As a hopeless Francophile, I can’t help but note that today is Bastille Day (le quatorze juillet), the 221st anniversary of the storming of the dreaded fortress.
A few weeks ago I found my travel journal from Esteban’s and my visit to Paris in January, 2006. Here are my impressions from our visit to Versailles:
The place is huge, on an obscene scale. I found it gaudy and overstated, filled with royal portraits and marble busts of long-dead Roman emperors. Every room sported something gilded: fireplaces, tables and even beds got the Midas touch. Mirrors and velvet lined the walls in this monument to vanity and self-indulgence. No wonder the people rose up. After an hour, I too was ready to grab a pitchfork. I finally “get” the French Revolution.
So self-involved was Louis XIV, in fact, that on the day the revolution started his diary is reported to have read simply “rien!” Nothing!
It’s hard to imagine such oppressive and disconnected ruler when you look at today’s France. In just 200 years, the French government has evolved from an indifferent monarchy to an engaged (if sometimes ham-handed) government of the people.
Vive la révolution culturelle!