Rodin and Louis XIV

Today we start our adventure, like Madeline, in a straight line, to Musee Rodin. It is considered the most romantic museum in the City of Love, so I was prepared to float on ethereal clouds as Cupid himself shot at us from the heavens. What I did not know was that if I lived in this wonderful city, I would arrange it so I could spend every day having my lunch in the quite gardens among the perfumed roses. The sculptor himself, leaving us much to think about, with his most famous piece, The Thinker, clearly understood the need to separate ourselves and sort out life.

Having arrived early, we discovered a small cafe behind the mansion in the formal gardens. I had the most French thing I could think of: croissant, strong coffee and a bowl of fruit. We ate al fresco with little birds begging crumbs at our feet and pleading with their ebony seed button eyes. We strolled the gardens and felt a peace that reaches the soul on the paths where only the crunch of our feet on the gravel and occasional birds calls broke the silence.

As we reluctantly left this garden oasis in the middle of such a burgeoning city, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of Rodin’s signature on one of his statues, hoping that some of his genius, his ability to capture movement and emotion in solid matter would remain with my memory.

From there we found the train that took us to the farthest reaches of the Paris city transit system and on to Versailles. This was the last of my wishes, to run through the labyrinth of gardens and see the peasant village erected by Marie Antoinette. Arriving at Versailles I am struck not only by the incredible wealth and greatness of the Sun King, Louis XIV, but by my own mediocrity and minutiae. It is really like being too close to the sun. The gardens and fountains that stretch out from the Palace are saturated in grandeur.

But as we walk down each terraced set of stairs facing gilded fountains and finally reaching the hedge mazes, I suddenly feel the freedom that Marie Antoinette must have felt to lose herself in their many and varied paths. At the end of each winding passage there was a hedge framed scene of a raised pond, or a beautiful statue of a mythical god, caught in a whimsical pose, half smiling for the delight of being rendered immovable in such a beautiful place that is the Gardens of Versailles.

At the unhurried pace that has claimed the day, we stroll the paths that lead beyond the gardens to the Petite Trianon, the “little” palace of Marie Antoinette. It is astonishingly grand and still dripping with royalty. It had to be. So for refuge from all the demands of Royalty and State, she built for herself and her true friends, a tiny peasant village where they could wear plain linen gowns and pretend that they were normal French people with vegetable gardens and farm animals. Each of the dwellings bore thick thatched roofs and was tended by dozens of Mr. Macgregor volunteers, keeping every faded leaf and blighted blossom from marring the pastoral serenity. I made friends of one of the burros, starved for affection and probably hoping I’d brought along a bon bon for him.

Walking back on a deserted road, through tall grasses with only the faithful little burros for our company, my heart was full right up to the brim with joy for realizing another of my dreams. As we walked in silence past ardent lovers in row boats up the side of the Grand Canal, I thought about all the lavish galas that the Royal Family hosted there, all the glitter and excess.
But for now it is a sanctuary of peace and tranquility, treasured by the entire French population, and the fortunate who visit within the venerable walls.

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