Is the Past Just a Carriage Ride Away?

Originally posted to The Traveling Pear blog– July 10, 2011 after attending the first annual masked ball at Versailles….

If you had the opportunity to travel back in time would you?  What century would you chose?  As a student of history, I’ve learned, contemplated, observed and fascinated over various periods of human history.  Everything from the ancient Greeks to Napoleon and more recently—the early 19th century world wars.  If there’s one piece of human history that I’m pulled to like a magnet, it’s the 17th and 18th centuries.  Anyone who knows me would agree that if I had one wish, that wish would be to live during the days of Enlightenment when women would charm with their wit as well as with their beauty (no different from today really) and where frivolousness, big hair and even bigger dresses reigned supreme.  I’m looking at it from an aristocrat’s perspective…because that’s of course who I would have been…*wink wink*.  It’s completely ridiculous–I understand–but its my *thing*.

Knowing good and well that time machines are not real, I’ve had to make do with the occasional “dress-up and pretend.”  I’ve dragged my poor husband to every carnival, festival and “period” *shindig* Texas had to offer.  He’s dressed in a leprechaun green suite and top hat to attend a Charles Dickens ball.  He’s sweated his butt off in a fur and leather costume to be my Robinhood at a Renaissance festival.  So I knew exactly what his reaction would be if I asked to play dress up again—a look of “oh no, now what?”  He really does like playing dress-up no matter his initial reaction.

Apparently our arrival to France couldn’t be more right on.  The Palace of Versailles had just began hosting what they call Chateau de Versailles Spectacles.  Over the course of the summer each weekend the Chateau and its gardens and fountains come alive with musical events.  On select weekends the Grand Canal hosts a show called the Vivaldi Venice Versailles.   This weekend was the Le Carnaval de Versailles Nuit blanche au Château—a masked ball from midnight until 8am held in the L’Orangerie (a venue large enough for a party of 1500 of your best friends) Marie Antoinette would be so proud!  If there’s one place in the world who knows how to put on a masked ball it’s Versailles.  Louis XV’s most famous ball, Bal des Ifs or Yew Tree Ball, was given in 1745 in the Hall of Mirrors.  It was here that the king’s future mistress, Madame de Pompadour, worked her charm and claimed his heart.  Balls at Versailles were always the most splendid of all in Europe!

So, for the past few weeks I’ve done everything possible to organize this once in a lifetime dream fantasy event.  My poor husband didn’t have a chance to even complain; he wouldn’t anyway because he knows what an event like this means to me.  After tracking down quality costumes from a 100-year-old costume shop here in Paris and making reservations to stay at an exquisite hotel in Versailles, the Chef and I had a date with the past.  Here was how 2011 gave way to the legendary 17th and 18th centuries…

Trianon Palace Hotel before history takes over…

Touring the gardens and fountains of Versailles…

And when night takes the day…the past of Versailles returns to show all its grandeur, splendor and glory.

A firework show that Marie Antoinette would have loved to have witnessed on her wedding day–

May 1770

Louis XIV would be amazed at the sights, sounds and colors that were bounced around his Orangerie…

And this is where history bids adieu and the 21st century world returns.  If only the past was a carriage ride away…would you return???  I might just stay in for the ride.