I got lots of great information and photos for my project in France. My project is the comparison of urban palaces with their rural couterparts, the châteaux. My final project will hopefully be an essay accompanied by some of my own photos.
On the first day in Paris, we went on a walking tour and saw the Conciergerie, a palace that was also used as a prison that housed Marie Antoinette before she was executed.
The MAN, to which we repatriated the Piette pebble, is housed in a gorgeous building called “le château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye”. It was originally built in 1122 by Louis VI as a fortress and completed by Louis IX.
In 1863, Eugène Millet converted it into a renaissance palace, and it was renovated again in 1962. The castle was initially built in the middle of a forest on the plateau of Laye as a military stronghold, but eventually became a residential building with a surrounding town.
We also visited the Palace of Versailles, which is a ginormous building. The palace had its beginnings as a hunting lodge (albeit a very fancy one) built by Louis XIII. Succeeding rulers added onto the original construction and made it into the distinctive palace it is known as today. It has been used by numerous powers in France as a headquarters or residence. When Louis XIII first built the hunting lodge, Versailles was only a small village. Under the French monarchs, the lodge became a large palace, and the Versailles became a city. Another urban palace we got the opportunity to explore was the Louvre. Although it originally was a fortress, it was rebuilt and expanded many times and became enveloped by the city. I found it interesting that le château de Saint-Germain, Versailles, and the Louvre all originated with some other purpose, but over time became palaces.
When we went into the Loire Valley we visited a few rural castles including the château d’Amboise and château de Chenonceau.
I have numerous great photos of the palaces and châteaux, so now my work is researching the two types of buildings. When we visited them, most offered pamphlets that gave brief histories. I need to do a lot of research to be able to do more comparison. I want to focus on the difference in the purpose and usage of the buildings.
The past week or so, we’ve travelled through Paris, Normandy, and now we’re in Blois which is in the Loire Valley. It’s certainly been an … interesting trip so far. At first, I was thrown off guard because pretty much as soon as we were in Paris we travelled to Notre Dame and rather than going into the cathedral (which is what I thought you were supposed to do) we descended into the archeological crypt under the courtyard in front of the cathedral itself.
After that we travelled to most of the “important” museums and sites in Paris. I particularly enjoyed the castle of Versailles, the castle of the the French kings from Louis XIV (the Sun King) until Louis XVI (victim of the French Revolution). I grew up learning about European history because it’s an interest of my dad and was passed onto me (and my brother). In particular, I remember reading about the palace of Versailles: it’s “fabulous” gardens, the Sun King’s ceremonies, Marie Antoinette’s perfumed sheep, etc.
My opinions of the history of Versailles was changed after visiting the castle itself. Firstly, I am sad to say that being in the castle itself didn’t really bring the history alive for me, when I think about it, history has always been “alive” wherever I seem to be. The only thing that really did come alive for me was a Baroque bust of Louis XIV sculpted by the Italian Bernini. Secondly, the gardens were a lot less fabulous than I was expecting: as far as I’ve read and heard, the fountains are beautiful, but when we went, they were not only off, but also the water in them was gross and green.
However, I must say that the French are great at taming nature and their square trees are truly FANTASTIC. Also, being in the castle itself didn’t bring Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette (who weren’t married, just btw) to life, however I did REALLY appreciate their taste. Overall, my appreciation for being in a place to bring history alive has really gone down, but if I lower my expectations to just being surround by such a BEAUTIFUL building filled with art and art objects I really enjoyed my time at Versailles.
Yesterday morning, my roommates and I woke up and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, which serves croissants, baguettes, and coffee to guests. We met in front of the hotel at our usual time (8:45) to meet our guide, Josh. We piled into a very official-looking van with tinted windows (for VIPs only, we were told) and embarked on a very active day.
Josh first took us to Montmartre, an elevated neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris with a beautiful church. While it is now a fashionable neighborhood with adorable cafés and desirable homes, Montmartre was created during Gaulish times. Because of its elevated position relative to the rest of the area and it’s proximity to the Seine, Montmartre was a strategically sound spot.
The church at the top of Montmartre is unique and covered in symbols. A massive structure, the church contains the largest mosaic in Europe. Both the mosaic…
The first three days of our trip have been a whirlwind. Immediately after landing in France, we whizzed over to Notre Dame and visited their archaeological crypt. I learned about the founding of Paris and it set an educational and informative tone for this expedition. The next day we went to the Musee d’Archéologie Nationale where we returned the famous Piette pebble. In that museum we viewed artifact after artifact, the oldest of which were about 400,000 years ago.
Today we took a bus tour of monuments in Paris and went to Versailles. With this being my second trip to Paris I was not as astounded by all the monuments except for the Eiffel Tower, which managed to still amaze me. The Eiffel Tower is an iconic image of Paris and I saw it used to represent France in various medias throughout my childhood so standing on it and driving around it in person is so surreal. After our van tour we left the heart of the city and headed to Versailles. I LOVE Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette and so I had a very-Hollywood moment while strolling through the VAST, VAST, VAST gardens of Versailles.
Also, our Parisian hotel is located in the 9th Arrondisement and is on the same block as Amorino, a charming gelato shop. Michaela and I decided to take a trip over on our second evening here and I ordered a focaccine. I thought I was ordering a cream puff but it turned out to be two pieces of brioche bread with strawberry and vanilla gelato stuffed inside. The bread was lightly toasted and drizzled with powdered sugar and chocolate. Needless to say, it was a near-religious experience and I went back tonight for another.