This post, written by Tori Walker ’18, recounts her weekend experience with her host family:
This weekend, in particular, is an opportunity for all of the students on the exchange to spend individual time with their host families and do something outside of our pre-planned agenda. Personally, my host family made plans for us to spend our Sunday in Versailles, France. Waking up early isn’t part of their routine, especially on weekends, so this morning was full of rapid preparation for our drive to Versailles, since they wanted us to arrive early enough before the attractions filled with crowds.
The cars here, as you may know, are usually very small, so squeezing into their car was quite an experience this morning as we were rushing out of Neuilly. My host family had discussed with me the roads in Paris before, but I hadn’t actually driven out of the city before today. We took the circular highway to Versailles that revolves around all of Paris, containing different exits here and there for a myriad of other cities. The apartments throughout Versailles were built during Louis XIV’s reign, so none of them reached or surpassed the height of his castles. We realized the weather was much nicer than the entire previous week of wind and rain. The sun gradually peeked out behind the dreariness as we began to walk through the gardens of Louis XIV behind his golden, Roman/Greek-inspired castle. The gold-plated fountains and gates that surround the property, along with the embellishments of Louis’s face with sun rays around it represent the name he used to carry: “The King of the Sun”. His court used to pay him almost too much attention throughout his daily life, because of how much he was worshipped by his people. In fact, they used to watch him eat, sleep, and wake up each day. In his castle, his rooms, or apartments, are plastered with murals from the time period, some of which are based on various Greek myths or gods. For example, there are rooms designed for certain goddesses such as Venus and Diana. One of the most stunning rooms in the castle was the Hall of Mirrors, which was filled with reflective glass and big windows looking onto the gardens; the mirrors helped the light reflect and fill the room as it entered from the back.
Once we were done walking through the castle, we drove to a famous, nearby market where we bought fresh, organic food for our upcoming lunch. The markets are very different here than from ones we have at home. They are very loud and filled to the brim with people, and they have just about any fresh food you are looking for. My host family is very fond of French cheese, so I tried a few different kinds, some of which smelled better than others. The sellers here were all constantly yelling and publicizing their own produce as if there was a competition between each other. Meanwhile, my senses were competing between smelling the various foods, listening to the voices filling the city, and holding onto Lise’s arm so that I didn’t fall behind in the market maze. When our list was finally checked off, we returned to Neuilly to enjoy our upcoming, delicious lunch.