Places: France #13: Visit Versailles
If only Marie Antionette had uttered those words instead…she might still be alive. Nah, I’m just kidding, she’d still be dead. I mean, come on, that was hundreds of years ago…Can we all just admit that it would be weird if she were still around? Plus Kate Middleton would probably have to try a lot harder to get her picture on the cover of every magazine that’s ever come out if she had to compete with the world’s oldest queen.
While my trip to Versailles did very little to bring Marie Antoinette or King Louis XVI back from the dead (granted, I didn’t try as hard as I could have. It would have involved a time machine and an Austin Powers-type freezer, and I just didn’t have those resources so far away from home), it brought the rest of their world to life. As an avid student of the French Revolution back in high school, it was astounding to come face to face with the stories I had heard four to six years ago and had almost forgotten.
I had even almost forgotten how much of a looker King Louis XIV was (but can one ever really forget the figure of a dashing man in tights and red heels?)
Even more stunning than the man in heels, though, was the secret door that Marie Antoinette used to escape from the palace when it was being stormed by an angry Revolutionary mob. It was barely visible; just a cutout in the wallpaper. Staring into her room turned her whole story into a reality. I couldn’t imagine moving to a country at age 15 to marry a guy I’d never met and where I didn’t even want to be Queen and then end up getting beheaded for it all. Talk about taking one for the team. I’d have at least asked to have my death sentence come in the form of hemlock like Socrates; if it was enough to satisfy some angry Greeks it should be enough to satisfy some revolutionary French, right? Oh, well, I guess the French were starving too at the time, and we all know how hard it is to be rational on an empty stomach.
The rest of the rooms in the palace were extremely lavish, with extraordinarily decorative murals covering every inch of the ceiling and with gold trimming every conceivable space to be trimmed. The Hall of Mirrors looked like several girls’ dorms I know, except slightly larger and with more statues lining the way.
Finally, in the last room, we moved out of the Marie and Louis age and into the time of Napoleon. Several famous paintings of him crowning himself emperor were hanging on the walls. I was used to seeing them on the Internet; I kind of wanted to touch them to make sure they weren’t just printouts, but I’m pretty sure touching precious art is frowned upon by most of high society. If I hadn’t been in a palace I might have risked it, but you never know what kind of guards will appear when you break the rules in a house of royalty. Plus, I’m not entirely convinced they don’t still have a guillotine hiding somewhere that they reserve especially for punishing tourists.
All in all, Versailles was the full package. Royalty, guillotines, gold. The only thing that I didn’t notice anywhere was cake…But I have reason to believe that there’s a cake factory tucked away somewhere in the palace, and next time I go, I’m going to find it.