We’ve been having so much fun in Paris. We spent an afternoon at the Museum of Natural History and Botanical Garden, which also includes a menagerie of animals in their natural habitats. So innovative! We shopped and walked until we had to soak our feet at night. Of course we took in a drama at the Theatre Francais. But there’s one thing more we must do in this area, something many an English lady and gentleman seem compelled to do: Visit Versailles.
The Palace of Versailles outside Paris started as a hunting lodge, but after it was acquired by King Louis XIII and enlarged by his son and grandson, it became one of the most elaborate and extensive palaces in Europe. At one time, it housed more than a thousand courtiers and their families. By the mid-1700s, it was filled with finest artwork, statuary, and furnishings. The surrounding acres of gardens had been tamed into rigid patterns that defied nature.
The Revolution changed all that. It served as museum, then hospital, and all the major pieces it had so proudly boasted were sold, sent to museums, or otherwise dispersed.
So now, we wander through ornate rooms where kings and queens have trod, our footsteps echoing in the emptiness. The ceilings hearken back to the days of greatness, while murals, too large to be moved, hint of the grandeur that once dominated here. One can only wonder what the tree called Le grand Bourbon, planted in the Orangery and said to be over 400 years old, would tell us if it could speak. Careful not to disturb the workers manufacturing arms in one part of the palace, we make our way back to our hired coaches, sobered.
But we cannot leave Paris on such a note! Off we go to the an evening at Académie Royale de Musique, an opera house where some of the magnificence of the Bourbons lives on in the elaborate sets and authentic costumes. And don’t forget, tonight we must have the servants pack our things, for tomorrow we head out of Paris, on our way to the Alps!