Venturing to Versailles

The train station is an enormous stone edifice, looming larger and larger as we cross a bridge across the Seine.

But we’ve missed the train to Versailles. So now it’s time to take the metro… A roundabout route of sorts. Public transport – with every moment I love my SMRT more and more. Then we miss our stop and have to take a loop. Sitting at the train station is a new experience: chill wind blowing through the tunnel, an empty station, just sitting there, enjoying the nua. Everything happens for a reason.

And I just found out the reason! Coming out from the metro station and crossing the road to the train we are greeted by the Eiffel Tower. It stands down the road… It is breathtaking. Stupendous. It stands… A testament to engineering. Immense. Wow! Ah! Words fail me. I cannot wait to see it up close. A steel behemoth, yet elegant. Standing tall in the cold grey morning, like the Argonath at the Falls of Rauros.

There’s something about that photos… I find that I cannot capture with my camera the huge expanse, the way that the sight fills your senses, dominates your vision. Is it just me? My lack of photography skills. But I would like to think that the incredible immensity of Creation cannot be bound by a mere photograph. Yes, the image may capture some of the essence, but not the immediacy and vividness of the experience. I do wish I had an eye for photography though!

The Palace of Versailles is sprawling. The buildings are swarmed by a horde of tourists including myself, so their grand dignity is slightly marred by the specter of consumerism. At the same time there is a slight musty opulence to the place… The arrogance to build something like this to live in! The queue in this place is like a horde of petitioners going to the place. Rows and rows of people… We join the queue like humble meek subjects, except now we are subjects to tourism and other such material and modern concepts. I wonder what the inside will hold.

Okay. The inside of Versailles is incredible. Architecture… Detail… Wow! I especially like the gardens. Such order! Such deliberate design! Such aesthetic pleasure! A marvel indeed. The lofty aspirations of architects and artists are embedded in the very grounds as their craft is appreciated and wondered at centuries later.

At the same time while walking through the palace I cannot help but be reminded that the Versailles experience is also very much crafted in order to create a certain framing of understanding France. Designed to emphasize the grandeur of France… Statues and paintings carefully chosen to evoke awe and wonder. National, and international education. The emotive language of statues and paintings speaking to every individual who walks in. You cannot choose to not speak… By entering already you give implicit permission for it to work it’s magic on you. So in a place of history we see modern art taking form – the manipulation of the psyche and the individual. Yet that might be the oldest art yet.

The Hercules Room of Versailles is amazing. It is literally quite stunning. People stop in their tracks as they enter. Regal marble columns and gilt frames form the backdrop for a supremely impressive, ceiling-stretching painting: the apotheosis of Hercules. There is naught to do but look on in wonder, then try to write about it. Yet my words feel inadequate.

The spectacle continues as we walk through the palace.

Looking at all the sculptures, I can’t help but think that they are really good inspiration for fantasy RPG items. Names like lionfang sandals and shield of the gorgon spring to mind just by looking at a single statue. Hoo-rah!

The pink marble columns of the Grand Trianon are delicate – a term you wouldn’t normally use for marble columns, but they are. A soft shade of candy pink, lending the building a refreshing flavour. The gardens are an ordered explosion of colour, riots given purpose: grass green, dark holly green, carpet grass, all setting the stage for vibrant purples and soft whites. The fountains and water features… I can almost imagine the tinkling of water, causing light to dance on the leaves. After the imperious grandeur of the main palace complex, the Grand Trianon is soft, inviting. I do believe I like it better.

The Gardens of Versailles are super cool. A man-made oasis of tranquility. I leave Versailles very satisfied with the day. Sight after sight of beauty has left my soul very happy.

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