Welcome back, readers! I’m using the plural here as my WordPress stats tell me – rather shockingly – that not only my mother (hi again!) reads this blog. Quelle surprise! Thank you all very much for your warm welcome, I’m deeply touched … Okay, enough of the mushy stuff already and let’s get on with this post! *wipes tears away*
The Gardens of Versailles, designed by André Le Nôtre of the Tuileries fame, are truly magnificent – for once, believe the hype – and my photographs couldn’t do them justice.
I have only one gripe with the gardens: why is there no proper vantage point on the estate? Imagine, just for a second or two, how beautiful it would be to look down onto all those intricate layouts and patterns from above. While I’m not saying the estate of Versailles is as flat as a Flemish landscape, it isn’t, in terms of views, Primrose Hill or Greenwich Park either. Maybe I’ve been too spoiled with Venice and its many belltowers and I guess one can always charter a helicopter flight for a proper view … *sigh*
In the following tour, we are going to explore the Petit Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s intimate refuge away from life at Versailles, as well as the Hameau de la Reine, an Arcadian hamlet gently tucked away into one of the estate’s corners. (Apparently, this time, ‘Baby’ Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna wanted to be put into the corner!) Let’s have a look at the Queen of Deficit herself (painted here by Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun) as well as the interior of the Petit Trianon.
While much more subdued and understated than Versailles, the Petit Trianon’s homely nature introduced – dare I say it? – a certain sense of normality to life in this luxurious ghetto. One could imagine oneself truly living here. But then again, this is Versailles and things are often not what they seem. In fact, nothing quite prepared us for the ultimate fantasyland that is the Queen’s Hamlet!
Designed in the style of a Norman village, the Hamlet is made up of eleven buildings, including a mill, a barn and dovecote, and was built for Marie-Antoinette’s interest in rustic pleasures. A true Arcadian vision Rousseau would have been proud of, the farm, which is still fully functional today, is often listed as a folly. (Is it just me or can you also faintly hear the theme music for The Little House on the Prairie playing in your ears while looking at these pictures?)
After my return from the land of opulence and cake (code words for Paris), my Twitter friend Emma rather bravely asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Adventures of a London Kiwi. I use the word ‘bravely’ here because, unbeknownst to my host, this was to be my first blog post ever and @LondonKiwiEmma‘s request might now have been responsible for launching a thousand ships. So, if this little experiment fails and I bore you to death, you might want to send the mob – with their pitchforks, torchflames and whatnots – her way. Sorry, Emma, I’m just paying it forward! 😉
But wait a second, what does this story have to do with Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet, the Petit Trianon and Versailles? Ah, dear reader(s), I warned you about potential ramblings in my previous post, however, I promise you there is a point to all of this … I think! While researching my guest post about the V&A’s amazing Ceramic Galleries, I discovered this centrepiece ‘folly’ which strongly emulates the neo-classical style of Marie-Antoinette’s Temple de l’Amour. I wouldn’t be surprised actually if it’s French too !
And this brings us to the end of today’s tour. I hope you enjoyed it and that you’ll come back for the final installment of my Parisian trilogy which will all be about French pâtisserie. Did anyone say cake? Sound off in the comments below – I would like to hear from you!