Monday, November 7, 2011

We're following the Louis, the Louis, the Louis...

Backwards, I grant.

This morning, the first thing we did was hop on the train to Versailles. Yes, we did. It was pretty stunning. As in “this is enormous this is enormous this is enormous this is enormous” stunning. There were 4 of us this time—me, Carolyn, Jessica, and Nicole. We walked in and headed through the house first—it was a bit chilly out, but it wasn't supposed to rain during the day, so we were hoping it would burn off before long.

Versailles...what can I say? It's huge, it's magnificent, it's definitely over-extravagant for Paris's financial conditions at the time it was built, it used to be Louis XIV's hunting getaway when he was young but he turned it into what it is now by spending half of France's GDP, and I don't know if that's now or then.  Have I mentioned Rick before?  Nicole's been reading him like a book... oh, wait... and he knows his history.  But Versailles.  There's gold everywhere that it can reasonably be put, a few places that don't make sense, and paint or carvings or both over the rest. Or gold on the carvings. We saw pretty much everything—multi-stone statues, more statues, crystal chandeliers, the billiards-room that was basically the “man-cave” as Carolyn put it but seriously was the least manly man-cave I've ever seen or heard of, a bunch more statues, the Hercules room because Louis likes him, the queen's room and the king's room which are in two completely separate parts of the palace—apparently there were 19 princes born in the queen's room, and royal princes were all born publicly to prove their blue-bloodedness, which would, I think, severely irritate me. Oh, and more statues. We walked through the Hall of Mirrors and saw the place WWI ended—see also Eiffel Tower of a previous post. There was also a hall of large paintings of battles, where I learned one very important thing about war paintings—they all utilize what I call the DH. The Dramatic Horse. This horse should be the leader's horse, should be very pretty, and should be hamming it up as much as possible. It's also possible for the horses that are dying at the bottom to be Sub-Dramatic Horses, or for the DH to have Flanking DH's. Honestly, the only 2 pictures without the Dramatic Horse had no horses in the pictures whatsoever, and the most subdued DH was Joan d'Arc's, and the whole picture for her was quieter. Even he was big and dark and had armor on. Oh, the Hall of Mirrors, the scenes painted on the roof are all supposed to illustrate Louis XIV's life. Let me just say he apparently kept some pretty good company.
(This is Louis's version of real life.  See where the company he keeps does fun things like fly and throw lightning?  Oh, yeah, he does, too.)

(I saw this statue 3 times.  Walked through the Hall of Mirrors and liked it, went to the Louvre and saw it in bronze (Oh, look, the Versailles one was a copy!) and then saw it down in the classical statues made of marble.  It just got copied all over the place.)

When we'd wandered all over the palace, we found our way out to the gardens which were, indeed, somewhat warmer. But slightly disappointing because the fountains were all off and several of the places had closed. All the same, though—it was beautiful. Especially with the fall foliage. We joined Rachel at the top of the gardens and looked at a lovely fountain of Apollo and Athena's mom turning people into frogs, then walked down an alley and into a maze. Well, if you knew where you were going, it wasn't so much of a maze, but the trees were tall and the passages narrow, not to mention the multiple options of where to go and the part where we ended up where we started, so maze. This is also where we noticed the statues were being covered, and it was actually kind of creepy. We eventually found our way to Apollo's fountain in his chariot surrounded by fish and heralds, and walked down an aisle of tall trees dropping leaves (which Rachel and Jessica tried to catch) and tried to get to Marie Antoinette's peasant place, where she had a “regular peasant cottage” with a library and billiards room where she could shepherd her perfumed sheep. Yep, really in touch with the people, that one. Unfortunately, that way was closed and other members of the party were distracted by bikes. I stayed behind and watched two bags while Rachel, who was also sitting out on the bike ride (sorry, but I consider 6,50 euros a bit much for an hour of biking) watched a third, and I got a bit of sketching in (drew a corner of a house, basically) and then Rachel went on a boat ride in the canal and I walked over and sat and talked with people at the side of the canal until the group got back together and we made our way up the lane with much singing (okay, only a very little, and that kind of quietly because we didn't want to seem too touristy) and dancing (I lie on that one). Oh, and I negotiated a purchase while making the guy think I was French! Maybe. All I know is it's really easy when you say “Bonjour,” put the thing on the counter, he “bonjour”s back, gives you a price, you pay and say “merci” as you walk out the door. If the price he gives you is in French (and is fortunately the same as the tag says and also the register), you are allowed to think he thinks you're French. Or speak it well.

We hopped on another train and returned to mainland Paris, where we made our way to the palace Louis abandoned in favor of Versailles. Hardly surprising why, though.  You can see then ends of the grounds from the top of the building, and honestly, only 3 wings?  Ridiculous.  It now houses some glass pyramids out front. Hurrah for the Louvre!

Due to tiredness and a bit of lateness of the hour, we only stayed there for two hours. Which was nothing like enough time, but it was enough to get my feet tired out walking from the Code of Hammurabi to the Winged Victory of Samothrace to the Mona Lisa (briefly; I'm not fond of crowds) through the Italian painters and to the Dutch painters, the German painters, some medieval art, to Cupid and Psyche, and all over the place. Wish I could have taken more time with them, but the very fact that I saw them is incredible! So awesome! And I'm going back if I can; we're here 'til Friday and I should be able to plan some time in. Really, I don't know how to talk about museums; have I mentioned this before? (I will say that the layout isn't all that great because there are limited ways to get up and down and it's a U-shape, so getting from one end of the U to the other can involve lots of walking. But hey, more stuff to look at on the way!

As we were on our way out of the Louvre, we passed through one of the arches and there was a cellist sitting there playing. It was absolutely beautiful. He was good at playing, and he'd picked his location well for acoustics. I stayed and listened for a while because I really really didn't want to leave.   

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