July 24, 2001
The palace is everything in excess along with its gardens and it was even more so before what was destroyed in the French Revolution. Marie-Antoinette had her famous dialogue here: "Why are the people so angry?"
"Because they have no bread."
"Then let them eat cake!"
So much out of touch with reality, she was taken with the king to Paris to be beheaded.
The place started as a hunting lodge because an earlier king thought it would be nice to not have to sleep outdoors in the cold on hunting trips. It grew throughout the generations and was boosted by jealousy: the treasurer had a place so admired by the public that envying King Louis XIV was insulted. All of the designers, artists and craftsmen were hired away by the Louis XIV to work on Versailles' palace, while Nicolas Fouquet, the treasurer, was arrested and imprissoned for the rest of his life having no idea that he offended the Louis so much.
Besides a French revolution nabbing the king here, there have been other great historic moments here notably the Treaty of Versailles, the end of World War I.
There are some good churches and three huge stables outside the palace, but little of grandeur. Not surprisingly either, knowing the fate of Fouquet.
It would take at least a week to see the entire palace with its gardens. The entrance queues of tourists and mobs of Japanese tour groups give more a feeling of hysteria than historical, but one inside, it's not so bad. We got a good taste of the antechambers, bedrooms, study and a sliver of the garden before recharging at a cafe.
My pre-Europe trip in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, USA (1999) puts things in a historical perspective. The lavish luxury in Europe compared to that of the Americans was dramatic. The styles here continued to develop as America was working on creating it's own styles & comforts. For a moment, I silently ask myself, 'If a Frenchman, what would be my choice if I had the chance to relocate to America 150 years ago? (Considering the different political climates and the class system I'd be a part of).' In the past 100 years, a good number of American presidents and leaders have been guests here. What were there thoughts on French history?
Seeing this place and the French pride, I begin to change my views on the French language and the Euro. Maybe a united Europe would destroy too many of the different cultures and values that give each country more distinction than mere states. The movement has already started though. Jobs across the continent are seeking new employees to be bi-lingual with English and joint European governing bodies are in Belgium and France with International (many American) businesses franchising the corner shops, supermarkets and restaurants.
Perhaps the French are right in militantly protecting their language and style that amuses me in both positive and negative slants. It's good that they can be so French and I can be just me.