Une Désastre à Versailles

We woke up to a delicious French breakfast consisting of coffee, orange juice, and the best croissants I’ve ever had.  Fitting, right?  But the question on everyone’s mind is, “What did Myles think of the breakfast?

He was intrigued. (And he loved the croissants)

Before I had left for France, I had the good fortune of going out to dinner with the one, the only, Nino!  We went to some fancy Italian restaurant and had delicious pizza and fancy coffees.  I wasn’t even sure how to drink mine, at first.  This place was absolutely Western in look and feel.  There was a station where you could watch the chef make the pizzas and when we glanced around the room, looking at the photos of Italy that hung on the wall, a waitress noticed our searching gazes and came over to see what we needed.  Now that’s service!

Nino told me, on that particular night, “Look at you, Raughley!  What’s wrong with you?  What is your mother going to think when she sees you with your scraggly hair and your scruffy face??”  Not to mention the windbreaker and leather cap.  I assured Nino I would shave before leaving.  “And the hair?”

One of the things my mom was keen on doing in Paris was having us all get our hair done at a French salon.  Not being one to quibble over getting pampered, I agreed.  We trekked down to the students’ salon (where the hairdresses are all in training) on Rue de Buci.  ‘Twasn’t far from where we lived.  It also had some painfully funny and clever name like Coiffirst or CO1FFIRST or something.  I appreciated it at the time, but it wasn’t a clever enough pun to really hold fast in my mind.

I read a fascinating article about the Habsburg Royal Family. Go on, laugh. It was in French.

The price of a men’s haircut is probably a good indication of how wealthy people are in that area.  For example, in Maine, a men’s haircut runs me probably about $14 plus tip.  Washington, DC sets me back about $20 plus tip (I bought electric clippers and had my girlfriend do it (Memorably leading to several bad haircuts and one dangerous event where she cut my hair after we’d broken up.  Everybody walked away intact).  In Georgia I can get a haircut for 5 GEL which is about $2.58 or so.  It’s funny because the standard men’s haircut basically looks the same and takes the same amount of skill or finesse.  It’s like the Economist’s Big Mac Index—you know the product is the same, so by analyzing price differences you can estimate relative purchasing power.  French haircuts cost us 35 euro each.  That’s about $50, folks.

And what does Myles think of the French haircut process? One thumb, way, way up!

Since it wasn’t my money, I certainly didn’t mind!  Besides, the haircut came with a real nice shampoo/scalp massage.  My French was still not back up to speed so I didn’t talk too much with my hairdresser.  Then again, I don’t usually.  I do remember one dude at the Falmouth Supercuts who told me his whole life story about how he was Somali (Or maybe Sudanese) and had several small children.  He wanted my advice on how he could get his children into the best universities.  I told him to encourage excellence in school and to help them whenever he could, yada, yada, yada.  His kids were six and seven, so they had some time left.

Myles and I shed our Jewdo-fros (Jewdo = Pseudo-Jew.  We look incredibly Jewish [in case you haven’t noticed] and our hair does nothing to dispel such assumptions, however, we are not Jewish.  Therefore, it feels a little disingenuous to own a Jew-fro) and reemerged, looking fresh and new (and with wax in our hair! [35 epj Wax! {epj = euro per jar, a common unit of measurement in France.}]).

I look freakishly like my dad in this picture.

My sister came out a good while later (For the purposes of the narrative here, let’s say thirty minutes [in reality she got hers done a few days later]) looking and acting glamorous:

Becca's ready for her close up...
And there you have it folks, my sister, recipient of a French haircut! (Note: She did not get a men's haircut.)
Even the Lion got a 'do.

After a brief stroll along the river we hopped on a train to Versailles and walked the short walk from the station to the Palace.  Versailles was the seat of the French court from Louis XIV until the French Revolution.  Can’t be sure what the Revolutionaries did with it, but it’s still intact and has a lot of nice things inside.  I’m guessing they didn’t go all Bolshevik on it and rip up paintings and such.

To quote my friend Allen Harchak, who took this photo: "This is a painting of Nicholas II. It was taken from the Winter Palace after the revolution. The lines going down the painting are the scrape marks from the bayonets made by the people who stormed the Winter Palace." My only amendments would be to call them "slash marks" not "scrape marks" and "the people who stormed the Winter Palace" were "Bolsheviks." (Also it took me thirty minutes of digging through facebook to find this photo, so you'd better appreciate it!)

One of my siblings (I won’t say who), kept pointing out buildings she liked and asking if they were Versailles.  As we rounded a street corner, it immediately became obvious which building was Versailles.

Yeah, one thing's for sure; that's no ordinary building.

We paused outside to say hello to the Sun King and then made our way to the ticket office.

Louis XIII built Versailles as a hunting lodge. Louis XIV made it a fabulous palace. That's why they call him the "Sun King" and why they call Louis XIII "Louis XIII."
Aren't they just the cheeriest pair you ever did see?

