Versailles and the Tale of Two Love Stories / by Hannah Harley

3V2A5561EDITEDYesterday, I was fortunate enough to return to Versailles. As I've hinted in past blog posts, Versailles was a completely life changing experience when I first visited. Let's rewind to January 2011. It was our second day in Paris, and my sister had it all planned out for us to visit Versailles. I was not handling the jet lag well, and I had fallen asleep in 7 different places our first day. I fell asleep on the train to Versailles and sleepily walked to the estate. But once we reached the grand palace, I was given new energy, and I started photographing every inch of that building.

I photographed the art, the sculptures, the ceilings, the mirrors. Each time my camera showed me the image I had just taken, I was shocked that I had taken it. It was such a stunning place that the photos continued to wow me. I remember my sister shaking her head and laughing at my enthusiasm in the first few rooms and saying, "This isn't even the best part."

She was right (as per usual). When we reached the Hall of Mirrors, I was completely overwhelmed. I continued photographing, loving each image more and more. My sister snapped this photo of me while I was standing in the Hall of Mirrors. I was so consumed with the beauty of the place that it wasn't until a couple months after our return that I even knew this photo was taken.

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I've now returned to Versailles. I'm quite thrilled to have returned to where it all started for me. Versailles gave me the courage to pursue photography, which in turn caused me to select the university I did. I made some pretty "grown up" decisions based on my experience in Versailles.

When my sister and I went, it wasn't crowded. Tourists slow down during the winter months, so I didn't have to worry about the large crowds. This time around though, the crowds were thick, almost suffocating. I hurriedly escaped some rooms because large groups of people pushing into me isn't exactly how I wanted to take in Versailles.

So I might've gone through the palace a little quickly in an attempt to spend as much time as possible in the magnificent and extensive gardens.

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The grounds at Versailles were absolutely breath taking. Since I had only ever been here in the winter, I was so taken with the beautiful blossoms and glistening statues.

 

3V2A5469EDITEDAlso, they had modern installation art on the grounds. I'm normally a big fan of modern art, but there wasn't much information concerning why the art was there (or even anything about the artist or the project). I love a good artist statement, and it just bothered me that there wasn't any information about why large sheets of metal and rocks were chilling on the walkways of the garden.

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I went with a group, but in the madness of the palace, I ended up separated, wandering the gardens in pleasant solitude. My friend, who I ended up just seeing there, met up with me, and I had the pleasure of joining her and her boyfriend in a walk (and mini photo session). We spent most of the afternoon in each others' company, and I was so content.

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I'm not a huge believer in "soulmates". I've seen lots of people my age compromise their hopes and dreams for love, and it's so disappointing to see the regret. In high school, many couples chose their school based on their significant other's choice. Seeing couple after couple break up, it's not always easy to find the couple that doesn't sacrifice everything for their love.

Tim and Anastasia are one of those couples.

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From everything Anastasia's told me, Tim is one of the most supportive, loving people. She explained him to me before I met him, so I pieced together what I could. She had hearts over her eyes, but the cynic in me had a hard time believing it all.

While he seems like a good gentleman, what's so impressive about them is that they fit so well together. Granted, I just spent an afternoon with them, so it's hardly a detailed analysis into their relationship. But they have inside jokes, this way of looking at each other, these habits dedicated to one another.

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3V2A6044EDITED(They're also one of the goofier and more sarcastic couples I've met. Absolutely fantastic.) 3V2A5850EDITED

It was a surreal experience for me because I got to do what felt like a photo session at VERSAILLES. I got to photograph people at VERSAILLES. How absolutely incredible is that! I am still blown away that these are images from my Saturday. What an unreal experience.

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Also - anyone that can make you laugh to the point where you're crouched on the ground... Perhaps you should keep them around, but ehhh only maybe :)

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Is this real life? It still feels like a delightful dream.