Thursday, October 12, 2017

Paris Trip Day 3

Today we awoke at 5:30 am with intentions to travel to Mont Saint Michel by train. It is a 3 hour ride to the Normandie region. It took us a while to get to the train station, when we reached it we were shocked by the price of a rail ticket – a lot pricier than what was advertised on travel books. We couldn’t justify paying close to $700 for 5 tickets, so we changed our plans and traveled to Versailles instead.

Versailles is a town 30 minutes from Paris by train. Upon arrival, a tour agent pointed us toward the right direction to reach the monument.

Paris has a museum pass that grants unlimited access to many museums in and around the town. We purchased a four-day pass for Todd and me at the information center outside the monument. The kids enter for free.

We also chose to book a private tour of the ‘residence’ which took us into the wing of the house where Luis XV and Luis XVI lived as well as the opera house.  All of those areas are restricted from public access. We were delighted to get to see them.
Luis XIV was a very public figure and felt that it was appropriate for the public to see him while he ate or in his bedchamber. The rooms were large and set up in a way that allowed people to enter and visit with him during those times.
On the other hand, Luis XV was very private and had a  wing built at Versailles built with private chambers for eating and sleeping. He designated times for his counselors to visit with him and a day when the public could call on him.
Luis the XVI, the last monarch of France, was also a private man and preferred living in Luis the XV quarters instead of Luis the XIV. 
Much of the luxurious furniture and art that adorned Versailles was taken during the French revolution and sold. Some were recovered and returned to the residence, other is stored in the Louvre.
We admired beautiful desks, tables, and cabinets expertly decorated in various wood assembled to depict flower and other patterns. A large clock adorned one of the rooms. The mechanical clock, a novelty of the time, displayed the second's hand as well as the date and lunar calendar.

Marie Antoinette's theater was my favorite area to see in that part of the tour. It was built for the wedding of Luis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. It’s novel oval design seated 700 people and could be converted into a ballroom by covering the main auditorium seating with custom-made floors and making the first floor, which was at the same level as the stage, the main entrance. The stage walls were also converted to replicate the balcony and d├ęcor of the room, in essence doubling the theater’s size.

The second floor was designed to create an optical illusion of a hallway behind it. The architect placed mirrors on the wall and mounted curtain and half chandelier on them. Their own reflection made it seem as if the room continued on behind the seats.

After the private tour, we visited the rest of the residence open to the public. The hall of mirrors, a favorite because of its lavish design was interesting to see. Mirrors were an indication of wealth at the time, an entire hall of them was made to impress dignitaries who visited the French kings.

King Luis XIV Hercules Salon, part of his restricted areas held one of the largest paintings I’ve ever seen. "Meal at the house of Simone the Pharisee" measures 15 ft x 32 ft inside and was gifted to the king by the Dodge of Venice to thank him for his assistance in war.

The gardens occupy several hundred acres and are geometrically divided into several individual groves and gardens accessed from a central path that runs along a man-made canal.

We walked along the center grass rug lined with statues on either side and rented a rowboat on the main canal.

 The kids had fun riding and Carson even tried rowing. Emilia was afraid we were going to crash against another boat or tip over as we switched seats.

Afterward, we walked to the Petit Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s estate where she lived away from the court. Although simpler than Versaille, it was still a lavish and beautiful residence with lavish gardens.

The Grand Trianon was developed by King Luis XIV seeking an escape from the public life of Versaille. Whereas Versailles was the residence of the royal family and extended family, the Grand Trianon was limited to the King and immediate family. Although lavish and still grand, the house had fewer rooms to entertain a large number of guests.

After visiting Versailles, we walked 25 minutes to visit another beautiful site, the newly built Paris LDS temple. Used to seeing tall buildings, with an Angel Moroni on top, we didn’t recognize the temple until we were right in front of it.

Still beautiful in its simplicity, the temple is a two-story structure with a visitor center attached. The temple sits right on the street, with an open archway leading us to a small courtyard in the back where a Christus statue and several fountains adorned the grounds.
While at the visitor center we viewed a miniature model of the temple’s interior and were able to talk to the kids about the various room and focused on the sealing room. We explained to them what they can expect to happen next week when Andrew is sealed to our family in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.

We walked another 30 minutes back to the train station where we rode home. My pedometer measured close to 15 miles of walking that day.