Devil in the details

Before I leave Versailles behind, I thought I’d quickly share (in a very PKF-style post) a few details that I really liked.

Though these obviously aren’t the original wall coverings, the pattern freak in me loved them all the same. But while I loved the look of these, I wouldn’t necessarily want them in my house!

Paintings with black backgrounds, like this one, remind me of the works of the Dutch masters in the Rijksmuseum.

I kept reverting to details whenever I would get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of excess. Or simply when I didn’t want to see any more crowds.

Gold and marble everywhere!

For the child-woman in you: sweet prints in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom.

The look of libog from a horned satyr in the gardens.

After the rain, blue skies. And puddles, of course.

One last look…

And it’s bye bye, Versailles. Till we meet again.

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Garden state

Last month’s visit to Versailles was actually the second time I’ve been there. The first time was exactly 10 years ago (eeep!) with the Glee Club. We had some bonus miles from our bus company, so the group decided to use it on a day trip to Versailles.

However, it was a Monday and the palace was closed. We only got to see the gardens, which were free. We would have been extremely bummed if not for the fact that the Versailles gardens are, like, jumongous. Never underestimate the fun-generating ability of a bunch of Pinoys with cameras.

The gardens of Versailles then… and now.

How’s this for another before and after shot?

Nobody is allowed to comment on how I looked like I was stretched in post. I’m not exactly happy about this decade-long, er, expansion project. You are however allowed to comment that 10 years later, I am at least dressed better than my neneng self. By the way, this outfit is part of the two-part guest post I did for Plus Size Fasyon Mudra.

In the summer, Versailles charges a €7 admission fee for its gardens. In exchange for this little sum, you get the perfect soundtrack for a French frolic. Music from several appropriate historic periods is piped in amidst the tall green hedges, serene fountains and assorted Greek bronze figures.

Not all of us were happy about having to pay for something that was free on our last visit. On the bright side, the music was well-chosen, discreet and did a lot to enhance the ambience and stimulate the imagination.

Not only did I keep expecting to happen upon Marie Antoinette amidst a flock of poodles, the music  made me feel like I should be laughing a coquettish, lady-in-waiting kind of laugh and playing hide-and-seek in a powdered wig and taffeta ballgown. Makes me wish I hadn’t left the talcum powder and the whalebone corset in my other handbag.

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The last-minute decision to go to Paris was mainly to do three things: shop at Uniqlo (how I’ve missed you!), spend more time with my friends, and finally step inside the gates of the Chateau Versailles.
All it took was a train ride on the RER Line C to a Versailles-Rive Gauche, a suburb of Paris, and a few steps to cross this imposing portal (which I kind of liked, by the way, these modern brackets framing the past) into an age gone by.

Versailles is everything you would expect a seat of power, the locus of an empire to be. It’s all about grandiose scale, opulent ornamentation, and sumptuous excess. From the private chapel that rose up through two floors…

… to the seemingly boundless gardens beckoning from every floor-to-ceiling window.

“More is more” is the philosophy at work, and maximalism is king. Even their fireplaces were awesome in scale. I could roast entire Dutchmen in there, and the Dutch are the biggest buggers on this living earth.

It was crowded beyond belief the day we visited, definitely the biggest tourist crowd I’ve experienced alongside Keukenhof in spring and the Forbidden City in Beijing on school holidays. You’d think a building of such sprawling proportions wouldn’t feel crowded, but never underestimate peak season in Paris.

You were either practically carried along by a slow-moving mass of bodies or permanently rooted behind a tour group with cameras furiously clicking. But moving at a shuffle seems to work for Versailles, because there is always, always an excess of details to look at.

Maybe even more details than there are tourists, and that, in peak season, is saying something!

After a while you realize that the only way you can really frame out the masses is to focus on the ceilings.

And what ceilings they are.

After a while, you’ll find yourself just shaking your head, and it’s not because you strained your neck gawking at the ceilings.

Kaya pala pinagpupupugot ng mga  mga ulo ng mga hitad na ito! The only thing more awful to imagine than all this wealth belligerently ignoring the squalor of its time, is how many besotted visitors leave Versailles wanting their home to look just like this. Versailles was not built in a land area of 100, 300 or even 500 square meters for a reason, people! Just thinking of all the mini-Versailles in the world is giving me the heebie-jeebies right now.

I would love to return in the off season just to spend some quality alone time in Versailles’ famous Hall of Mirrors, where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Nothing can appeal to your inner Marie Antoinette like a hall of mirrors can.

Speaking of Marie Antoinette, her bedroom was the one place my wide-angle lens threw in the towel. It was great to have a wide-angle lens in a place like Versailles where scale speaks volumes. But I just couldn’t seem to get an overall impression of her bedroom as I did some of the other rooms. This place would make a great spot for one hell of a girly slumber party.

Eventually I decided to stop fighting the crowds and let them become part of the photographs.

It was when I was watching the crowds flow, like spectres, through the richly decorated rooms, down the cold marble staircases, that Versailles and I finally had our moment. How many centuries have worn down these steps? How many people have walked these same halls, and do their spirits still linger for the love of all this beauty or simply because at some long-ago junction in time, this was home?

Rulers may come and go. Power may ebb and change hands. Revolutions may rage and settle. Through it all, these marble halls endure. Such is the power of Versailles.

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