How I Spent My Summer: Adventures in Paris VII

If you’re feeling particularly inspired, click the links below for my previous Parisian posts:

It was our last full day in Paris. So after dining on light, flaky sacristain (LOVE those!!) and other pastries for breakfast…

Image by: Jack06
We travelled to the Palace of Versailles!

The line to get in was over two hours long. (Naturally!)

And I could see Chris already shaking his head, preparing to leave. But I was desperate! Approaching the entrance security guard, I summoned the skills earned from my single year of college French. I indicated the line and said, “Pardon monsieur, mais est-il une autre option?

 “Oui!” he replied. Then in really great English, he explained we could save time by purchasing our tickets from a restaurant directly across the street. Dashing between cars, we bought the tickets, dashed back and made it inside the palace within 45 minutes!

The intriguing story behind this opulent structure is this: In 1661, King Louis XIV’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet invited the king for a weekend of lavish entertainment at his luxurious new château. Twenty-two-year-old Louis felt his authority was being undermined by Fouquet’s show of wealth, so after the festivities, he had Fouquet tossed in prison on trumped-up charges, then hired his talented building team to start work on what later became the Palace of Versailles. Louis wanted his palace to embody the divine majesty and absolute power of the French monarchy; it took 20 years and over 30,000 men to build.

Years later, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s extravagant taste in decorating—which is apparent throughout this incredible structure—along with Louis’ military campaigns abroad, eventually drained the royal treasury, inspiring revolution and the end of Versailles as the royal seat of power.

Versailles Chapel

Many of the rooms are named after Roman gods and goddesses. Here is a famous Bernini bust of Louis XIV in the Salon de Diane. (Diana Room—Roman goddess of the hunt.)

 The rococo decoration of Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom is sooo over the top!

Since I’d just finished reading Diana Gabaldon’s historical Outlander series, which incorporates this palace into the events of one of the stories, I was thrilled to see the glittering Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) for myself.

It’s renowned as one of the most famous rooms in the world, holding 17 mirror-clad arches—each with 21 mirrors—reflecting the 17 arcaded windows overlooking the amazing Versailles gardens.

I could just envision the room at night, lit by hundreds of candles. Dancers swirling past in beautiful gowns of colorful silk…

It did not disappoint!

“Hey Josh,” I said as I squinted through my camera viewfinder, snapping photo after photo. “Did you know that it was in this very room that Otto Bismarck proclaimed the unified German Empire in 1871?  Then ironically the Treaty of Versailles declaring Germany’s responsibility for World War I was signed here in 1919.”

“That’s interesting, mom.” Josh said. “I’m going to go check out that beautiful garden view from the window.” He was off in a flash. That’s strange. Josh never cares about beautiful garden views at home.

Aside from the Hall of Mirrors, I was most thrilled to tour the amazing gardens of Versailles.  Arguably the most famous gardens in the world…

Designed by Andre Le Nôtre between 1661 and 1700, the lawns are painstakingly manicured featuring parterres of flowers, sculptures and fountains in classic French Baroque style.

 Do you see that mile-long, light-filled rectangle of water behind my boys?

That’s the Grand Canal. It’s an original creation of Le Nôtre, and was the setting for King Louis XIV’s nautical spectacles. In the summer, his fleet of reduced model ships sailed its length.

We found the sculpted shrubbery most inspiring.

Good times, good times.

Arriving back in Paris, we wandered the banks of the Seine, browsing the treasure-filled iconic “green boxes” of the outdoor booksellers, or bouquinistes.

The bouquinistes have been a Parisian tradition since the 16th century, and you can often spot them in famous Paris landscapes, particularly from the Impressionist period.

Pariser Büchermarkt (Bouquinistes)
Creator:Fritz Westendorp (1867 Köln – 1926 Düsseldorf)
Image by: AndreasPraefcke

Deciding the evening was still young, we took a sunset river cruise down the Seine.

With vintage French accordion music as our backdrop, we viewed the famous bridges of Paris.

(Okay, this guy isn’t exactly “vintage” but this is a good sample of the type of music we listened to so you can get the full effect: 

This shot was taken on dry land, but here we have Paris’ controversial “Love Locks.”

Apparently couples inscribe their names on padlocks and attach them to the wire-mesh bridge railings, then toss the key into the Seine below in a poetic declaration of everlasting love. Aaaah, le romance! (Or vandalism, depending on your point of view.)

