Posted by on Dec 12, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

In reference to last week’s entry about shopping, I have to begin this week by mentioning that shortly after writing that entry, I returned to the area where Galeries Lafayette is located. I had a mission in mind involving Hugo Boss and some shopping for a special little baby boy (mission unsuccessful) when I noticed that there is ANOTHER series of stores called Printemps which, like Lafayette has various departments approximately 7+ storeys high and positively bursting with designer names. A clear sign that you’ve been shopping in Paris – you’re looking for a coat. You’re expecting to spend up to €100. After walking through the many floors of Printemps Mode (Ladies Fashion) looking at obscenely priced clothing, you finally see a coat for €600 and think to yourself “hey that’s pretty cheap, maybe I’ll get that one”. Not that I was the person in question or anything.

Anyway, still Hugo Boss baby clothes-less and new coat-less, I decided to embark on a cultural mission this week. Paris has many, many museums, monuments and churches but I’m just going to bring up 2 of the most well-known ones – Notre-Dame and the Palace of Versailles. I know that it’s not all that exciting for readers to be going through my historically and religiously significant notes but bear with me – the pastry, macaron and French cuisine entries will come as soon as I have enough pictures and information (which may require more tasting on my part) to do them justice! Nonetheless, the following pictures are quite stunning and hope you find them as amazing as I did.

Firstly, Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is a large cathedral located along the river Seine.

View from the river

The cathedral was completed in the year 1345 and is a fine example of French Gothic architecture. The cathedral is open to the public and I had a walk around the inside which is equally impressive.

Elaborate work above the entrance

Amongst the various beautiful structures within were the incredibly detailed windows.

Stained glass window

The church was desecrated during the French Revolution (1790) but has been restored to much of its original magnificence since the 19th century under the direction of the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

Restored interior

Glass cabinets housed these detailed replicas of the Notre-Dame which give a better view of the building in its entirety:

Miniature model of Notre-Dame

There is much more to be said about Notre-Dame but I shall leave it at that for now, and move on to my next monument which is opulence palace-ified: the Château de Versailles. I highly recommend that anyone who visits Paris make the trip there, it is truly worth it.

Located about 30 mins (by train) from central Paris, the Versailles Palace was home to the royal court under the reign of Louis XIV (14 for those who are bad with Roman numerals).

Louis XIV outside the entrance to the palace

The palace itself is distinctly ornate with most of the exterior gilded almost excessively.

Gates to the palace

Once through the gates, you have the option of picking up audio guides (recommended) which give a commentary on many of the rooms/items within.

View from just inside the gates

Within the palace are many rooms housing sculptures, furniture and beautiful paintings.

Painting of the palace from the outside

For the most part, the palace was in great condition. At times, one would come across signs of wear in the palace or on the odd occasion, vandalism.

The entire wall has messages scratched into it

As of September 2010, the iconic Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has had his work on display in the palace. I must be honest at this stage and confess that I have a very limited appreciation for art, particularly contemporary. Murakami’s style is typical of manga, with bright colours and unusual creatures. I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to achieve by having his sculptures in the palace, but the contrast of ornate, regal beauty with loud, modern sculptures is startling to say the least.

Murakami's "Mister Pointy"

I’ve tried to take the pictures so that you can see both the art work and the contrasting surroundings that it (in my opinion) brusquely interrupts. I had an audio guide yet despite listening to the curator’s interpretation of the sculptures, I still failed to understand their purpose. I do know however, that this particular piece is 8m tall, took 4 years to complete and is of some religious significance to Murakami.

A typical ornate door in the palace

As I mentioned, the palace really does represent lavishness which was apparently the way Louis XIV liked things. When approached by visitors, he reportedly sat on an elevated throne at the end of this room which was one of the most lavishly adorned in the entire palace.

Room of mirrors

Every inch of the palace seems to be decorated in some way or the other, be it gilded, brocaded, painted or sculpted.

Ceiling structures

In fact it would probably get to be a bit of an eyesore in this day and age where gold is not quite so common. Perhaps that’s why Murakami’s work is there – to take away from it all.

Life-size skimpily clad Japanese waitress sculpture

Yet honestly, I honestly wonder what it took to get these pieces into such a historically significant place. I respect that Murakami is a renowned artist, but how such a clash of ideas came to be approved by the Versailles palace is beyond me!

Marie Antoinette's bed chamber

There is much history and scandal surrounding the life of Marie Antoinette, which I won’t go into right now, but I believe the eponymous film (starring Kirsten Dunst) provides a good overview of her life. Scenes for the film were actually shot in the palace itself. After seeing such beauty inside the palace, it’s almost hard to believe that even more stunning views await you outside – the gardens, which go on further than the eye can see are truly amazing.

View of the gardens

The garden stretches in all directions but we headed towards the 2 Trianons (separate “apartments” that the royal family members would sometimes stay in).

Gardens and fountains

Gardens & fountains

The gardens are supposed to be particularly lovely in summer, but they still looked pretty great to me despite the occasional clumps of snow.

Claw-prints in the snow leading to...

...frozen ponds!

Despite the lovely blue skies and bright sun you see, the fact that the ponds were all frozen over (to the extent that the birds were walking across the ice) is an indication of how cold it really was! I was really tempted to hop on myself and go skating (like in Tom and Jerry) but sanity prevailed.

After a fairly long walk we reached the Trianon.

Outside the Grand Trianon

The two separate buildings (Grand and Petit Trianon) were much smaller than the main palace but were just as heavily decorated in similar styles.

I meant to keep this entry short but after having taken 105 pictures at the palace, this was the absolute least I was able to narrow it down to! For those who have lasted this far (hi mum and dad), I hope the pictures have helped to convey some of the beauty that makes up this place. Once again I stress that a visit (keep one full day for it) is a must because pictures just don’t do justice to the beauty that is the Palace of Versailles.

Coming up next week… Something with a lot less history and a lot more calories!