Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bonjour Paree! - Paris Part 2

After a much-needed rest, we woke up Saturday morning ready to head to Versailles. Grammy had told me about Versailles and said she loved it so much and that I should definitley see it. I was so excited to visit Paris because Grammy had been there and had told me all her tips and favorite places, so I figured if she loved Versailles so much, I should go see it as well! It worked out perfectly because it was kind of rainy and we knew that being at Versailles we would be indoors - in a massive palace, or as the French like to call it, the Chateau de Versailles. The Palace started out as a hunting shack for Louis XIII in 1624. Later in the 1600s, Louis XIV expanded the Palace to it's current shape and moved the entire government of France to Versailles along with himself. There is a painting of Louis XIV in the Palace, showing off what he thought were his sexy legs. During his reign, Versaille went from the hunting lodge to a grand palace in four main building campaigns as they called them. The first major changes occured when a huge party was held at the Palace and the Chateau was altered to accomodate 600 people. The next building campaign saw some of the more recognizable changes - large apartments for each the King and Queen on the first floor, and Chateau Neuf (New Chateau) for the King's friends and family when they visited the property. The third building campaign brought in the famous Hall of Mirrors and the landscaping of the never-ending gardens. The last building campaign was mainly focused on the chapel of the property. As the years went on, the new King Louis XVI did some sprucing up and redecorated some rooms in the palace, including Marie Antoinette's room, and replanted the gardens. Versailles became a model to many other countries for its layout, gardens and the idea of having multiple buildings on one property. In fact there is almost a complete copycat in Bavaria when Ludwig II demanded a clone of the famous Palace. While the Palace is no longer lived in, it still serves some royal duties - for example they edit the French constitution there and heads of state are regaled in the Hall of Mirrors. Walking in, you are just blown away by the amount of weath that is just sitting within the walls. There are over 6,000 paintings in the Palace and each room is elaboratley decorated, making it seem like a museum. When we wandered from room to room, it seemed like it couldn't get any more ornate, but every new room it would. From painted ceilings that could rival the Sistine Chapel and chandiliers that sparkle to gold-accented everything and perfectly detailed furniture, it was like walking through a dream. It's impossible to imagine living there. Some things I found out about the Palace were just unbeleiveable: the King's bed is sectioned off from the rest of his bedroom because guests could not enter his sleeping area because they weren't worthy; the artisans from Venice that made the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors were assasinated by the Venetian government to protect the mirror trade secrets; and the entire property is bigger than the entire island of Manhattan! There is no way to explain the sheer beauty of the place, so I hope that my photos do it some justice! Because of the sprinkling rain, we didn't pay the 8€ to venture out into the gardens, but from the Palace I did get a look at the never-ending grounds. After a few hours with my mouth wide open in amazement, we headed back to Paris to do some more sight-seeing. We first decided to go to Sacré Coeur - The Sacred Heart Basillica. Sitting atop Montmartre, the church is situated on the highest point of the city. It is said that the church was built as a guilt offering after the Franco-Prussian war. The most interesting part about the church, besides the amazing view it has of all of Paris, is that the dome is made of a self-cleaning stone so no matter how old the building is or how bad the weather is, it will always gleam white! After the church we fell into a Farmers Market where my favorite person was this accordian player who had her whole set ha. From booth to booth we sampled French cheeses and wines. We eventually bought a French merlot and headed back towards the Eiffel Tower to enjoy some wine and pizza and stare at the Tower. Ahhh the life. After what turned out to be a delicious dinner and a tasty wine, we got back in line to get to the top of the Tower and were successful! After 686 steps, we caught the elevator to the VERY top to look out over Paris at night. While walking up the stairs, the sparkling lights turned on! Every hour, what look like Christmas lights, illuminate the Tower for 5 minutes. Being in the Tower when it happened was pretty surreal, as was the view from the top. As soon as I got out of the glass elevator at 986 feet (about 80 stories high) I had a huge smile plastered on my face. Before I came to Paris, I figured it would be a nice city but didn't think I would be too impressed. At the top of the Eiffel Tower I realized how magical the city was. I don't know if it was being that high and seeing the whole city, seeing the sparkling lights or just realizing that I was having a great weekend, but I couldn't stop smiling! I read a quote the other day by Oliver Wendell Holmes that says 'Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris.' I guess that Oliver thought Paris was like Heaven...and as I went to sleep that night, I wouldn't say I really disagreed much. Another successful day in Paree!


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