As soon as I left the Château de Versailles in Versailles, France, I wanted to watch Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. As one of the movies that had been filmed at the estate, I wanted to bring the opulence alive again. Had I really seen a bed frame sprouting ostrich feathers? How many glittering chandeliers were in this joint? And don’t forget the plush divans and brocade curtains and gilded cherubs and…
Even the trees wear gold at Versailles!
(Giuseppe Penone’s Albero Folgorato, a temporary exhibit at the estate)
I shot picture after picture to help me hold on to the memories, but I was clutching at straws. Each room unfolded another red carpet of mind-boggling wealth, and any previous information was simply pushed to the side.
Versailles is an amusement park built on sensory overload, but not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t just what I saw that had me reeling; it was also what I was imagining. There were details that were conspicuously absent and it was up to me to fill them in. What must Versailles have smelled like–foreign perfume from the far east? How would wild game have been presented on that silver serving platter? How must it have tasted?
While trying to compute all of this history, awe, and speculation, you’re being jostled by a gazillion tourists. They are crushing your feet to obediently follow of their tour guide, or throwing their elbow into your line of vision to take a photo with a tablet half the width of the room (and remember, this is VERSAILLES we’re talkin’ about, those people weren’t frugal with space). Want some photos of all this glittery goodness?
Entering a main door after we survived the ticket line
Obligatory photos in the Hall of Mirrors
Photo taken with a camera, not a tablet. Elbows still may have been thrown…
Rooms fit for royalty
This table just screams “Let’s play cards!”
This sunny room is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed
Heading to the gardens–note the temporary lack of tourists
One of the little (well, relatively speaking) houses that Marie Antoinette used for fun
My mind couldn’t hold all the details, and I didn’t want to read the raw facts. Instead of cracking open a historic tome, I simply wanted to watch the prettiness float by again. That’s where watching Marie Antoinette came in. And that same incredulous feeling I get from watching all the finery in the movie? I also get it here, just by reviewing the photos.
Versailles is indeed an amusement park, creating an amazingly surreal experience that will be marveled at long after you’ve left the tourist hordes behind.
Have you ever been to Versailles? What were your impressions, and how have they changed over time?