Monday, 16 June 1952:
At 7:15 a.m. we were up with baths to crawl around the streets to find a little breakfast and lunch for later. We opened a can and cut up a clover leaf piece of bread for sandwiches.
Prayer was at 9:15 a.m. and then we were off. We dashed down the street past the Bastille Opera, La Madeleine church, Place de la Concorde, guillotine where Marie Antoinette lost her head, obelisk with carvings, and Alexander Bridge, which was a most beautiful bridge. We continued on to the Paris Exposition building, automobile factory and then to the Hotel de Ville again.
Today we carried on to Versailles, which was the greatest monument of the 17th century. Versailles started as a little town and collection of palaces constructed under Louis XIV’s most illustrious 72 year reign. Louis XIV was a robust man with a full wig and his reign extended to nearly all of the 17th century. It was the longest reign for a monarch in Europe.
Louis XIV asserted centralized authority and called to Paris all the nobles in the provinces. He declared “state of France, that’s me.” Then he built the Versailles Palace for the 20,000 nobles that responded and didn’t honor those who didn’t come. A little village grew to service them. At the end of the 17th century there was one festival after another in Versailles.
In Versailles the Hall of Mirrors, where the peace treaties were signed was beautiful. Many peace treaties and the creation of the last German Empire by Otto von Bismarck were signed there. Also, the famous Versailles 1918 peace treaty was signed here with Kaiser Wilhelm, the last German emperor. Germans hated this peace treaty and called it the Edict of Versailles.
Marie Antoinette lived here in Versailles. There were empresses before Marie Antoinette and after her that stayed here as well. Some exceptions were when Versailles was too big or not very comfortable for some royalty, so they ended up creating their own smaller palaces.
Fashion styles were set here at Versailles. If a Duchess went away to a province for a month, she would come back out of style. Also, Louis XIV was bald and wore a wig. As a result everyone else wore wigs, so he wouldn’t feel self conscious.
During this period, Moliere wrote his comedies and Racine and Corneille were subsidized by Louis XIV to create Paris as a focal point. The 30 year war with Germany happened during this time, and the French influence on Germany, Italy, Britain, and Scandinavia was great. The French had prestige and influence, which spread all over Europe during the 17th century. In fact, the Versaille Palace was copied in Vienna and Berlin.
Versailles had immense buildings. The courtyard was covered with square cobblestones and an equestrian statue of Louis XIV. He died in 1715 after his 72 year reign. The buildings housed royalty from 1661-1700 and French noblemen from 1680-1789.
Next was the vestibule of the chapel with a staircase on the right that was wide enough for the ladies’ dresses. The vestibule with the statue, which represented glory and courage, was where the ladies waited. It was a golden age, when the 15-year-old grandson of Louis XIV married 17-year-old Marie Antoinette in Vienna.
The chapel had plush red velvet benches with organ murals on the ceiling that was painted on the canvas from the Gods. Then I spotted a painting of Marie Antoinette. Next was Louis XIV’s bedroom and then Apollo’s room where the tapestries took 2½ square inches a day in order to make them. Next was a room of wars and battle scenes. In the Hall of Mirrors some of the mirrors had been stolen. I discovered a 17 window mirror table where the treaty of 1919 had been signed and a nearby original clock that was still working.
Later the palace’s furniture was sold to finance the revolution. Some of the 1200 rooms had been demolished over time as well. At that majestic time over 10,000 people would have been living at Versailles. Then the king’s second bedroom and the bull’s eye room carpet, where the king dined once in awhile, was cut up and sold. Then we saw 45 chandeliers and went back to the Hall of Mirrors.
In Marie’s bedroom, there was a clock that played the minuet. There were doors hidden in the walls with a secret passageway. In the dining hall, Louis XVI allowed people to come in and watch him eat so they could see the palace. In the guard room there was the same picture as in the Louvre of Napoleon’s coronation. Eventually a student finished this painting. In the merchant’s room, there were murals showing the great battles of France. One mural represented the siege of Yorktown that portrayed George Washington.
For lunch we ate in the woods of Versailles, which was quite enchanting. The atmosphere made our lunch delicious. We wandered off to get some pictures while the rest of the group was getting ready to go. K, K and Margaret came by first so we started down the path to the grand canal. There were such beautiful gardens with sculpture work in the center of most of the pools and straight rows of trees that made a long archway. In addition, statues adorned each side of the grand canal.
We bartered for a taxi ride in a small horse drawn carriage that was hardly comparable to those used when Versailles was at its best. But it was fun nevertheless. It cost 125 francs for each person to ride to the Little Trianon, which was the queen’s summer palace. We wandered down the charming paths to the Queen’s Hamlet.
We met a group of French school children who were taking a tour of Versailles. Then we wandered around taking pictures until it was almost too late to get back in time. We cut across through the woods and ran most of the way back. The bus was just ready to pull out as we ran around the corner. Herr Rogers had waited as long as the mob would let him.
We stopped at the Eiffel Tower on the way back and took the funicular to the top. It was a beautiful view of Paris except for the fog and mist. This was the same kind of disappointment we suffered on the Empire State building, but we took a few pictures anyway. I’m coming back tomorrow if it was sunshiny.
Les Invalides was a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments relating to the military history of France. This state capitol building had a marble Renaissance style arch with the tombs of Napoleon; Joseph, his brother; Napoleon II, Napoleon’s only son; and Foch, WWI French General at Les Invalides as well. Napoleon had left instructions that he wanted to be buried on the banks of the Seine River. Unfortunately, Napoleon didn’t get his wish. There were other crypts in the Hilden church with battle flags hanging in the chapel in shreds. Then we headed home again.
