Welcome to My Humble Country Home


The saga continues following the incident when the FIL got pick pocketed.  The Italian, his son had to make several phone calls to ensure that his father will be able to leave the country sans carte de identité.  Then they had to file a police report.

That done, it was time to head towards Versailles.  The Italian had promised to show his parents the Château de Versailles where once many moons ago, the king and queen of France resided…..before their heads got chopped off, that is.

It was only a 30 minute drive to the Château from our place in the 16th.  Louis 14th moved his court from Paris to Versailles in order to keep a tighter reign on his courtiers, ensuring that they did not form their own regional powers and thwarting the King’s efforts to form an absolute monarchy.

It was a gorgeous day befitting a visit to Royal grounds.  The ticket office had a small line outside but it did not take too long to purchase tickets for the family. But when we got to the main courtyard just before the gate into the Château, there was a long line that snaked itself 3 times round the courtyard:

A Snake in the courtyard

Almost an hour later, we were finally in the Château grounds.  Alas, much to my disappointment, we were not allowed to enter by the golden gate like Louis 14th and his descendants.  Of corse, what was I thinking of, we were common folk! That meant we had to go through security, airport style, where bags had to be put through a scanning machine.  Look at the golden gate to Paradise that I missed out on:

Golden Gate of Paradise

The splendour of the Palace was overshadowed by the sheer numbers of people visiting that day.  Shuffling through each room was not my idea of fun and indeed not the best way to see someone’s home at its height of glamour, especially one that is dated and has been restored to its former glory, still with more restoration to be had.  There was so much gold about, the ostentatiousness glaringly obvious in the wall paper, cornices and furniture.  This made me understand better the root to the French Revolution that finally saw to the beheadings of Louis 16th and his queen, Marie-Antoinette.  How can one person and his family be entitled to this much wealth?

Well, needless to say, the highlight of the day was our lunch at Angelina’s which has a more famous branch on the rue de Rivoli.  I liked it that we were shown to our own little salon which sat about 20 people.  The room was light and airy and the windows gave a view of the courtyard where we had waited in the morning to be let into the Château.  Yes, the line was still there, country people and tourists ever hopeful and eager to catch a glimpse of France’s glory.  From the window, I could see that the line at the ticket office is now 3 times as long and by the size of it, I estimated at least an hour’s wait to be able to purchase tickets.  Let’s not even get me started on the line into the Castle.

I can’t help but think that calling this abode a Château is really understating this grand country home of France’s dethroned royalty.  It is really a grand palais, a castle, so to speak. We saw rooms after rooms where the king slept, ate, held court etc etc. Then we visited the Queen’s Apartments where she and her ladies-in-waiting resided, separately from the King.  God wonders about the logistics of courtly shenanigans in those days. There are just too many rooms to go through before arriving at the necessary chamber where heirs to thrones can be conceived.  Or did the Louis-es just ring a bell to alert their queens?

There was a little chapel where Mass was held daily so that the King can say his prayers….praying for more treasures and more conquests, is my guess.  I overheard a tour guide explaining to his group that Louis 14th wasn’t a terribly religious king, he had to give the impression that he was because he was the sun king and represented the church and state.  He was however, married to a very religious woman who advised him that he had to upkeep the Catholic ritual of attending Mass.  So Mass was held daily for 15 minutes instead of the usual 60 so that the sun king can say that he’s been to Mass and call it a day.  I only heard this fella talking because I was literally squashed next to him by the throng of people trying to exit the room we were in at the same time.

Shuffling on, we found our way to Angelina’s.  I had a Salade Angelina with saumon fumé.  You can have it with foie gras too, if you wish.  It was a rather ordinary salad, nothing to sing home about.  RN had a Croque Monsieur – grilled cheese to some.  It was absolutely delicious.  The best Croque M I’ve had since living in France.  The Gruyere was light and fluffy, different from the rest of the grilled cheeses that usually makes up this common French bistro dish.  I suspect that Angelina had whipped the Gruyere with some crémebefore mixing in the ham and spreading the mixture on a piece of bread and then grilling it.  Look at the fluffiness of the cheese:

Croque M

I had a taste and then finished the bits that she left behind which is a habit that I despise cos that’s a sure way to expand the waistline.  But this was so good, I couldn’t help myself!

Let’s talk afters….the desserts were sublime!  I had a tartelette Eva, my namesake! How could I resist?  This was a dark chocolate tart served with delicate bits of biscuits and vanilla ice cream.  A really rich dessert for me but lovely:

A Tart Named after moi - might not be too much of a compliment afterall

RN and the in-laws had the famous Mont Blanc.  The FIL had to have that, of course.  How could he not?  He can now boast of having climbed it and eaten it:

Mont Blanc

The brown string-like topping are noodles of marron glacé enrobing chantilly so smooth and light that you can’t help eating more.   Some marron Glacé may be sickeningly sweet.  But Angelina’s créme de marron glacé is just stupendous.

SS ordered a mango and passion fruit mousse éclair.  It came with a shard of white chocolate with strips of orangey mango decorations:

Mango Eclaire

The Italian had the Frasier.  I especially loved the “A” for Armando on one of his strawberries:

Frasier

Well, lunch done, it was time to visit the gardens where the King and Queen had garden parties, picnics and probably romantic evening promenades flanked by guards and courtiers.  Maybe that is a figment of my imagination  because what does one do with a garden this size?

My 3000 ft garden

I wondered if the little Louis princes and princesses had a play house at the end of the garden and if they did, was it made of wood or bricks?  And who cleans it? Did the Queen join in their pretend tea parties?

We had a leisurely stroll enjoying the various fountains and listening to the classical music that was played to accompany this promenade.  It was gloriously satisfying.  The sun was shining, a little breeze was blowing and RN delighted to be let out, simply danced, pranced and skipped her way through this enormous garden, like a princess should.  She was just in her princess element, owning the space around her and simply acknowledging that the world is her oyster, like a princess does.

If in Paris, this is surely something to visit next to the Louvre and Tuileries. However, in my books, Chaâteau de Versailles is really over rated and a sore reminder of the gap between the haves and have-nots. But don’t forget to stop by at Angelina for a sit down lunch or a quick bite.

Angelina: 226 rue de Rivoli, 75001; Tél: 01 42 60 82 00

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