I will fully admit, I think I lead a pretty charmed life. Evidence for this can be found in the fact that I am surrounded by amazingly talented and fun people who regularly break out of their average, humdrum existences to do amazingly fabulous things and go to amazingly fabulous places. And for some reason, they like me enough that I get to come along.
We first heard about the Fête Galantes at Versailles right after the first ball was held in May 2015. This caused a general freaking out amongst us as we simultaneously wanted to know how we missed the memo and whether or not there would be another ball at some point. Vowing to purchase tickets as soon as they were announced, we committed to the idea that we would be at that ball at Versailles come hell or high water (turns out there was a bit of high water in the end, too).
To break the tension, I made everyone watch this. It resulted in all of us referring to “tha hall of MIR-RORS!” all night.
It was raining. None of us had umbrellas. We had to run 1/4 mile from the gate to the entrance, because HOLY CRAP, DID YOU REALIZE HOW BIG VERSAILLES IS??? The scale of that place is incredible. Anyway, we arrived slightly damp, out of breath, and totally effing psyched at the foot of the grand staircase where costumed musicians belted out Baroque melodies. The place was packed with people, we made a few new acquaintances, and caught up with some friends we knew online, but there had to have been several hundred people there. But the amazing thing about Versailles is that it was built to accommodate many times more than that, so several hundred people felt like a light crowd.
Our tickets allowed us unlimited champagne and hors d’oeuvres which we obviously took advantage of before splitting off for a tour (my tour was meh, so I’m going to skip detailing it — the other tour was of Madame de Pompadour’s rooms and sounded way cooler). Rendezvousing back in the champagne room, where more champagne was had, we were then ushered into the next room, which turned out to be the Chapel Royale. There we were treated to an amazing Baroque music concert on the organ with two black-clad mezzos singing accompaniment. The Chapel was so acoustically perfect, the singers could be heard, unmiked, over the organ. I think that’s when it dawned on all of us that we were really there. Everyone wept. It was incredible.
Then it was on to the Hall of Mirrors to finish out the evening. This was really the only point where I felt crowded, but it was still fairly easy to move about. We found a quiet spot at the far end and amused ourselves with selfies and Vogueing and general shenaniganry much to the chagrin of the museum staff. Finally, the fireworks display over the fountains ended the evening and we left, tired, sore, and tipsy — as was only proper.
People have asked me several times since then to describe what it was like being at a ball at Versailles. I’ve thought a lot about it, and really, in many ways it felt no different than any other time I’ve been hanging out with my friends, drinking champagne and wearing a silly costume. But there would be these moments where I’d sort of wake up to my surroundings and realize, “HOLY SHIT I’M AT VERSAILLES.”
I’d love to be able to go back next year, though who knows if it will happen. However, I urge everyone to save their money and make the trip — it’s an incredible experience and you won’t regret it.
Thomas made a nice little highlight reel that shows some of the singers in the chapel. Definitely give it a watch:
Photos by the rest of the gang: