Losing the kid in Versailles

My sister had entrusted her 12 year old daughter to her older, wacky, slightly immature sibling for the kid’s first overseas trip to Europe. And what do I promptly do?  I go ahead and lose the kid amongst the crowds in Versailles. How did all of this happen?  How do you just randomly lose a kid?  Yikes!!  Let me start at the beginning….

The road leading to Versailles

My niece, voracious reader that she was, was currently obsessed with the French Revolution and had immersed herself in 18th century Court life, devouring endless biographies of her favourite Queen, Austrian born Marie-Antoinette, hence her insistence that I take her to see the opulent palace of Versailles. The Chateau de Versailles, originally built as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge, was later expanded and converted into the primary residence of French royalty, spanning an impressive 977 acres.  Housing well over 700 rooms, this UNESCO World Heritage site was an ostentatious symbol of France’s vast economic and political power as well as an embodiment of royal absolutism.   Showcased to impress foreign dignitaries as well as the local populace, Versailles did not disappoint, and to this day, continues to mesmerize old and young alike.

So it was on a hot, humid and sweltering August day that we found ourselves crushed in a throng of what seemed to be hundreds, if not thousands of visitors, all lined up waiting to purchase tickets to gain entrance to this magnificent and pretentious edifice.  Admission is free for those under 18 years of age and so I only had to fork over 25 Euros “pour moi” for the opportunity to stroll amongst the royals and pretend that Versailles was my overseas palatial summer retreat.


Standing in line for well over an hour, glistening sweat cascading down my back, I cursed myself for having gotten us into this predicament.  It’s my fault, really, for I had overslept, my niece begging and pleading incessantly, “Please wake up, Auntie Nora, pleeeeease, pleeeeeease, pleeeeeease get up NOW!!”, as we had a late morning date with the aristocracy.

 Huffing and puffing, sprinting for the 11:00am train to transport us to Versailles, we barely had a chance to place our pink sneakered feet into the carriage car, when it promptly shut its doors, leaving us stranded on the now empty platform.  Hence our arrival two hours later than scheduled, squished like a sardine in the ever growing queue, having to further endure the unforgiving heat beaming mercilessly on our soon to be roasted sunburned skin.

After what seemed to be hours, we finally gained admittance to the palace and were instantaneously seduced, spellbound under its splendiferous pretentiousness. Words do not do justice to the grandeur of the rows of chandeliers, dripping light in the luminous Hall of Mirrors.  The gilded ballroom was also where Marie-Antoinette’s masked ball wedding reception was held, a spectacle so magnificent one can rightly say that it was indeed a fitting venue for a princess and a future queen.   Primarily utilized for greeting foreign dignitaries and hosting diplomatic receptions, the impressive Hall of Mirrors is also where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th, 1919, thus ending the First World War.




Instructing the kid to stay close to Auntie Nora and to not wander off, I tried to keep one hawk eye glued to my niece while at the same time attempting to snap pictures of every bedazzled nook and cranny of this sumptuous Chateau. The last thing I wanted was to lose the kid amongst the masses and have to devote the remainder of the day to frantically searching for her whereabouts.

Fascinated by the luxuriously decorated chambers and compartments, my niece was especially taken with the lavish apartments of Marie-Antoinette, squealing in delight with finally having the fortune to walk in the footsteps of her heroine and experience for herself all that she had read in the history books about the Austrian former princess’ daily life at the castle.  Gawking in disbelief at the sumptuous drapery, tapestries and ornately patterned wallpaper, the kid was unable to contain her delight at being witness to a fragment of long ago aristocratic life.  Wistfully gazing at the gilded chaises and mirrored daybed in Le Cabinet de la Meridienne, my niece was lost in 18th century France, wondering what it would have been like to have actually met the famous Queen and been a maiden in her Court.

Momentarily distracted by the swarm of people descending upon the salon, I struggled to hold my camera high above my head, determined to capture pictures that didn’t reveal snapshots of unknown tourists’ heads and bodies, all jostling for that National Geographic picture worthy moment.

Having failed at obtaining an image worth a thousand words, scanning the overcrowded room for my niece, my heart momentarily stopped beating as I froze in terror, unable to glimpse the kid. Gulp. Yikes!!  Now what??

To be continued….come with me as I leave no stone unturned in my desperate search for the kid, lost somewhere amongst a mere 700 rooms on this sprawling palatial estate….


Did you know facts or legends about Marie-Antoinette and the Chateau de Versailles?
I read somewhere that the ill-fated Queen glimpsed her “headless” reflection in a mirror and saw this as an ominous forewarning of her beheading.
Climbing the scaffold, she accidentally stepped on her executioner’s foot, her last words being “Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it”.
The phrase “Let them eat cake” has been widely associated with having been spoken by Marie-Antoinette, when she was told that the peasants were starving and had no bread to feast upon.  It is unknown whether or not this is a true fact or merely fabrication, as this quote can be found in an 18th century book by Rousseau entitled “Les Confessions”,  a loosely-based autobiography of the famous Queen, in which he refers to a “great princess” as having uttered those damning words. 

Next week: The search is on....where is the kid??

0 Response to "Losing the kid in Versailles"

Post a Comment