The French kings sure know how to decorate a place.  The approach to the front gates was pretty damn phenomenal.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to some nice palaces in my day.  None of them looked quite like this:

Pretty damn impressive.
Wouldn't it be nice to drive home through these gates every night?
We would welcome people at our gates like this.
I imagine parades used to happen here.

When we got inside, we picked up some audiotours for free!  Being cocky and self-sure, I got the French one.  I understood most of it, but definitely missed a lot of nuance.  Oops!  Too bad there wasn’t a Georgian-language one!  Then I’d’ve had no problems!  (Do other people say “I’d’ve” when speaking?  I feel like I do, but when written it’s never correct.  Are you allowed to do double contractions in English?)

The Duke of Maine. And his name is Gregory Rose.
This was a...ballroom. Let's go with that. It's right by the entrance, has a viewing balcony and was used to entertain guests. Notable ones. That's what I recall from my audiotour, anyway.

We wandered through the labyrinthine palace admiring the paintings and detailing all over the walls and ceilings.  The rooms were still chock full of furniture and authentic (presumably, my audiotour was in French!  What do I know?) artifacts from the 18th century and earlier.  I enjoyed the masturbatory grandeur of Versailles and the endless self-praise featured on the ceilings and walls of the entire palace.  I mean, let’s get real, if you can build yourself Versailles you deserve to give yourself a constant, artistic pat on the back in every architectural and aesthetic detail of your home, don’t you?

What country built this palace again? Oh right, it was France, bitches!
Who's that trampling barbarians? Oh right, it's France, bitches!
Who has the money and time to build an entire hallway out of Gold, Crystal, and Mirrors (and centuries later host a major Peace Conference there)? Oh right, France does, bitches!
Who's that descending from on high shooting lightning bolts every which way? Oh right, it's France, bitches!
Who likes to make tapestries glorifying their own royal emblems? Oh right, France does, bitches! Wait a second...what's that on the right?
It's a Dragon, bitches!
Enough of this format. This is a painting of Lady France bringing down her almighty wrath on a trio of defeated Muslims. It's not going to end well for them, I'm afraid.
I believe this painting is called something to the tune of "France liberating the Netherlands from Spain and Austria--Evil Monsters that they are! Booyah! Suck it, Spain and Austria!" (Upon closer inspection, I was wrong. It's called "Franche-Comte Conquered for the Second Time, 1674")
Now there's a certified badass if ever one lived.

“Now Raughley,” you’re probably saying to yourself, “There’s simply nothing disastrous about this trip to Versailles!  You saw the Hall of Freaking Mirrors and the King and Queen’s beds! (Note: See slide show at bottom for some bonus pictures of Versailles and, indeed, everything!) It was inexpensive, glorious, and snowing!  Clearly you did not have a disaster at Versailles.” (This dialogue requires you to understand enough French to understand the title of the post, by the way.)  That, dear reader, is where you’re wrong.

Versailles is a noble institution of Fine Art and History and, as such, frequently sponsors showcases of works by modern, contemporary artists.  This year, from September 14 to December 12, the lucky artist is one Takashi Murakami.  This is his art:

For the other, more Pokemon-looking side of this beast, please click the link I provided above!

“What the Hell is that?” you’re probably asking yourself.  Just wait a moment.  It gets better.

Is this not disconcerting? Look at these weird statues and then look at the room they're in.
Did any of you see the Anime version of The Shining? It's starring famous Japanese actor Jack Nichol-san!
This work is probably the reason that Murakami is featured in Versailles. The busty, anime waitress helpfully pointing the way in to the Hall of Mirrors. For Christ's sake.
As I mentioned, French kids like to sprawl and draw in museums. Unfortunately, this time they chose the wrong thing to draw. Better luck next time, mes enfants!
Oh yes there is. Do you see that golden statue left of the pond? Wait for it...wait for it....
It's called "The Buddha" or some shit like that. It was Rebecca's favorite part of France. Period.

That’s right.  The splendor of Versailles was ruined a little bit that day.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate modern art or that I don’t think it has its place, it’s just that Versailles doesn’t seem to be the right place for it.  Not only that, but I don’t think it’s really that good looking.  I mean, go turn on Cartoon Network or something.  Half of the cartoons look exactly like this art.  Don’t believe me?  There were even cartoons in Versailles!

That is not the face of a satisfied Fine-Arts-museum customer.

That’s right.  The last two rooms of the palace were reserved for the culmination exposition of Mr. Murakami’s artwork.  It was brain-meltingly horrifying.

THIS is the face of a satisfied Fine-Arts-museum customer.

I feel like this post is getting a little brain-meltingly lengthy.  I could be wrong.  Either way, my brain is melting and so I am going to spare you the details of our romp through the garden.  Rest assured all the above photos (and countless more! [Okay, something like 20-30 additional ones]) can be found in the slideshow below!  Do check it out, there’re some real gems in there!

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3 thoughts on “Une Désastre à Versailles

  1. In the grand scheme of “Things That Happened at Versailles,” I’d put the Murakami exhibit more on the “not so bad” part of the scale. Email coming your way.

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