Versailles runaway

What had started out as a magical spellbound journey spent in appreciative wonder of the magnificence, opulence and decadence of Marie-Antoinette’s regal residence, had quickly turned into a frantic search for my 12 year old niece, who was lost somewhere in this 700 room palatial estate. Yikes!! How did this happen? How do you just randomly lose a kid?

I had instructed the kid to remain close to me and not wander off, as having to search the premises for a missing kid would be a task so daunting that I cringed in fright at having to envision such a scenario. Surely my niece would heed my advice and not head out on her own and absent-mindedly amble about the ancient corridors while re-tracing the footsteps of her long-dead heroine.  Perhaps the kid had intentionally crept away; hiding under Marie-Antoinette’s mirrored day-bed, anxious to play out her fantasy of living in the French Court and partaking in the revelries of the masked balls and soirees, waltzing the nights away in the bedazzled chandeliered Hall of Mirrors.

Reflecting back, I did recall that the kid was carting around an extra large knapsack, which I had merely assumed contained her beloved journals, biographies, maps and travel guides. Yikes!! I had the sinking feeling that she was busily setting up camp in one of the lavish apartments, blissfully content to immerse herself in 18th century Court life.

Perhaps she was abducted by aliens or better yet, was somehow miraculously transported back in time to the 18th century, gleefully content to be wandering around the French Court, a young “trainee” lady-in-waiting to the future Queen of France. You think? What were the odds?

 I had visions of having to make that dreaded phone call home, confessing to my sister that I had kind of, sort of,  temporarily misplaced her youngest child. On second thought, that might not be such a great idea at the moment, as it might not go over that well.  Paralyzed with fear, terrified that my rational, younger sister would scold and call me an irresponsible human being (who me?) I reasoned that it was best to be rational and not jump to hastily made conclusions. Transatlantic screaming would surely wake the dead and upset households on both sides of the Atlantic.

I would love to write that I was calm, cool and collected but alas, that would be a gargantuan lie. Imagination spinning widely out of control, envisioning the worst, I bolted out of Le Cabinet de la Meridienne, unaware that my niece had not strayed from her original vantage point and had been standing beside a marbled statue this entire time, calmly staring out the window.  Sequestered alongside the sumptuous brocade patterned drapes, the kid was oblivious to the raging drama that was unravelling in her delusional Auntie’s head, a catastrophe of now epic proportions. All notions of common sense had long been abandoned, replaced instead by an irrational conviction that my sister’s youngest child had vanished into thin air, never to be seen or heard from again.

Darting from one embellished chamber to another, my pink sneakered feet sprinting up and down marbled corridors and spiralling staircases, I was a vision to behold, a frazzled middle aged woman bawling hysterically, screaming the kid’s name over and over again, much to the chagrin and bewilderment of the multitude of foreign visitors, who had unsuspectingly witnessed a mini Nora meltdown, all for the price of a 25 Euro admittance fee to the Chateau de Versailles.


Yikes!! Could it get any worse than that?

Having now barrelled through at least half of the 700 rooms, my first place medal for next month’s 15K marathon firmly secured, I was at the end of my rope, close to losing the lone fledgling fragment that was left of my sanity, when, lo and behold, I spotted a blonde haired youngster tucked behind the drapes, admiring the spectacular view of the meticulously manicured gardens.  Could it be the kid?  Were my eyes deceiving me?  Had she been here the entire time?

A high pitched guttural screech emanated from the depth of my soul, temporarily jolting all 300+ camera toting tourists into frozen zombies; 600 pairs of eyeballs collectively giving me what could only be politely classified as “the death stare”, inquisitive as to why this disheveled foreign woman was behaving in such an odd and curious manner?  Hands shaking, body trembling, index finger pointing towards a lone kid standing serenely by a window, the marginally “lunatic” protective Auntie in me didn’t discriminate and mowed down old and young alike in my mad dash to embrace and envelope my young charge.

 Babbling incoherently, tripping over verbs, nouns and adjectives, it seemed as if the synapses linking my brain to mouth had temporarily been severed.  Unable to spew out basic sentences and recount the gut-wrenching imagined drama that had been my reality for the past couple of hours; my tongue seemed to be paralyzed, unwilling to utter anything that resembled any form of coherent thought.

Where have you been? You scared me. I told you not to wander off” were the first words that tripped inelegantly off my tongue, once I composed my dignity and regained the ability to speak. The kid looked at me in puzzlement, squirmed out of my iron fist tight grip on her, and declared:  “Auntie Nora, I’ve been here in this same spot all along, and I haven’t moved because you told me not to leave your side. You’re the one who suddenly bolted out of the apartment and disappeared into the crowd.”       

 Yikes!! Out of the mouths of babes comes a wealth of wisdom.

Come discover the magnificence of Versailles and gallop through all 700 rooms with the kid and I….

Did you know facts and legends about the Chateau de Versailles?

·         The Chateau is a UNESCO World Heritage site .

·         The Chateau de Versailles, being one of the grandest palaces in the world, is also one of the largest, with 700 rooms boasting 2,000 windows and 1,250 fireplaces!

·         Did you know that the chandeliered Hall of Mirrors was  once lit with more than 3,000 candles?

·         The Chateau is quite roomy, able to accommodate up to 5,000 people!

·         As much as Marie-Antoinette delighted in the balls, intrigues and chivalries as dictated by 18th century Court life, she spent most of her time in Le Petit Trianon and the Hamlet, where she was able to escape the formality and constraint of palace life.

·         The Hamlet was a replica of a small village, made up of 12 houses, located on the banks of the Grand Trianon Lake. The Queen and her entourage had access to 5 of the houses while the remainder were reserved for the peasants and for those who worked on the farm.


Next week – Champs-Elysees….discovering new adventures and strange encounters.

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