Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chateau de Versailles

We were lucky to have a gorgeous day to explore Chateau de Versailles, GHQ of the French court and government from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789.

I know I've been saying this a lot, but Versailles is big. Seven hundred rooms big. To put it another way, the design of Newport's Marble House was inspired by the Petit Trianon, a small chateau on the grounds of Versailles that Marie Antionette used as her country getaway. (That is, her getaway from the palace located on the same enormous grounds. Think on that for a moment before you scroll down.)

This is the view from the back door of the palace. The Grand and Petit Trianons are back there somewhere, along with a hameau (literally, "hamlet") -- a little farm where Marie Antionette liked to play farmgirl. As I mentioned in my post on the Louvre, Louis XIV through Louis XVI are known for their "more is more" philosophy -- and nowhere is that more apparent than at Versailles.

What you can't really see in the photo is that the grounds are not allowed to be natural at all. Every area is manicured, neat, and kept within a border. All 19,800 acres of it. Back before the invention of the combustion engine, that represented the work of a lot of serfs.

I didn't take any pictures indoors because flash photography was discouraged. People were taking flash photos left and right, but I figure it'd be my luck to start an international incident.

The gardens were in springtime glory. This is just one of them -- the gardens alone cover 977 acres.

Here is another, at the Petit Trianon, in the same formal style -- although the plants themselves are a little different. Notice the gaggle of nuns having a great time.

In the Petit Trianon estate-within-an-estate are the Temple of Love and the more naturalistic English-style gardens that were popular in Marie Antionette's time. By the time you walk this far into the grounds, you can't see the palace at all.

The statue in the temple is of Cupid cutting his bow from the club of Hercules. It's a replica of the original statue by Bouchardon, which was moved to the Louvre.

The temple was designed to be beautiful in every detail so as to be a fitting home for the priceless work of sculpture it housed. This is the inside of the dome.

Not far away is the hameau. According to my research, having these rustic garden constructions was fashionable among the French nobility. Which kind of goes to show you that living in those giant palaces was probably not all it was cracked up to be.

The buildings are like something out of a fairytale, aren't they? It's what they're meant to be -- an idealized image of rural life.

The goats, rabbits, chickens, and ducks have a pretty nice life on the estate, considering that nowadays there is no danger of them ending up in a cooking pot.

I saw this girl as we were walking to find the train that would take us back to the main palace (it was a ten-minute ride that cost us $5 each, and was worth every penny). I admired her moxie. Why not wear an over-the-top outfit to Chateau de Versailles?

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