gold leaves...on a fence.  No biggie.

The Chapel where the royalty would attend mass every. single. day. 

Louis XIV himself.

Louis XIV was arguably the most popular king to have ever lived.  In his day he was the king.  If you mentioned "the king", or had a conversation about "the king", anywhere in the world, you were referring to King Louie XIV.  He was a true renaissance man in every sense of the word.  He was good at everything.    He was great looking, a great hunter, good at every sport, fantastic horseman, musician, art lover, and  of course, fantastic lover.  Basically the Brad Pitt of his time.

But that is not why people loved him.  He was "relatively" humble and very approachable by anyone...pretty unheard of for a person of his stature, much less a king.  France prospered under his reign, and he was loved by all for it.  He was brilliant and had charm to top it all off.  He reigned for 72 years and 110 days, still the longest reign in European history (and much longer than the average lifespan back then).  Unfortunately for France his successors sucked, pretty much causing the French Revolution.

Baby stomp. 

Hall of Mirrors.

In a time when owning even a single mirror was the ultimate sign of sophistication and opulence, this hall of 17 of them, all floor to ceiling.  No biggie.  This was also where the treaty of Versailles was signed, ending WWI, and some say, starting WWII.

New Orleans, represent.

Marie Antoinette's bed.  


We had a nice long walk through the brilliant French countryside to get to the other side of the compound.

In a few years Versailles had become just as busy and crowded as Paris, the exact chaos they were trying to escape in the first place.  So naturally they would need to build a new palace, I mean "house", a mile away.  Construction began on the new Grand Trianon and again, no expense was spared.

Marie Antoinette went and got herself beheaded. 

About 4 times the size of a normal pool table.

Would love to have a couple of jetskis on this thing.

Gates of Heaven?

The gardens next to the main palace are some of the most extravagant ever made.  They might have been my favorite part of the day, but probably only because I no longer felt like a sardine inside with all the tourists.

More iPad photography.

Another storm on the horizon. 

So long Louie.  If only you knew that the peasants would one day walk all over your masterpiece. 

Keeping warm in the subway station.

Once back in Paris and after getting rained on like three times, we decided to check out Les Invalides, the hospital Louis XIV built for France's old and injured soldiers.  It is now a big military museum and houses the tomb of Napoleon Banoparte.  And of course, when we got there it was closed.

Napoleon himself.

The front of Les Invalides

No idea what's going on with this statue. 

Random church that we ran into.

The end of another great day.  We would be on a train first thing in the morning with Bayeux and Normandy on the horizon.  More to come.

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