Saturday, May 27th, 2017, Part Two
The first time I went to Paris, we did the whole guided Versailles tour group thing. But that didn’t stop me from going back after Dorsay, for the remainder of what was essentially a really good free day.
This time, though, I didn’t have the fast skip-the-line advantage. But that was okay. Because even in the heat, in the direct sunlight, in the serpentine line of similar and sweaty tourists, most of our group was there together. Okay, maybe not most of the 55, but a solid 20 something. And we all bonded, complained about being thirsty, freaked out about the fact that we were in Europe, talked about Arrival and Survivor (Chris Page), and joked about tourists…together. For almost two hours. Talk about bonding.
It was really only bad because of the heat and lack of shade. Otherwise, I wasn’t in a hurry, but I think I was one of the only ones. I had already seen it before, though, so I mostly knew what to expect. I was embracing the chit-chat.
When we finally did get to the end of the line and go inside, though, a bunch of people were disappointed. It wasn’t as amazing and overwhelming as they had expected, I think. Or perhaps they were just thrown by how packed it was. Because that definitely also takes away from the experience: the sheer number of people packed into those hallways and being filed and pushed through those rooms.
It was still incredible, obviously. And even better because this time I knew the history and significance behind everything, but it certainly wasn’t as impressive as it had been the first time. And the tourists were viciously elbowing us to take pictures. And we didn’t have a tour guide telling us what we were seeing. And stopping to read anything for a refresher would have been impossible as the people are quite literally like a tidal wave or herd pushing you forward, forward. The Hall of Mirrors, a highlight of my last trip, was unfortunately only a blip this time. It was still gorgeous, and still my favorite part of the main palace. But it was kind of ruined by the volume of people. There was even a rope in the middle to lessen the confusion into a queue. And another of my favorite places, Marie Antoinette’s chambers, were closed. I was bummed. And then I was bummed that I was bummed in the freaking Hall of Mirrors.
Talk about a bourgeoisie mindset. But, seeing as where I was, that was nonetheless appropriate though I guess.We got through the parts of the palace open to visitors in about thirty minutes. And even that was merely due to how large and crowded it was.
Afterwards, we wanted to go to the gardens out back. “Out back,” like it’s a casual backyard or something.
But first, we needed a snack.A Blair Waldorf snack, or a snack fit for queens, in any case. I may or may not have been channeling my inner Kirsten Dundst.We sat and ate our macarons (Ladurée macarons, mind you) in the courtyard in the front of the palace of Versailles. We walked around on those gorgeous checkered tiles, did some more princess spins, and licked the sugar off of our fingers (whether they were actually covered in sugar or not). We were finally in the shade, and could see the line of people waiting to get in, all lined up outside the golden gates a ways away, just as we had been. And we did not envy the masses at all. Again, all very bourgeoisie.Then we really did go find the gardens. I beelined straight to where these lil pruned beauties were, as I had not found them the last time that I was there.May or may not have saved one macaron to take this picture. (It was eaten soon after.)This garden is immediately to the left out the back of the palace. We had only gone right and back last time, and then ran out of time. I’m so glad that I got to see it this time though.
There was something else though, in addition to “the cool swirly gardens” that I was longing to see that I hadn’t during my previous visit. I hadn’t known about this at the time though, so it wasn’t an annoying regret at having been so close but missing something as the garden had been. No, this I learned about later. And this, you see, was Marie Antoinette’s estate.The estate is way the heck in the far right corner of the gardens of Versailles. Like, halfway down the huge freaking canal. In the top right corner, to be exact, if you’re looking at a map, which I was, a lot, and have since memorized.
Anyway, this estate is called Petit Trianon, and it is exactly 1.4 miles, or a thirty minute walk, from the back of the palace, where we were standing in the heat of the day.No one else wanted to go. They were tired, hungry, hot. It was already almost five o’clock, and they had “been there, done that.” Everyone wanted to go back to the city.
But me, no. I was determined. Marie Antoinette’s estate and farm, fundamentally, was the reason that I had returned. And knowing about it then, but LEAVING before taking advantage of the fact that I was at Versailles once more and may never go back…no. There was no way I was not going to go see it.
So I went.Like the previous day, when I had mastered the courage to go across Paris on the metro by myself, I simply took off. My friends knew where I was. I had my cell phone. I even had water. I was surrounded by tourists and other people. It was broad daylight. I could argue my safety in court. As for the train on the way back…I could do that too. I had done it yesterday, hadn’t I?I headed off in the directly that I knew (and that the map told me) the estate and farm was. I passed some things that were familiar, like one of the side fountains, hidden amongst the winding garden hedges; I passed some things that were new, like the rose trellises and sanctuaries of high arching trees. These tree paths were glorious. The breeze blew through them, a breeze that had seen been mysteriously absent. And then there was the shade. I walked on the grass for a bit, for it felt really nice on my feet which I at that point refused to acknowledge ached a bit.I went on that walk so so happily. Adrenaline and excitement, I think, got me to the opposite end of the park. Adrenaline and maybe a little bit of spite. Because once again, after all that time in line, everyone else just wanted to leave?
