That place is pretty impressive I tell you!
There is SO much history woven into it all which is so fascinating.
I wish I could write all we learned here (there was such a great audio tour and our Rick Steve’s guide came through again with all kinds of details), but here’s my quick version:
Versailles was originally built by King Louis XIII as a hunting lodge in 1623. Louis XIV moved on in years later and added all kinds of things which created quite a palace. He moved the whole royal court out to Versailles (about 20 kilometers from city center, marked by Notre Dame) to create his own little utopia.
We learned so much about Louis XIV who named himself the “Sun King” (he felt he was the direct representative of God for France) and who ruled for 72 years, helping France become quite powerful and issued in a “golden age” there.
Versailles was a great symbol of his opulent power. Louis XIV used it to develop love and loyalty in his nobility and to entertain foreign dignitaries.
And also just to have a pretty great time 🙂
Here we are listening to our audio tours in the Hall of Mirrors…
…which deserved a family selfie:)
Mirrors were extremely expensive at the time and were only made in Venice. Versailles was to be a showcase of all things French so they figured out how to start manufacturing mirrors in France.
There’s a detailed story about that so google it (and everything about this place) if you want more…because I’m just barely skimming the surface here.
Not sure what that mirror was there for…we didn’t get that in our audio tour, but it hung from the ceiling and twirled around which was kind of cool.
The gardens, of course, are just as famous and about as fancy as the castle.
In order to save our energy for our afternoon-of-art coming up, Dave and the little girls took a golf cart to explore them.
…while Elle and I walked and enjoyed those massive displays of God’s art (they wouldn’t allow more than four in the cart and Elle and I needed a little alone time anyway…at least that’s what I told her 🙂
I love this museum. Here are some of our favorite works:
We had studied Degas before we arrived, especially the dancing ballerinas so we were pretty excited to see that beautiful painting up there as well as this statue that the girls adored:
We saw a lot of Monet:
I think Lucy studied this one in Art Masterpiece so she was excited about it.
(selfie fail right up there. ha!)
Here’s what it’s really trying to show, up close and personal:
Lucy’s favorite was this polar bear:
…especially since we called her “the polar bear” over there since she was never cold.
“Grumpy Tourist” was a little bored 🙂 Ha! He actually loved this place, but we were all a little ready for a break on this beautiful balcony overlooking the Seine and the Louvre which was awaiting us that evening.
This next picture is a take-out of a video so it’s blurry as can be, but I just want to remember this moment:
I was bawling behind the camera I was laughing so hard after a little video thing we did. I hope we can all remember it by just saying that it was the go-down-stairs-and-pose idea.
Even the clock was a piece of art.
We stopped at one of my mom’s favorite paintings on the way out…gave me a good chance to sneak in one more great one:)
We let the girls pick out a postcard of their very favorite art at the gift shop:
We plan to frame those puppies in their bedrooms so they can look at them and remember that day they fell in love with them.
I will admit, at this point we were TIRED.
We had to get some gelato to tide us over and sat in the green chairs that line the pathways in that park and enjoyed the most beautiful fountain and view.
Then we decided we better have dinner too, so we found this great little outdoor cafe in the park and got rejuvenated.
Then something or other made us laugh our heads off again. I think being tired made us a little loopy:)
And then, there we were at THE LOUVRE.
Now, I must preface this part with a little background. I know that usually Musee D’Orsay is a little more kid-friendly. I have always preferred that museum to the vast expanses of more ancient art you can so easily get lost in at the Louvre. But in my desire to open up these kids’ minds to adore art, we found a tour company that got hundreds of 5-star reviews on trip advisor and my sister’s friend said it was the best thing she did with her kids in Europe. Now that’s a pretty great endorsement. So we decided to go for it.
The only problem was that they wouldn’t take more than five people, no matter how we tried to work it. And we had six. You’ve got to be kidding, right? Dave and I debated on which of us should go with the kids. He claimed I’d enjoy it more, but I claimed he needed it more 😉 In the end I went with the kids and Dave got himself an audio tour and claimed he was pleased as punch for some alone time. But boy we missed him.
