Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring has sprung in Versailles

It's spring, it's spring! (jumping, jumping!!!) Spring has finally arrived in Versailles (which explains why people spend most of their time in totally other places than sitting at their computer to write for their Versailles blog - I'm not talking about anyone in particular here...). And to top it off, there is still light outside, at 9pm, which is just amazing and makes the winter feel so far away, youu-hooo! Oh, and since I'm never happy (I'm about to become too Frenchie I'm afraid) we don't have leaves in the trees yet, which is a turn-off, but despite this major drawback we survived and could take a magic walk today to rediscover the charms of the Versailles' Sunday market, under a splendid sun.

It was a perfect day, finally!


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Versailles' hunter-gatherer population

My refusal to write about chocolate mustn't fool you, dear reader: chocolate is ubiquitous in here and if ever in doubt over what to bring to a French host, or a meeting, party, funeral or other human get-together in France, the doubt should cease right this moment, because the solution is very straight forward: just bring some chocolate! (not sure about the funeral, though, never been to a French one actually :P)

And if you thought that after all this infatuation over it there's no official chocolate day to celebrate it properly just because I didn't mention it before, it's now time to correct this omission. Happy Easter, everyone, today is the chocolate day in France! Now, let me tell you how Easter is related with chocolate, because it might not be that obvious when you get to think about it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Extreme gardening in Versailles

April is around the corner, but there's no use whatsoever in trying to change my wardrobe and wear something lighter for the spring, because it's not going to happen yet. Nope. It's officially spring here in Versailles, starting with the 20th of March equinox, but outside it's still completely freezing and only about a week ago we had a day of snow that wreaked havoc in the entire France. Yes, those little tiny 20 centimeters of snow stopped trains from working, closed whole institutions and provoked desperate announcemnts at the radio practically begging people not to go to Paris!...

But freezing or not, it's now the time to plant our gardens, balconies and terraces, or pots and jardinieres for some less fortunate (like me). The trees are starting to bloom (I have no idea how they manage to do it with these polar temperatures) and the camellia in front of my building is even starting to fade away (the blame goes again to that one day of snow). So I head to the local gardening festival, Esprit Jardin, braving the cold, wearing a light, springtime scarf. Big mistake!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Poets's Spring - Versailles

Versailles, tu n’es plus qu’un spectre de cité ;
Comme Venise au fond de son Adriatique,
Tu traînes lentement ton corps paralytique,
Chancelant sous le poids de ton manteau sculpté.

Quel appauvrissement ! quelle caducité !
Tu n’es que surannée et tu n’es pas antique,
Et nulle herbe pieuse au long de ton portique
Ne grimpe pour voiler ta pâle nudité.

Comme une délaissée, à l’écart, sous ton arbre,
Sur ton sein douloureux croisant tes bras de marbre,
Tu guettes le retour de ton royal amant.

Le rival du soleil dort sous son monument ;
Les eaux de tes jardins à jamais se sont tues,
Et tu n’auras bientôt qu’un peuple de statues.
Versailles, you're only a spectre of a former city;
Like Venice at the bottom of her Adriatic Sea,
You're slowly dragging around your paralytic body,
Tottering under the weight of your sculpted cape.

What exhaustion! How decaying!
You are but outdated and you are not antique,
And no devout herb along your portico
Climbs to veil your pale nudity.

Like a neglected wife, out of the way, under your tree,
Folding your arms on your sore breasts,
You lie in wait for your royal lover's return.

The sun's rival sleeps under his shrine;
The waters of your gardens silenced themselves for good,
And you will soon have but a people of statues.

1837, Théophile Gautier, "La Comédie de la Mort" (The Death Comedy)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Crossing the croissant chasm

There are two items that are the culinary symbols of France and I doubt they will be able to detach themselves from this ménage à trois any time sooner, they will surely have to live together happily ever after: the croissant and the baguette. Versailles too had two things to celebrate yesterday (the 400th anniversary of Le Nôtre and a new winter in spring with the assorted snow, traffic jams and paralyzed institutions) so I thought we should mark the moment properly with some freshly baked croissants, since I couldn't get out of the house.

Once you've tasted a croissant you've made with your own hands, your universe will radically change and you will think twice before buying one again, in case you can find it in your part of the world to begin with. It is quite complicated to get it right and have that crispiness that is absolutely mandatory in a good croissant, but I wrote you the recipe in small quantities so it doesn't feel that overwhelming and, more importantly, not to feel sorry if you have to throw everything in the bin (hopefully you won't). See how many precautions I take for those thingies? And they're not even invented by the French (but by a Viennese baker, that's why it's also called a viennoiserie)... Make sure you have enough butter and jam in da house for them, 'cause you will see that you will want to repeat the experience, and that asap!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time Travel to Versailles: Mars 1913

The Versailles Journal - Mars 1913

Versailles Union of Industry and Trade - of the Versailles district

The Versailles Union of Industry and Trade sent to Monsieur the Mayor of Versailles the following letter:

Versailles, February 22, 1913

Monsieur the Mayor, Sir,

We have the honor, in the name of the Versailles Union of Industry and Trade, to demand your attention on a fact liable to cause prejudice to the local trade and, more specifically, to the Versailles alimentation. Following the very recent decision of the Monsieur the Undersecretary of State to the Fine Arts, the palaces of Versailles won't open their doors to visitors on Wednesdays but at one o'clock in the afternoon, due to cleaning out - Mondays being exclusively reserved for the weekly break.

