Versailles is one of those places that I think no matter how many times you go, there is always something new to discover that takes your breath away, from the vast expanse of the gardens to the sheer opulence and grandiosity of the palace. At 18 euros for the palace and gardens (with a free audioguide), it’s actually quite reasonable, and it’s easy to get to if you take the RER C train from St-Michel. We spent several hours there, and definitely got our money’s worth.

We started with the Private Apartments of King Louis XV’s unmarried daughters, which start with simple, more public rooms, and advance in lavishness as you get closer to their inner, more intimate chambers where people were only admitted by invitation.

Then as we noticed it was starting to rain, we headed out for the gardens, where I imagined myself as a young femme de la cour strolling through the labyrinth. If I had lived in those days I probably would have spent much of my days outside meandering throughout the expansive grounds. But it was cold and starting to rain, so we went back inside to see the rest of the palace.

Most importantly, the King’s quarters and the Hall of Mirrors. I know the saying goes, “not all that glistens is gold,” but at Versailles, that is the real truth. Everything embellished, adorned, richly decorated. What is must have been like to live there !

Standing there in the Hall of Mirrors, I reflected on the thought that traveling is really the best mirror to see yourself. It’s one of the best ways to come to a deeper understanding of yourself .. which I don’t think is an entirely selfish endeavor. I have learned much about myself already this trip, about how I individually interact with people – my friends & strangers alike. I’ve had some of my expectations reflected back to me, and then I saw that I was projecting a lot of impossible and unnecessary presumptions onto the people around me. I’ve also seen my reflection as an American, and I’m satisfied that there are things about being American that I am proud of. I’ve never thought of myself as very gregarious, but I realize that I have an inherent confidence to be friendly and approachable that I can only attribute to the American way of living. Through that easiness of spirit and outgoing nature, I’ve already made several new friends in the past few weeks here, just by striking up conversation in the moment. I value that about myself, but I would never have realized it had I not come here and had the chance to “step outside myself.” Self-reflection and self-evaluation can sometimes be seen as egotistical and self-centered. I however think there is great significance and importance to be gleaned from those exercises, because by knowing ourselves in a deeper way, we can then communicate and interact better with the people that surround us and are often dear to us. Those have been some of my thoughts thus far about traveling, and I hope to share more soon.

xx R.

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