That little tour was worth it’s weight in gold. We all learned so much and it made our visit fascinating.
Also, as long as we’re taking a little detour on background, we were all a little surprised to see this big black and white photograph covering up the pyramid we were so excited to see:
At first we thought it must be under construction.
But our great guide Chloe told us there are always rotating exhibits in the pyramid and this was the newest one. It is made so that if you stand in the perfect spot, it lines up perfectly with the older building behind it.
Elle snagged this picture on the way out a little later which I thought was pretty cool:
Our tour guide, Chloe, explained all about this cool glass pyramid right at the beginning. I loved re-learning all about I.M. Pei’s idea for the modern glass with the old French architecture background, and how in the beginning it was quite controversial, especially since he was an American architect, not French.
But it has become quite a symbol in France and I think everyone has become quite enamored with it over the years.
I think this statue was my favorite. Maybe it was because it was bathed in such gorgeous light in the Richelieu Wing, but mostly because of the amazing expressions on the “captives” it depicts.
It is called The Four Captives and was sculpted by a Dutch sculptor named Martin Van Den Bogaert.
I loved the background story since it involved Louis XIV who we had just learned all about that morning. Originally these four captives surrounded a large statue of Louis XIV. They symbolize the four nations that were defeated during his rule: Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Holland and Brandenburg. I wish I had taken up-close pictures of their expressions because they were so cool. The missing statue of the king was melted down during the revolution, but the captives were symbols of the victims and were kept, and the chains that originally bonded to each of their arms were broken and done away with.
I loved how Chloe had us sit down every now and again to explain some things (is it a thing that everyone just gets so tired in museums?). She had a “treasure hunt” for us and the girls (especially Lucy) were enthralled.
We saw the famous Venus de Milo:
(We had studied her pretty well before we got there so the girls had been on the look-out.)
Took in the beauty of the little things we may never have noticed on our own.
Got all kinds of “clues.” One of them was this Arago Medallion (there are 135 of them in Paris…find out more about them HERE).
We saw Winged Victory:
(Another one we studied before we left…pretty amazing to see in person and so much background Chloe added for us.)
I loved this part too:
We talked about how art went from Gothic (late medieval) to Renaissance when art in Italy broke tradition and started painting more 3-dimensional works. Paintings of Madonna and Child went from the one in the background below to the one in the foreground in a matter of a hundred years.
(Claire occasionally served as our “human timeline” to help us figure out how long ago these works of art were created.)
Why is she the most famous face in the world? the girls asked. These are the answers Chloe gave us:
1) She was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci who was famous in his own time. He worked on her for 30 years. When he was fianlly done, the King immediately bought the painting. No one got to see it because it was in the palace. It remained there for hundreds of years…until the revolution, then it was displayed among other paintings at the Louvre.
2) In 1911 it was stolen. A man from Italy believed it belonged in Italy so he stole it and took it there. It was missing for three years. In that much time it was all over the newspapers of the time. Because there were pictures of it in the newspaper, people recognized it as “the greatest treasure of the Louvre” and the world became increasingly interested. It was an international news story.
When the man who stole it tried to sell to a museum in Italy, he was caught immediately.
By then it was, of course, even more famous. It couldn’t be put in the middle of lots of other paintings, Mona Lisa had to have a wall of her own. Crowds attract more crowds.
So it looks like this when you visit her:
3) There really is something special about her eyes that follow you.
On the opposite wall from the Mona Lisa hangs the largest painting in the whole museum. It is particularly interesting since it is a grand feast with Christ and no one is making any noise. Yes, of course, paintings don’t make noise, ha, but if you look closely you notice that there are lots of things about to happen or that have just happened. When you examine that, you realize that if you were there it would be silent.
Lucy wanted to be SURE we got a picture with Chloe at the end.
She was quite enamored with that great lady.
This is the hair of a girl who fit all that in in one day:
And they were excited to share it all with their dad:
Of course we had to stay to bask in the sunset before we headed back to our apartment.
We were pretty happy with how that day turned out.
It was a pretty great way to end our Paris adventure.
The next morning we packed up our beloved Paris apartment and headed out on another train to LONDON.