Exit Through the Gift Shop 

So this is going to be my last post for this trip. I know, I know. You’re heartbroken. But I’m planning on keeping this up when I travel because 1) my daily life is not interesting enough to warrant blogging and 2) this world really needs more snarky, unqualified opinions. And I’m happy to fill the void.

About the name: Someone asked me about the “Jane Austen Drank Here” name in Paris so I thought I’d wait until the last post to explain it. Amy Sherman-Palladino who created “Gilmore Girls” had a production company called “Dorothy Parker Drank Here.” Since I basically worship Amy Sherman-Palladino (she’s usually on my fantasy dinner party invite list), I decided to steal her idea and modify it for my own personal use. I liked using Jane Austen as the subject since I like her work and because you don’t generally associate her with drinking like you do Dorothy Parker. I honestly have no idea where or what Jane Austen drank, but the name seemed fun.

This particular post is called “Exit Through the Giftshop” in reference to the Banksy documentary and because whenever you leave a tourist-y place, there’s always a gift shop. I would know since I’ve been in most of them at this point. Seriously, I bought way too much junk on this trip.

I’d also like to thank all of you who have been reading this over the last two months. Even though the work is its own reward blah blah blah it’s still nice to know that there are people out there reading this. So thank you.

I’d also like to thank my mom for letting have this trip. And for giving birth to me. A shout out on my blog will, of course, not make us even. But many thanks and much love to you, Mama, all the same.

So goodbye/cheers/au revoir/ciao from Europe. See you when Jane Austen goes drinking again.


Catholicism HQ 

I made it my personal goal to not wait in any lines at the Vatican. Which I basically succeeded at apart from the cafeteria at lunch. Which doesn’t count. Any life moment that includes tuna and pasta in one dish should not count.  

The regular tickets were sold out by the time I was looking on Friday. I weaseled around that by booking a 45 minute bus tour of the gardens which then leads right into the a tour of the museums. But not by bus since that would weird. But kind of nice too — if there’s one thing the Vatican is missing, it’s more seating. Apparently the only chair here belongs to Saint Peter (#CatholicHumor). The Vatican also seemed like the perfect finale to this trip. And if I’m being honest, I was kind of hoping Pope Francis would be back from South America by this point so I could say that at least I was in the same general area as him. It didn’t work out. So I got the Pope Francis postcard pack (say that 3x fast) and called it a day. 

So anyway. We skipped the line and onto out bus tour. The gardens are pretty fab. They’re only open to the public through tours which is kind of nice because you get an unspoiled view. I guess it’s also easier that way to kick everyone out when the Pope wants to go for a stroll. 

After our comfortable bus tour, we were thrown back into the hoi polloi to tour the Vatican Museum. Which was nice, apart from the crowds. And the children. Loud, poorly-behaved children. But I figured if there was anywhere in the world where it’s considered rude to trip 10 year-olds, it’s probably the Sistine Chapel. 

And they totally know the only reason you’re there is to see the Sistine Chapel. They put up these signs that say SISTINE CHAPEL in big letters with an arrow so you miss the other rooms listed in smaller print on the sign that are between you and the main attraction. The chapel (once we got there) did not disappoint at all. I wish I had photos but they don’t allow pictures in there. Probably for the best. The view of the ceiling is more beautiful without selfie sticks in the way. 

We left the museum and went to (where else?) the gift shop. I collect postcards of major works of art that I see when I travel, and then make a mini gallery out of my bulletin board at my apartment. This trip I’ve really outdone myself so I think the entire wall will be covered. And we had to buy rosaries. They sell so many rosaries. But no bishop mitres or nun costumes like they sell tiaras at Versailles. I mean, they keep complaining about how the vocations are low…

We found out from the guards that to go the Basilica from the museum entrance, we either had to go outside and around to the main entrance to wait in line OR go back through the entire museum and exit a different way from the Sistine Chapel. 

I’ll just say that the museum is just as good the second time through.

Once we made it to the Basilica (and all but swore a blood oath to get an audio guide. Are stolen audio guides a big problem here? We couldn’t just do a second collection to replace them from time to time?), we basically just wandered and took pictures since the crowds were less sardine-like. I wrote a paper on some of the memorials for my Baroque art class two years so it was nice seeing some of things in person. It’s like meeting a pen pal in person.  But where you get really excited and your pen pal is just there. Because it’s a stone sculpture. Ever happened to anyone else?

No? Just me? Okay, that’s cool. 

