Saturday, 15 December 2007

Chateau de Versailles

Friday, my posse of older French women and I went to Versailles for a tour of the Chateau followed by a tour of the town. Security was tight and tense because Libya's Colonel Kaddafi had the same plan to tour the Chateau. After our guide fought with the security at the entrance, we began our tour which included an "Argenterie" exhibit which displayed lavish silver pieces from various countries' royal collections.

The Hall of Mirrors was especially lovely with the refurbished paintings on the ceilings. At the far end of the Hall of Mirrors was a recreation of the throne of Louis XIV, and its marble ornamentation which led to the throne, set up on a platform. This was all made out of cardboard which was a little disturbing. It was like the set of a high school play, not something that one would see at the actual palace of Versailles. I couldn't believe it. It would have been preferable, in my opinion, to see nothing. Instead, after experiencing the beauty of the Hall of Mirrors, the visitor enters a sort of shadow box which cheapens the experience.

The railing in front of the Queen's bedroom was a facsimile also, but at least it was made out of wood, and looked like the real thing. I do so like the idea of my own bedroom, but it's not going to happen any time soon.

Among other information presented,it was pointed out a few times that part of the problems of France during Louis XVI's and Marie Antoinette's reign was the amount of money going to support the war of Independence in America. Many of France's nobles went to fight in the war, including Lafayette. Louis XVI was encouraged by his advisors to support the efforts of the new "Americans", despite the lack of money at home.

At first I felt bad because the French paid such a dear price for involving themselves in the liberation of my country. But then I realized that this (in part) led to the French Revolution, which gave rise to the "Republique Francaise" and "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite". Fighting in our efforts for independence, and having a bankrupted country is perhaps just what was needed to fire the people up to spark their own revolution. I wonder if this is what our American President is up to. What would another American Revolution look like? Hopefully the fate of Laura Bush would not be the same as Marie Antoinette.

As it turns out, we were quite lucky to see the Chateau of Versailles at all. Our guide spoke to a colleage as we were leaving the chateau, and it turned out that her group's visit was cancelled due to Kaddafi's visit. I hope he's not planning to see Asterix at the Olympic games tomorrow. The kids would be shattered.

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