Travel: The Opulence of Versailles

Since we previously had two gorgeous days in Paris, we had anticipated nice weather for our day-trip to Versailles. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and we were ill prepared for the onslaught of wind and drizzle, forcing us to cut our Chateau visit short. We did manage to tour the main palace before concluding that it was too miserable outside for us to trek across the gardens to the more secluded dwellings at the back of the estate.

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In understanding the history that precluded Versailles, from its humble beginnings as hunting lodge, it is easy to comprehend the beauty that drove Louis XIV to construct a palace here. Despite the carefully maintained landscape, one can envision the natural wilderness that once had a place in this town.

At the time, it was a defiance of how the royal family typically resided. It was tradition for the family to travel to and fro from amongst the households of its nobles, and smaller residences scattered about the country; a manner of putting the monarchy on display. The building of the extravagant Versailles put a stop to this.

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The most important part of living at the main palace was etiquette, a defined manner of greeting, conversation, and room organizing must be maintained by both the royal family and visiting nobles. The closer each room was to the royal bedroom, spoke of how dear or high-positioned the individual in that apartment was.

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My favorite room was the Hall of Mirrors (although I suspect that I would have preferred the Hall of Battles, which was unfortunately closed due to limited manpower). You can see the sparkle of the room as the chandeliers play off of the expanse of reflecting surfaces generously scattered along the corridor. This room is still used for diplomatic functions and state dinners, almost makes me motivated to find a diplomat to marry just so I have the opportunity to waltz about this grand gallery!

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Upon entering, it is simple to comprehend the vast amounts of taxation that citizens were burdened with for Louis’ vision to emerge. It is not difficult for me to understand why this resulted in the fuse for the dynamite of the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette lived a privileged yet lonely existence here, as her husband who preferred to focus his energy on his hobby of hunting neglected her. Unfortunately, in the end she was seen as a symbol for the failed French Monarchy and put to the guillotine in 1793 after spending several weeks in a cell at the Conciergerie Prison.

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What are your thoughts on Marie Antoinette? Did she deserve her sentence as wife of the King? Or was she just as culpable for the suffering of the peasants through her extravagant lifestyle?

Travel: Roman Ruins of Provence

I just finished the France part of my trip, so I am back-posting amid a week of spotty WiFi. I legitimately had to get something at McDonald’s every night so that I could coordinate the next leg of my trip, leaving not so much time to keep my posts regular. I spent a few day’s traipsing the Roman Ruins in Provence.

Provence’s history dates back to the Roman Era in which it was the first province they established beyond the Alps. The outstanding architecture that still exists today is best attributed to the Pax Romana, a movement initiated by Caesar Augustus that was seen a period of peace and minimal expansion by military forces. It lasted from about 27 BC to 180 AD, a length of two centuries.

It is not hard to see the distinct culture of this heritage-filled region, and the lasting impact that the Romans have had; from the Aqueducts, to the Temples, to the Theaters  their construction methodology is precise to a tee, this has enabled the structures to last thousands of years with little weathering. This is in sharp contrast to the asian-style of construction, if you’ve ever been to the Great Wall, the rocks are jagged, disproportionate  and merely thrown together in a pile, some of the slopes require you to hike up an 80 degree grade!

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Arena of Nimes

Just imagine when this immense arena was used to proclaim the glory of Rome through the battles of gladiators versus beasts!

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Interestingly enough, I did not get the opportunity to watch bullfighting when I was in Spain, but the Nimes Arena is now a popular attraction for it, and we managed to watch the youngsters take on ferocious bulls. We did not expect, however, that they would actually slaughter the poor creatures, it turned out to be a pretty gory experience