We are not contesting the utility of cleaning; however, we are surprised that on that occasion there is a need to cut off two visiting hours every week in order to accomplish cleaning works, especially if we take into account that the opening hour is already very late.

This measure causes, as a consequence, real losses to the trade, especially as the foreigners will not come to have lunch in Versailles on Wednesdays anymore. Furthermore, the daily excursions organized by the Cook's American Express agencies and the others, whose itinerary is Versailles, Saint-Germain and Malmaison, are obliged to make their return trip and given that these excursions plan to go to Paris for dinner, it will follow that there will be no place left for having a meal in our town.

We do know that a procedure will soon be ensued with the view to ask Monsieur the Undersecretary of State to the Fine Arts to postpone his decision.
This is why we dare to hope that the Municipality will want to grant us its support in sustaining the legitimacy of our protest.

Confident in your solicitude, please accept, Monsieur the Mayor, the very respectful homages of your devoted citizens

For the Versailles Union of Industry and Trade,
The first Vice-president,
L. Yger

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Price-less: Welcome to my castle!

Today I have finally opened the doors of *my* Versailles castle (for the first time on my blog) and it's only because today the access to it is free and follows the rule of my series about things to do for free in Versailles! Every first Sunday of the month, from November to Mars, everyone can freely visit the castle and the gardens at no cost. Even more, the access won't cost you a dime the other days either, if you're under 18yo or under 26yo and coming from a country member of the EU. You-hoo!!! (I'm only happy for you, 'cause, in my case, I've long passed both deadlines...)

Today I've also ordered a nice (almost) blue sky to come along with you and a big gold sun to wonderfully keep an eye on you while you have to leave the place full of regrets: I should've woke up earlier to have enough time to see everything!

Rest assured, you will never have time to visit the castle and the gardens in one day, you will definitely have to come back!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

White Versailles

Being the respectable immigrant that I am, I am regularly bitching about the Versailles' weather and some of my blog readers haven't escaped from reading it in the past either. Everyone who comes from a sunny or a continental temperate country is hit by the same difficulty in getting used with the eternal grey, sad sky and in every respect the desolate weather we have in here - not counting in the rain (119 days of rain a year on average, tells us Météo France, that is about one in three days!). But I need blue sky and sun and starry nights: it's in my genes and there's nothing I can do about it! One must possess a great dose of natural optimism, a loving entourage and a busy life if they want to escape the inescapable weather blues (which will add up to the inescapable culture shock eventually).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Price-less: The Lambinet Museum on a wintry Sunday afternoon

It's really hard to believe that there are other museums in Versailles - that is, other than the Château(and, in a broader sense, that there is any life out there other than the Château...) - but there ARE!!! I mean, there is, because there's only one: the Musée Lambinet, the city museum. Quite neglected by tourists (just like almost all the rest of the city - thing that started to become a bit of a problem for officials lately, btw, and for easy-to-understand reasons...) this 18th century building turned into museum is a small jewel well worth the detour off Versailles' one and only beaten path.

The museum proudly presents artifacts tracing the history of Versailles after it became the city of kings and, even if it's a relatively young city (the first citation of its name in an official document was in 1038, something about a guy named "Hugo de Versaliis"), Versailles was nonetheless the theatre of big historical decisions and dramatic situation reversals deserving a museum in its own right. You already know from my previous posts how the people of Versailles are perfect, so, logically, they made a city history museum and this is the Musée Lambinet!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Versailler's Paradox

I already had an idea of how Versaillers were viewed by their French fellows, then I have given you more than enough samples of my own personal views in the matter, but now I stumbled upon a French article about it, I mean a real one - written, admittedly, some time ago in 2006 in the leftist journal Libération but nonetheless still valid (as prejudices usually die hard).

And I thought it would be interesting to translate it in here so you can have other viewpoints at hand. Hopefully I'll find some more articles like these in the future (written by a rightist journalist maybe?) so we can try to obtain a broader picture about this whole Versailles thing. I, at least, I find it fascinating and it helped me find out that not only the French have their paradoxes, but so have the Versaillers, which endows me with one too, by extension. Here you go:

"The Versailler's Paradox
by Sibylle Vincendon