It was such a beautiful Sunday evening. Parisians relaxed by the riverside waving, playing music and blowing us kisses as we passed…

It was the perfect end to our final night in Paris.

Tune in next week for my final Parisian post!

All photographs © Holly, Chris & Ashleigh Bowne unless otherwise noted.

Quote of the Week

"Standing at his appointed place, at the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths.
And the beauty at the crown is not his own.
He is merely a channel."
Paul Klee ~

Image by: Grand Canyon NPS

How I Spent My Summer: Adventures in Paris VI

If you’re feeling particularly inspired, click the links below for my previous Parisian posts: 

Chris arranged to rent a car for the remainder of our stay in Paris. (Yeah! No more waiting for taxis!) And we arose super early the next morning for a day-long excursion to Normandy Beach. 

Now, I’m about to confess something that will probably leave many of you thinking a lot less of me. But if nothing else, I strive to be an honest person. In my defense, I’ve never been a huge history buff (aside from reading historical romance novels) and I have only a rudimentary knowledge regarding the major wars in which the U.S.  has been involved.

My confession: I had no idea what the significance of Normandy Beach was in regard to World War II. Neither could I understand why Chris--and my non-art-enthusiast son—were so adamant that we would drive three hours one way, just to look at a beach!

Needless to say, when we arrived, I was shamed and awed. Normandy’s Omaha Beach Museum was amazing!

We learned fascinating details about the brave, young soldiers who lost their lives helping reclaim the world’s freedom.

I studied the posted timeline which covered all significant events from the start to the end of the war, including an hour-by-hour account of the Normandy Campaign—the largest amphibious operation in history. This battle marked the beginning of the end of the war.

The Allied forces rehearsed their D-Day roles for months before the Normandy invasion, which began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments, followed by early morning amphibious landings on five beaches.

We wandered through the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where over 9,000 American soldiers who lost their lives during the invasion are buried.

The ocean glowed blue and serene in the distance, making it difficult to imagine the bloody battle that once took place there. The cemetery was beautiful. Immaculate. Peaceful. Fragrant with blossoming flowers, pines, carefully manicured trees and sunshine.

After leaving the cemetery, we drove to the quaint medieval village of Bayeux for lunch. 

Chris often travelled to the nearby city of Caen for work and knew we would enjoy exploring the massive 11th-century cathedral located there.

Image by: Mcaretaker

As we dined in typical French style, facing the street from our little table, we noticed something odd kept happening. The narrow sidewalks were filled with people shopping among the charming boutiques lining the cobblestone streets. But every so often in the midst of the crowds, we’d spot somebody dressed like this:


These strangely dressed folks would walk past us, then disappear around a corner. Naturally, when we were done eating I insisted Chris wait on getting his gelato fix so we could follow the trail. I had to find out where those people were going!

We went around that mysterious corner…and discovered a fair! It just happened to be Bayeux’s 25th annual Medieval Festival! Complete with street performers, theatrical presentations, and costumed vendors selling their wares.

 And the focal point of the fair was the very cathedral Chris wanted us to see. 

The aptly named Bayeux Cathedral was consecrated on July 14, 1077. One reason it’s famous is because it was here that William, Duke of Normandy and King of England forced Harold Godwinson to take the oath, the breaking of which led to the Norman conquest of England.

 It was massive and beautiful…

As we left the cathedral, we spotted these elaborately dressed women on stilts making their way through the crowd directly towards us.

Striding past, they came to a halt in the doorway of the cathedral we had just exited. Joining hands, they began to sing an enchanting medieval song in beautiful harmony.

 It was so cool!

We finally left Bayeux, driving through rolling French countryside, past acres of golden wheat and this amazing field of sunflowers. 

From the highway we spotted a castle ruin and spontaneously pulled off to explore it. The castle rose from a high hill and had a stunning view overlooking the entire Rouen region and River Seine.

Apparently we’d stumbled upon the Château de Robert-le-Diable. It was built during the 11th and 12th centuries and is a French feudal castle from the time of the Dukes of Normandy. The castle takes its name from Robert the Devil, a.k.a. Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy and father of William the Conqueror! Another interesting tidbit is that King Richard the Lionheart stayed here.

Well, after our major road trip, we got back to Paris late that evening, ate dinner late (by American standards, anyway), and went to bed late--well after midnight (of course!).

Tune in next week for our trip to the Palace of Versailles!

All photographs © Holly & Chris Bowne unless otherwise noted.