Much like the famous (albeit unverified) quote from Marie Antoinette suggests, we indulged ourselves in some of best of what Paris has to offer...including good food!
Over the weekend, four American colleagues and I left the periphery of Europe and landed in the middle of Paris on France's biggest national holiday, Bastille Day. It's ironic that the things I liked most about Paris - Versailles Palace, the Louvre - are the products of the extravagance and class disparity that those who stormed the Bastille Prison were protesting. The combined wealth of French Royalty and the planning done by Napoleon in the early 1800s clearly made Paris what it is today.
Here is a link with pictures. The pictures from the Louvre and Versailles are just a sampling of what we saw to try and give you a taste of the sense of awe these places left us in.
Our very own Michael Seeley is a French and Napoleon history buff (nerd) and very eloquently gave us a complete history/defense of Napoleon as we wandered the city. Our favorite part of Paris may very well have been that they don't use the Norwegian kroner. As a result, we were good patrons of most bread and pastry shops we passed.
Versailles and the Louvre were both entirely overwhelming with the extravagance of the structures and their contents. We spent seven hours at Versailles on Friday. Inside, we navigated the labyrinth of rooms to see some of highlights: the Hall of Mirrors, state apartments with extraordinary art displays, the royal chapel, and some of the King's reception rooms. After converting square meters to square feet, Versailles is over 700,000 square feet. Suffice it to say that the Palace left us in awe and unable to fully comprehend the size and extravagance as it exists today, and the wealth and grandeur that once filled the royal court. After two hours inside we went to the extensive gardens and then to the rear of the grounds were Queen Marie Antoinette had her "retreat" (retreat from what?) and farm - all of which stand perfectly preserved.
The Louvre, a former royal palace, is perhaps equally impressive as a building and contains so many pieces of art that we usually see in textbooks or as copies of official portraits. Particularly, I liked seeing statues and paintings of Psyche and Cupid and paintings of Dido and Aeneas that we have studies in mythology classes. Time is never on your side in a public art museum.
The rest of our time was spent enjoying Paris, its gardens, its food, and other attractions. It was a perfect 4 day break from classes, but we were happy to return to Oslo!
Look for two posts in the next few days: one on our meeting with former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, and another entitled "When Great Minds Convene"