Books and Mirrors

When The Gorgeous Blonde asked me if I wanted to spend a night in Versailles I was mostly ambivalent.


I have to admit that when she asked me I knew that Versailles as was a thing, I just didn’t know a lot about what that thing was. Not coincidentally I read The Black Count and learned a little more about Versailles’ place in the history of France. But not really enough for me to get it. I say not coincidentally because once we decided to move to Paris I went down a bit of a Parisian literary rabbit hole.

Anyway, our car arrived and we were driven through Paris to Versailles by a beautiful blue-eyed French woman with a penchant for American Jazz.

When did my life become a fucking novel?

We arrived and suddenly it was the 18th century. Every single member of staff was dressed in period piece, all of the furniture had been restored or replaced with facsimiles, and even the lighting was set to match what one would expect if visiting the King’s Court back in the day.

It was fucking cool!

Because we were only there for a night TGB went ahead and planned a lot of stuff in a short time. First up was a tour of Bibliothéque de Versailles. Specifically a tour of the archives given by the curator whose name escapes me because I am a terrible listener.

Blibliothéque de Versailles Curator
If the library were a person.

But if you know me, you know I love libraries. Once I told him I’d worked in a library for seven years he lit up the way you do when you find your people.

The things we saw and touched… wow. Letters written by George Washington his own self. The table where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The room where they hammered out the Treaty of Paris. Books so old they were in Old French. The tiniest Dante’s Inferno in the world (about the size of a thumb). So many old books on everything from the American Revolution written as it was happening (and subsequently banned in France lest the french get some crazy ideas), to a book on necromancy written in the 14th century, to first editions of Rousseau. There was so much it was almost sensory overload.

We had time for a smoke and a bathroom break before we were whisked off to a private tour of the Chateau de Versailles and the Hall of Mirrors. Remember the other day when I told you about that young man I met who was seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time in his life? I was him this time.

It’s really real! It’s not just something in the movies!

You can visit virtually with me if you want.

I told TGB that I would be smiling for a long time after that visit. You guys, if you ever get the chance to see the Hall of Mirrors do it! Whether it’s with the maddening crowds or if you splurge and spend a night at the Hôtel Versailles for the private tour, add it to your bucket list.

We headed back to our hotel for a late night dinner.

Side note. I say late night dinner, but it was quite a normal dinner time for the French. We are learning pretty quickly – and to my delight – that dinner time here is not like it is stateside. Dinner was 8:15 PM and I am in favor of all dinners starting after 8.

It was a busy, amazing day, but we were so ready for bed by the time dinner ended. It was the best night of sleep I’ve had so far this trip. We asked for a 7 AM wake up. At Hôtel Versailles this means waking the way royalty would be woken. A scratch at the door, classic music, vanilla flavored almond milk – the way Marie Antoinette would take it – and a bow.

Then one more tour.

This time it was Marie Antoinette’s little getaway on the grounds – Petit Trianon. Another private tour of the home away from home for the Queen. I learned so much I never knew about Marie Antoinette. The tragedy of her children. The lies spread because she didn’t, well, behave the way she was expected to. I need to dig into her story a lot more because this tour left me curiouser and curiouser.

Badass French Jackets

I am still not sure what I did to deserve this life. But I am trying desperately to lean in and savor every moment. Having TGB as an accomplice is the sweetest part, honestly.

Finally, I thought a lot about my dad while we were at Versailles. I wanted so badly to call him and tell him all about it. It’s always that way when I experience something amazing. I wish I could have told him about it first. This is exactly the kind of thing he would have loved. Not because he gives a shit about Versailles, but because he would hear the joy in my voice. And that was his jam.

I am still smiling.

The Gorgeous Blonde in the Hall of Mirrors.
©2024 Rudy Martinez