So in addition to skipping lines today, I also think the Vatican should take my country count up to 5 since it’s technically it’s own city-state. Even though we didn’t stay overnight. Because it’s “inappropriate” to try to nap on a funerary monument. Whatever, Mr. Swiss Guard. I tithe which is basically just Catholic taxes. 

And my mother (who did not want to be mentioned in this blog post but was there the whole time) wanted me to mention that it was really hot today. Like, “hot as hell.” 

Let Them Drink Water

“Versailles was built by Louis XIV, enjoyed by Louis XV, and paid for by Louis XVI.” -architecture professor I had as a sophomore

I took a class on 17th century art last year, and we read this article that compared Versailles to Disney Land. I enjoyed the article but thought the comparison was a bit of a stretch. Versailles and Disney Land? Please.

I was so wrong.
I booked my ticket early with the website promising me that I could just jump into Line A and go straight to the entrance. So I’m thinking “I’ll just skip right into palace, laughing at those fools who didn’t book ahead.” Nope. Everyone else followed the website’s advice. So we all waited in that twisting line together for about an hour. I decided to read since my book was finally getting good. And I was glad I didn’t bring my book on the French Revolution which was my original plan. That just seemed a little rude. At least at Disney Land they have that story about the ride you’re getting on, you know?

Once I got an audio guide (which I got mainly out of peer pressure since everyone else got one and I didn’t want to miss out), I had to go through the history of the palace that is accompanied by paintings of its former occupants. I skipped past most of this since I’d spent the past two weeks in French museums and was a little sick of paintings with French wall text. And it was hot. So hot and unairconditioned. And sticky and gross. Basically Alabama in the ’60s before A/C was a thing. I went through a lot of water bottles that day. But better to be hot at Versailles than bored back at the hotel.

These guys did not half-ass absolute monarchy. There’s gold everywhere. Louis XIV also fashioned himself as “The Sun King” so there’s Apollo imagery everywhere, too. All gold plated. His bedroom is also in the east wing of the palace so he literally rose with the sun. The man knew marketing.  As I went through his apartments, all I could think was “Let’s get to the real star of the show: Marie Antoinette.”

I would argue that Marie Antoinette is probably more notorious in the history of Versailles than Louis XIV. But I think that’s just because I like that Sofia Coppola movie. Anyway, her bedroom is part of the tour and the audio guide points out the door through which she fled during the revolution. Unfortunately any emotional tension you might feel because of that is totally destroyed by the couple standing behind you with a selfie stick.

The state departments were packed the whole way through. After I saw Marie Antoinette’s room, I was ready for the next big attraction: the Hall of Mirrors. Now here is when I become an absolute jerk: the Hall of Mirrors was a bit of a let down. Maybe it’s just because  it was crowed and hot, but it wasn’t the spectacular space I’d always imagined. I mean, the mirrors were a little grimy. But no matter how many selfie sticks blocked my view, it’s obvious that the room is all about the money.  Espcially  considering how insanely expensive mirrors were at the time. Let down or not, I got a postcard anyway.

Then, to the gardens. Those fabulous gardens. According to the Versailles/Disney article we read, Louis XIV went to a party at his minister of finance’s palace (anyone who’s anyone has a palace after all) and saw the new gardens which were based around a central axis design. Apparently he stole the architect from the minister and started renovating his father’s hunting lodge the next day. The whole point of the article was that Disney’s Main Street USA has a similar layout. Which is true. But you see more Disney-ness in the gift shops (you know I love a good gift shop). They have books on palace, postcards, t-shirts, Marie Antoinette buttons, and on and on. They also have kids section with knight and princess toys and costumes. Which seems like a weird message to give a little girl considering French history, “Here little Suzy, be a princess! Until you overtax the peasants to fund your extravagent lifestyle and they eventually revolt and your find yourself at the guillotine! But enjoy that tiara until then!”

Back to the gardens. They were stunning. And I know nothing about plants so this is just based on how pretty the colors were but whatever. I was about to get in line for the tram to go to Marie Antoinette’s village (yep) until I remembered that I’m an able-bodied 21 year old so I could just walk. It was hot. But worth it since I listened to the soundtrack to that Sofia Coppala movie. There’s nothing like listening to “I Want Candy” while strolling past some manicured trees.

Marie Antoinette built this tiny village where she could play peasant when she got bored with court life. Talk about insulting. But today it’s this really cool little village with these cute gardens. You almost expect Snow White and the dwarves to show up it’s so well maintained. But they don’t.

I spent the rest of the day around the gardens and then took the RER home. Which might as well have been the Monorail.