For months in my AP Euro class this year, we talked about Versailles. For those who don’t know, Versailles was a residence created by Divine Right Absolutist Louis XIV when he ruled France in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s basically a palace outside of Paris that was created to restrict the nobility’s power by making them come to him instead of the other way around. It’s gorgeous. It’s one of the many places I was lucky enough to go to this past summer on my trip to Europe with my family.
Let me start by saying this was not my best summer. My love life was all over the place, I spent hours all day doing SAT prep and summer work, and I was just overall miserable. When my family told me we were going to Europe, I was excited but apprehensive because I HATE being away from home. Nevertheless, I boarded the plane that mid-July night wanting to give this trip a chance. I loved the Netherlands and Belgium because we adventured around with my dad’s friend’s family. However, they didn’t come to France with us. My parents and I were left alone exploring all of France, a “problem” that many people would love to face. I, on the other hand, didn’t love this problem. I felt frustrated that my three years of French couldn’t help me figure out this brand new city. My parents were thrilled and loved the sense of adventure, but all I wanted to do was curl up in our tiny hotel room and cry. I blame this on my ungrateful teenage mindset. All I wanted was to go home and pet my best friend’s dog, hang out with the guy I was flirting with, sleep in my own bed, catch up on Netflix-basically just resume my regular teenage activity. I just wanted home! I didn’t bother to read up on the history of any of the places we visited. We only really learned vocabulary and grammar in French class, so the history of these landmarks was pretty hazy to me. I dragged myself through all the museums, taking all the artsy pictures I could, occasionally stopping to read about the painting I was looking at. I was in the historic Louvre, and all I wanted to do was go home! Now, looking back, I’m so ashamed.
Nothing made me regret this more than Versailles, though. We talk about it almost every day in class. The way my teacher describes it, Versailles is magical, but all I got from my visit there was waiting in line for two hours in uncomfortable shoes and being so ready to go to the airport the next day. UGH!! I took a bunch of pictures, but I retained nothing from my visit, and it’s all my fault. If I knew I was going there this upcoming summer, I would look forward to it every single day. I literally got to sit down in the same halls that Marie Antoinette pranced around in as she bankrupted all of France. I got to see the bed that the powerful Louis XIV slept in. I got to see the beautiful fountains and statues that the nobility gaped at. But did I know what I was looking at? Nope. I was too busy daydreaming about who knows what. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate how mad I am at myself for missing the excitement of such a wonderful opportunity, but I can articulate how to fix this in the future.
Before you go somewhere, do your research! You don’t need to take a class on the history of Europe to do this. A week before your trip, get a blanket and some popcorn and sit down in front of your laptop. Research the sights you know you’re going to visit. Who created it? Why was it created? Did its creation cause any tension? Who has lived in it, or in the area? There are so many things to learn, and all that knowledge is just a few clicks away. Encourage your family to do it too and play trivia games on the plane ride there to kill time. Once you get to the place, whether it’s a city, island, monument, museum, etc, you will be so excited. It’s almost like living as a character back whenever the site was created. Don’t focus on taking all the artsy pictures you can. Take a few and then spend the rest of the time taking in all the beauty. Unless you’re extremely lucky, this may be the only time you ever visit this place. Make the most of it and do your research. Don’t think about your stressful job or your dreamy boyfriend back home. They’ll be there when you come back. Instead, be in the present! You are beyond lucky to be here. Enjoy it!