Thursday, December 29, 2011
Starting once again from the Rue Royale I headed south to parts of town I had never visited before.
Before the kings came, Versailles was a sleepy little village of about 100 inhabitants. Even the origins of the name are lost and all we have are educated guesses of which the most likely is the word "versail" which comes from Old French and means "cleared land" or land that has been reclaimed for farming or development. The original village was "acquired" (and I would love to know the exact meaning of that) by Louis VIII and the seeds of the city as we know it today were planted in the 17th century. With the kings and their courts came development and I have to wonder if the villagers had as much trepidation about the arrival of these Parisiens as people in Seattle had about the arrival of the Californians late in the last century. There goes the neighborhood....
commercial development at the intersection of the Rue Royale and the Rue d'Anjou. These "baraques" were originally meant to house a public market but the venture was a failure and the buildings were finally converted into housing. 200+ years later they are still there and are called "les carrés Saint-Louis."
Today they are charming two-story structures with slate roofs and a mix of street-level commerce and apartments on the first floor.
The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception which is a small church that celebrates the mass using the tridentine rite but they were closed for the school holidays. Walking back up toward the castle I stumbled upon a small park called le Parc Balbi. According to the official website, the Comte de Provence purchased the land and built this park for his wife, the Comtesse de Balbi. Walking through the park I could not help but think I was born in the wrong era since I can think of nothing more pleasing than a husband who designs a garden for his wife (or mistress).
La Salle du Jeu de Paume. It was here in 1789 that the representatives of the Third Estate declared for a Constitution (effectively the end of the monarchy.)
Tomorrow: More of Old Versailles.