As I walked the streets hand in hand with Matt during our first Paris experience, I remember my senses being utterly overwhelmed. The romantic sound of French being spoken around us. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting out of nearby boulangeries. The taste of a foamy café crème with half teaspoon of grainy sugar, the pastel + gray skyline along the Seine, and hearing the occasional snatch of La Vie en Rose by a nearby street performer with an accordion. It was too much and not enough at the same time- this was my own personal kind of high.
And I’ve been chasing it ever since.
I finally found it again this past Spring. After standing in line in front of the imposing gold gates, being swept through the courtyard and waiting to have my ticket scanned so I could enter the fabled garden, all the noise fell away- I lost my breath, because I’d found my high again.
I descended the outdoor stone stairway, letting my hand trail along the banister- how many members of the French court, how many dignitaries had descended these very same steps? How many powdered wigs and cotton candy gowns of lush silk had stepped delicately into the Orangerie for a summer ball or garden party, curiosity piquing as twilight settled upon the carefully manicured topiaries? In my imagination, there were fairy lights throughout the garden, emphasizing the subtle flirtation of the grounds.
It felt like my heart was going to burst. I quite literally danced down the steps like a child in pursuit of Christmas morning- I swiveled left, then right, then spun around. That silly smile never left my face.
I was an artist, and this was my haven.
I meandered through the parterre d’eau and down the long lane of the tapis vert, towards the Petit Trianon, a modest chateau for the queen’s personal use, and once again found myself in that breathless place of wonder. The main staircase alone mesmerized me for several minutes- the gold gilding, the simplistic elegance, I could sit there for hours. Ever pale blue door, ever tufted chair, every light-filled hallway. I was in love.
Departing from the Petit Trianon, I set out in slow, lazy pursuit of what I’d set out to experience from the beginning- Hameau de la Reine, Marie Antoinette’s personal hamlet, built during her time at Chateau de Versailles. The hamlet, complete with a farmhouse and dairy, was constructed to give the illusion of a simple French country life- complete with Marie Antoinette dressing as a shepherdess, stocking the fields with farm animals, and hiring country folk to come in and act like milkmaids and farmers- to help escape the rigidity of all the pomp and circumstance of the main palace.
It was also built during a time when France was experiencing an economic depression- pretending to be a simple peasant, while many of her countrymen & women starved didn’t do much for her reputation among the people.
My pulse quickened when the first thatched roof came into view. It was charming partly because of perfectly idyllic it was, and partly because of its ridiculousness- to think that something so grandiose as a personal rustic village was constructed to satisfy the whims of an out-of-touch queen, it’s something you have to experience to really understand the juxtaposition of it all.
We’ll be back again in September, and I can’t wait to wander through the main palace. I was so fixated on the gardens and Petit Trianon that I left everything else unexplored!