Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online

What a monstrous place. If you want to know why the French had a revolution, go to the Palace of Versailles.

Of course, it is wonderful. The hall of mirrors alone must be the world’s most spectacular room. It used to be known as the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending the First World War. It is now the place where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were refused permission to get married last month – but held a pre-nuptial bash for a few friends at a rumoured cost of £400,000.

The vast palace – 2,300 rooms – was according to my 50-year-old recollections, tatty on the outside, but the main building now dazzles with restored gold leaf, part of an immense programme which has cost an estimated €2bn.

Recently, I visited as a tourist for the first time in many years. Since one of my companions was even older than me, we hired a golf buggy and toured the gardens – 2,000 acres, three times as big as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens – in regal style. Turning a corner, we came across a group of 20 teenagers sprawled on the gravel. Every one of them was staring at a mobile phone: a 21st-century incursion into a 17th-18th century world. Were they, I wondered, using the palace “app” to study Versailles’ history? Or checking what Kardashian was up to?