Visiting Versailles

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To finalize my pink pastry filled Marie Antoinette fantasies, I thought I’d send you a dash of Marie Antoinette’s reality, at least what her then home looks like today in 21st century France. Versailles, à mon avis, can be described using one word: opulence.

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France was my home for five-years, in the south, Provence, and then in the north, Nord-Pas-de-Calais. On both ends of the hexagon’s spectrum lies everything in between: the majestic Alps, the quaint Basque hillsides, the regal Norman pastures, you get the idea. Yet for some reason, I was always asked the question “So how do you love Paris?” when I returned stateside. An odd question, presumably so since I never did live in Paris proper and always had to describe this in some length to my curious inquirer. But I did come to conclude that, yes, most Americans just assumed that Paris was where I lived, because France was never more than Paris. Most Americans, many who genuinely where interested in my life, really just thought of Paris as France because of silly romanticized notions of the country. They never dared, or cared, to look beyond.

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So to buy into the opulent fantasy of Marie Antoinette is a bit cliché, j’avoue. Every American that comes to France, comes to Paris. And by virtue of being in Paris, they can’t not visit the grand palace that represents so much of what the French Republic is today: liberté, égalité, fraternité. Liberty, equality, and brotherhood, France’s national motto, is the result of the French revolution, and Marie Antoinette was the hated darling whose image perpetrated the movement.

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Yet still today, the French interestingly enough have a soft spot for her. They read biographies about her, and do to a large extent sympathize with her. Afterall, she is simply irresistible, whether for her naivety or sense of style or even for her opulence.

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And Versailles is opulent indeed, whether or not the French really approve or the Americans flock to it, it is as it is. Ornate in every sense; an overindulgence for the eyes and one may presume the palate too back in the day. An architectural masterpiece and a landscaper’s delight. I loved Versailles for what it was and dreamed with the rest of the residents and tourists alike: What would it be like to walk in these hallways during the reigns of some of France’s most decorated monarchies?

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My favorite part of the tour was visiting her quaint, theatrical hamlets. They functioned, but would have never functioned so beautifully were she to live outside of her carefully catered world. All the same, the gardens, ponds, sculptures, and hamlets themselves provided the perfect backdrop for dreamers like me. And really, what harm can come from dreaming, even if just for a little while?

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