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Opinion

The magnificent Versailles Palace

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila -

PARIS - One of the top must-see tourism destinations that I missed during my first visit to Paris is the Palace of Versailles. Being a history buff, I knew of the Treaty of Versailles as the famous treaty that ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers, which was signed on June 28, 1919. Actually the hostilities ended on Nov.11, 1918, however it took another six months to conclude the Paris Peace Treaty. But as history teaches us, the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty created a bigger monster called Nazism and led to the Second World War where France lost to Nazi Germany.

 It is a 45-minute bus ride from Paris to Versailles and frankly speaking, as the bus turned the corner… it was a truly breathtaking sight. One cannot just imagine the magnificence, the splendor and the grandeur of the Palace in Versailles, which King Louis XIV constructed. Later, after the French Revolution, it was where King Louis XVI was killed. His wife Marie Antoinette was guillotined in what is now the Place de la Concorde.

 Versailles was originally the hunting ground of the French monarchy that then lived in Paris. But King Louis XIV decided to construct the most fabulous palace of all to show to the other monarchs in Europe the opulence and lavishness of the French monarchy. Indeed, the Palace in Versailles is one of the biggest, if not the biggest palaces in the world. I could only wonder in awe how the 26,000 workers built the Versailles Palace.

 This palace had more than 800 rooms, but the main rooms were given names, like Salon de Diane named after the Roman goddess of the hunt. There’s Salon de Mercure, named after the Roman god Mercury. Then there’s the Salon de Apollo, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus. No doubt, King Louis XIV had a penchant for Rome’s mythological gods. Each room was opulently decorated and its ceilings had frescoes, just like the famous frescoes of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. They also had marble busts of Roman Emperors on every room.

 If the Versailles Palace was breathtaking, the Versailles Gardens are equally as spectacular as the palace itself. Unfortunately, we ran out of time inside the palace, we had to cancel the tour of the palace grounds and garden. Yes, the room and the table used in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles are on display, including the chambers of the King and Queen, including their Royal Carriages.

 Allow me to say that the French invented luxury as we see it today and proof of the pudding is the famous Champs de Elysees, which is lined by famous brands like Coco Chanel, Louis Vitton, Long Champs, Cartier and so many others luxury products that women rave about. Yes, in Champs de Elysees, you will see the long lines of people waiting to go inside the store. But in the Philippines, especially in the Fort or in Makati, those famous name brands attract only the moneyed few… hence we have no lines for them here.

 The Notre Dame (Our Lady of Paris) Cathedral was constructed in the year 1160. Its most visible feature is its French Gothic architecture, where the famous flying buttresses support the Gothic columns to prevent these thin columns from buckling down. Equally as impressive are the stained glass windows, which gives the interior a very spiritual atmosphere.

 The Notre Dame is an active parish church, but it is hard to imagine how they can have some serious church services because of the thousands of tourists that visit the Notre Dame everyday. With the exception of the Vatican, this is the only Cathedral I know were people from different faiths would line up to see its interior. I just hope that many would go to the Notre Dame also to pray.

 When its church bells start to ring, people were reminded of Quasimodo from the famous novel by Victor Hugo, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” I recall seeing that movie sometime in the 1960s. One famous occasion done at the Notre Dame is the coronation of Napoleon I, with Pope Pius VII officiating. When the Pope learned that Napoleon had earlier married Josephine in a civil ceremony, he refused to crown Napoleon but attended the coronation. Hence to solve the problem, Napoleon crowned himself as Emperor with his wife Josephine as the Empress.

 There are many other tourist sites in Paris that can stand on its own. The dinner cruise in the River Seine is a good example. We took a riverboat where the people dining there wore formal clothes. That’s how tourism has matured in Paris. After all, they are the most enviable tourist destination in the world. We can learn from the Parisians by cleaning up our beloved Cebu. You can fly to Paris direct from Cebu, connecting through Incheon International Airport. For your travel arrangements you can call Mrs. Aida Uy of Fortune Travel to plan for your trip.

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Email: [email protected]

BUT KING LOUIS

CATHEDRAL I

CEBU

FAMOUS

KING LOUIS

NOTRE DAME

PALACE

PARIS

TREATY OF VERSAILLES

VERSAILLES

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