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Italy - France Journal
June 18 to July 4, 1998

Day Fifteen: Thursday, July 2, 1998

Ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live? - Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.
- Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography 1821

Barry took the train to work this morning (two stops from Versailles), and Flora walked over to the Chateau de Versailles. This place was so crowded! Having taken the main tour of the State Apartments on a previous trip, she signed up for a guided tour of Louis XV's and Louis XVI's private apartments and the Opera. The tour was small (everyone rushes for the main tour and these guided tours go virtually unnoticed), and our guide was excellent. We never got his name, but he looked like Billy Crystal. We toured Louis XV's and Louis XVI's bedroom, where Louis XV died of smallpox on 10 May, 1774. We also toured the dining room, game room, library, private cabinet and clock cabinet.

Original artifacts and furniture were scattered throughout the world at auction after the French Revolution, although some have been brought back to Versailles since the end of World War II through donations or sale back to the chateau. Some are lost forever, and some are permanently in other countries (the two wall clocks from Louis XVI's bedroom were acquired by Great Britain and are in Buckingham Palace and the Queen has no intention of selling or giving them back to France). Seventeenth century French royalty also had some interesting customs - a woman's feet or hands could not be shown in public (gloves could not be removed) - but the Queen would give birth in public and, of course, kings and queens alike died in public. We then visited the Opera, arguably the most beautiful room in all of Versailles.

After Barry returned from work, we took the car and set out for Giverny - 30 minutes from Versailles. Giverny was Claude Monet's home and is a nice break from museums and churches. We visited his home and spent hours in the magnificent gardens. A highlight were the water lillies and the Japanese footbridge, inspiration for so many of Monet's paintings.

Upon returning from Giverny, we made reservations at Le Potager du Roy, another restaurant recommended by our concierge, and watched the pomp and ceremony surrounding the Palio, which was run today in Siena. Le Potager du Roy is one of Versailles' nicest restaurants. The meal started with zucchini cream served in a small bowl followed by our chosen entrée of smoked salmon and melon. We enjoyed codfish for our main course, and Barry had raspberries and almond pound cake for dessert after our mint sorbet. Flora opted for the chocolate cake, cooked on the outside but raw on the inside, and coconut ice cream.

Louis XV's bedroom, Chateau de Versailles

Water Lillies on the grounds of Claude Monet's home, Giverny

Japanese footbridge on the grounds of Claude Monet's home, Giverny