France Day 40: Versailles
We took our little children to Versailles, our last full day of adventure in Paris. First, we explored the gardens, which felt like we were in Alice in Wonderland...a bush maze, larger than life, revealing room after room of fantasy-like places: a room just for drawing, an outdoor ballroom, and a section of mezmerizingly complex, tricky twists and turns perfect for hidden flirtations and private escapes. At one juncture, we happened upon a little cafe almost completely enclosed in a larger-than-life bush, where we ate pizza and soda for lunch. And on we went.
At one point, the children found a statue of a mostly nude lady reclining, looking a little annoyed, with a toddler hanging out near her rear end and offering her some grapes.
"Look Mommy! She's trying to give her mommy some grapes!" said Bittykins.
And Butterscotch answered, "Yeah, and the mommy says, 'Can I please take my bath in peace?'"
After awhile, the sun came out a bit and it became hot, and I was growing weary of all the walking, so we decided to head in to the house, or, um...you know, the castle.
The only problem was the line close to a quarter mile long of people waiting to get in. We had avoided lines this entire trip, including no line or almost no lines at Disney, thanks to the Pink Pass. But what to do? We didn't want to come this far and not see the castle. I took Butterscotch to find a bathroom, and planned to swap out our place in line with Geoff once we returned so they could go, too, and we wouldn't lose our spot. Meanwhile, we'd apply sunscreen while waiting in line.
Luckily, as soon I disappeared, one of the guards saw Geoff holding Bittykins out in the sun and pulled them in to the building, to enter without having to wait at all. I guess he saw how tiny she was and didn't want her to suffer the heat. He didn't even see me, now obviously pregnant, but you can bet Butterscotch and I were relieved as well! What a relief...shade, water to drink, no sunscreen needed, and no long bathroom hunt. Well, actually, there was a long wait for the ladies room, but I did not hesitate for a second and took Bittykins directly in to the men's room. I just looked right at the floor, went straight in, came straight out, and no one batted an eyelash. I've done that every time since then as well. No one questions a pregnant lady with a toddler!
The castle wasn't air-conditioned from what I could tell, but the shade sure felt nice, and there were fans near the entrance. Can you imagine...all that opulence...and everyone back then sweating half to death.
While we were there, I ran across a painting that stopped me in my tracks, and there's a photo of it here: Marie Antoinette with her two little ones. It was me. Living the exact same phase in life she was here in this painting, my two children the exact same ages as her two children. The artist captured their faces and positions and relations so perfectly. Marie looks wisened now, but still young and beautiful, in her prime. Her face is at once knowing, seeking recognition in your face, and about 2% annoyed, possibly with The Dauphin. She is aware all at once of you, her daughter, and her toddler, and her position. She has an amazing capacity to remain aware and calm and only slightly ennui about everything. There is more awareness than concern in her face, and a small sense of powerlessness, as if to say, "I can't do much about it, and I'm a little bit occupied here in the moment." That occupation leaves her with contentment, mostly. I relate to her so much in this image. Not everything, just her expression and her apparent awareness of her children, each kept at the appropriate distance and level of concern. I get from this painting and how the artist chose to show Marie's hands that she is an attentive mother to the Dauphin, while a gentle guide to her older child, but equally loving to both and never overbearing toward either. She is able to do much. You also get the feeling she puts up with a lot. I love this painting so, so much.
I began to see just why Versailles started a war. Even in this day and age, with daily tourists by the thousands each paying expensive ticket prices, the building and grounds cannot be completely maintained at all times. In fact, while the gardens are restored to their original glory, the vast majority of the inside of the castle of Versailles is still unrestored. It truly took the wealth of an entire nation just to build this place in the first place, and I would venture a guess that even at the time, it wasn't all perfectly maintained at any one time. It's just too massive. That said, preservationists today did a marvelous job restoring and bringing the most noteworthy parts of Versailles to life, available to anyone. It's a shining treasure for the world to see, and yet also, a tangible lesson about the danger of power. Just for fun, I personally would love to see the Opera House restored. I'm curious to see what it must be like. Can you imagine looking at a castle like Versailles, and saying, "You know what this place is missing? An opera house."