Granted, I had been there and seen everything else before. Everything was new to most everyone else. But my wait hadn’t been for the Hall of Mirrors. I knew exactly what I wanted to see, and I was going to see it. And that was so liberating.Along this walk, though, I also learned why Marie Antoinette took a carriage to her getaway house. It’s basically hidden on the other side of the park if you don’t know which tree maze to go through to get there. Kudos to Marie for knowing how to avoid Louis. Just have him build you a house on the other side of some really huge ass gardens.Finally, I found Petit Trianon. It was at the end of a really long lane, like something out of Pride and Prejudice. Or any period film, actually. Say…Marie Antoinette?
Regardless, I could imagine carriages coming and going, and it made me so happy that at one point I walked up in the very middle of the road like the merry lil tourist I was.I went inside the house itself, and, after Versailles and its grand rooms, it wasn’t terribly overwhelming. It was cute, almost. Tiny, cramped. Even her bed was small. But everything was really pretty and very tasteful. It was modest for a queen, but I think that’s what she was going for.I walked through and out to the back, where the trails led on towards the farm and into the countryside beyond. This was going to be something, I knew, and relayed to myself mentally, sounding like an endearing grandpa. This will be something for sure.The trek was easy by now. I walked really slowly and took tons of pictures. Everything was beautiful and shadowy and green. So, so green. I was at peace.
Eventually the path led through the woods and onto the farm. I only knew this because one, that’s what the map told me, and two, because after a while I could see more buildings, buildings I still hadn’t much been expecting, make themselves known from beyond the hills and trees.Um, peep.(I’m fine. They just filmed literally all throughout this area, and I’m still just now finding more and more stills from the movie of places I walked. I feel like if I watch the movie now I’ll like melt away or something but I also literally know what I’m watching next. Seriously though why haven’t I rewatched that movie since then. Bye I’m off to worship Sofia Coppola a lil bit.)Jokes and movie references and fangirling aside, this entire area is one of the most beautiful places I have seen.
Maybe I loved it because I had anticipated it so much and yet had no idea (despite seeing the movie a while back) what I would find and see there.
Or perhaps it was because I had found it on my own, a little treasure and adventure all to myself. I had proven that if I wanted to do something, gosh-darn it I would.
Or maybe it was so wonderful because of the air, the quiet, the breeze, the rolling hills, the grasses swaying and flowers blooming. Everything was alive and moving while simultaneously remaining quiet and still. There were no tourists here. In fact, I could go for ages at a time without seeing a large group of people, something that would not often happen for the rest of my summer abroad.
This was an escape. Just as it had been intended to be, way back when Marie and her little girl came here to play farm, as Tracey told me once. Still, I loved it. It was one of my favorite adventures, I think.After I had seen the farm, I walked back a different way. It neared that by whence I had came, so I generally knew where I was, but I still wanted to see more, as much as was humanly possible. I wanted to see and cherish everything.
I’m screaming and fangirling again sorry, but holy crap this was literally on the other side. I walked there!!!I went back around from the farm in a way that led me around and past Grand Trianon, which I think was Louis’s getaway spot. Like, a hunting lodge or something similarly royal and seemingly masculine and…that’s right, bourgeoisie.By then, the park was closing, and I was much less impressed by this than I had been by the gardens and Marie’s lovely lil places. My adventure, though, was nearing its end anyway. The parks were closing, so there was a slow but unmistakable exodus of day-trippers like myself. I walked out through Grand Trianon and towards the long lake in the center of the park, which eliminated any chance that I would get lost.On my way I passed a restaurant and tiny little village-type area near the gate, for tourists of course. It was gorgeous too.It’s a straight shot from the end of the lake where I was to the palace. The palace, which at the time I was certain was my only exit. (It wasn’t, but don’t tell my past self that.)Because the hike back sucked. I know I can’t really complain, because I had basically just had the most amazing adventure ever, and was literally in the gardens of Versailles outside of Paris in freaking Europe. But it sucked. It just…did.
Somewhere along the lake I lost one of my nine lives, a small piece of my soul. I was exhausted, and none of the adrenaline that helped me get there in the heat remained to help me back. My feet hurt. It was hot. And I was starving.
I regret nothing, obviously. But I could have really gone for some food and a chair right then.This must have been how everyone had felt earlier. But it was just now hitting me. It would only be when I was back on the train by myself (well, by myself beside a really nice group of exchange students from Asia and Bulgaria that somehow knew each other and were also visiting Paris), that I could finally relax. I shoveled back some food, stared out the window, and floated away once again, completely content.
I was also, once again, pretty damn proud of myself for mastering Parisian public transportation. More importantly, though, I was proud of myself for being so determined and strong-willed and refusing to accept defeat. (Yeah, defeat. The Battle of Versailles, me versus myself and the elements and the influence of others in order to hike all the way to Timbuktu and back. I’m not being dramatic I swear.)
I was, and still am, proud that I walked the three plus miles total in order to see that beautiful piece of land and buildings where a former teen queen spent her holidays in peace and reprieve. Proud, and so, so happy.