It was the ballet that night and I dressed up by putting on heels and combing my hair. We arrived early enough at the ballet to watch the rest of the audience arrive. Regrettably, the usher insisted on a tip.
The audience all sort of had the look of ballet lovers. We tried to pick out those who might be ballet dancers themselves. The ballet was comprised of: first part had all black costumes, second part was the age of anxiety, third part was slightly on the comedy side, and the last part was the fire bug. The lead dancer was Moria Tullchief. The dancers had such beautiful costumes. Afterwards we caught the fastest metro in Paris home which was the same one we came in on.
Paris Is a ‘World’ of Rhythm, Balance, Harmony
Editor’s note: This is another letter written by Mrs. George H. Hansen of Provo on her impressions of a tour she is making with 36 college students through Europe.
Doing so much I scarcely have time to write about it.
Yesterday, being Sunday and Fathers Day, we decorated the two fathers in the group with a carnation in their coat lapel before going to an LDS Church. Thirty-six members added to the Paris congregation and really filled their meeting room. They were pleased. however, with the program which was presented in the evening by some of our students. In song, chorus and solo, as well as speeches, all in French, they did exceptionally well.
Visiting that famous museum of arts, the Louvre, was an outstanding experience. The museum covers some 43 acres and takes three hours of non-stop walking to go through it, so we saw only part in the five hours spent there. Looking at those ancient statues, pictures and all, hundreds of years old, our vision of past time became more real and of a greater distance back than ever before. There were hundreds of marble statues, massive, intricate and lifelike, which Napoleon brought to France from Greece. The French people appreciate these treasures and love Napoleon for his magnificent contributions to France. We also feel like saying thanks to the Greeks for their skill in sculpturing the Winged Victory of Smothrace, Aphrodite, Athena, Venus deMilo and the small head statues of Aristoltle, Plato and Socrates. Nor do we forget that hundreds of years have passed since Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa, whose face we see in many other pictures. Those scribblings of his are not so much different from yours and mine.
As we studiously gazed at the lovely Venus we noticed a chair exquisitely carved from marble for a nobleman in centuries past by the name of Bacchus. Coming toward the chair was a well-dressed American couple about 55 years of age. They decided to sit in this wide, cold old masterpiece. As they looked at the Goddess of Love, he put his arm around her and said “Darling, I love you.” She was visibly pleased. To sit in this chair was forbidden, but the guard was not around and those words on Fathers Day in the spot were most appropriate. This love scene was indeed more pleasing to us than those we have seen every day on the streets, in the parks, and sidewalk cafes, day or night, by the lingering lovers in Paris.
Even though some things in Paris seem out of place, because we are not used to them, this home town of the world expresses ideas to us from which we may profit. The touching humanities of natural everyday living, combined with strength, genius and culture, make Paris not, only a city, but also a world of rhythm, balance and harmony.
We noticed that the Parisians saunter in walking in comparison to our dash to get there. They say to us. “Why do you hurry? You are already in Paris.” Time is not as important to them as that which they get from living.
Let me not forget to tell you about the four exquisite paintings of Jean Paul Laurenz in the in the Pantheon, the coloring of which is most exquisite—having a central figure in black, with receding pastel shades. What an emotional uplift it gives one, to see the product of the ages in such grandeur.
Making a choice of things to tell you about seems like showing favoritism, but my American sense of time does force me to choose.
Along the Boulevard Saint Michel we came across an ancient lions den, now weather worn and almost covered with ivy. It is on our way to the University of Paris, popularly called the Sorbonne. Just the why of that, I have not yet learned, but there are so many things about France, its language and its people, that we must accept as they are, without reasoning why and without blame or censure.
If you saw the picture show An American in Paris you have an idea of the kind of streets we tramped (with tired feet) and you will remember those five-floor apartment windows which open to the street, where students stroll, brief case in hand, or sit in the sidewalk cafes, amused at the passing group of Americans.
Prof. As Escort
There was a courteous professor who escorted us through a few of those famous halls and class rooms, answered our enthusiastic questions about entrance requirements and enrollment to the university. What a thrill it would be to attend this market of ideas! He led us to the chapel which is remarkable for the tomb of its founder, Cardinal de Richelieu, over which is sculptured a masterpiece in Carrara marble.
They say that it is impossible to get lost in the Metro—the underground railway system. Indeed, it does seem less complicated than the New York subway. The high arched ceilings of white tile are clean. Moscow, Russia, has an underground system of the same design and name, so they say. One subway station in Paris is dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt. His name in large gold block letters is on the wall.
Place de L’Opera allows plenty of room to stand back to view that overwhelming impressive building, which is oblong in shape and topped with a huge dome.
It is richly ornamented without as well as within, and is in constant repair and upkeep. Inside, the astonishing lustre of polished bronze, crystal and marble, with crimson upholstery held us spell bound. Rigeletto was the program and we had first balcony seats, thanks to our busy tour directors.
Notre Dame Cathedral on the bank of the Seine River is one of the seven wonders of the world. It is 800 years old and it is not at all hard to believe that it was 200 years in the making.
A day in Versailles was overpowering with its splendor, elaborate richness and beautiful extensive gardens. Those old gray decorated walls with such splendor inside that it is hard to believe that those Kings of France, Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI, were such jealous creatures. They seemed to lack nothing in riches and possessions.
Tomorrow we leave Paris for Southern France. You’ll hear more from us later,
Mrs. George H. Hansen.