Bonjour from Paris,
Why do people want to visit places like the Château de Versailles? A recent survey of a sample of the forty million annual visitors helps to answer this question.
4% of respondents say they are concerned about the human condition, hoping that witnessing such excesses helps to stave off repeats. 10% say they would love to live like this themselves, if only providence had smiled more benevolently upon them. 23% say “Dunno, everybody says go to Paris, so I may as well see the sights and ‘do’ the palace”. 7% want to appreciate the great works of art. 9% say they want to walk through the gardens. 24% say “So, this is how the western world came to dominate the world, eh?” (lots of curious Asians in the throng today). 5% say “Mum and Dad said we’re going here so you’re coming, too”. (Quite a few of these would pronounce this as “Mom”.) 14% say “40 million people can’t be wrong”. Does that add to a hundred? It doesn’t matter if it does or it doesn’t.
Viva la revolution!
The grotesque opulence which attended the Bourbons is worth seeing, no matter what one’s motivation. The depth of the decadence is hard to take if you care an iota for humanity. Linda calls it a “vulgar display of wealth”. But, thanks to the ignorance and depravity of the Bourbons, the French now have a republic and a much fairer deal. The gazettal of the palace as a museum open for public view indicates a desire to keep the republic strong. Long live the revolution!
bread and circuses
Of course, even the French have a capacity to forget history. Even here, the disparity between rich and poor can again reach untenable extremes. The modern iteration is in the corporate world rather than with unelected royalty. The extremes there are almost as excessive and iniquitous. Will these rich robber barons of the corporate dynasties understand their history and curb their excesses sufficiently to stave off peasant revolts? Will they see it coming? Or will they keep us happy with bread and circuses long enough to enjoy their own modern decadence? Time will tell on these questions.
The modern corporate opulence has manifestations here at the Château de Versailles and in other parts of Paris. Magnificent old buildings are being renovated here and there with corporate money (complete, of course, with prominent signage to proclaim the company’s largesse – sponsorship they euphemistically call this). Some of these are public buildings. 40 million multiplied by the entry fee is apparently not enough for the ongoing maintenance of Versailles. Still, these good guys from the corporate world are helping to keep our entry costs down, aren’t they? It makes you want to bow down and thank them.
You could ask the same question about any tourist attraction. Dear readers feel free to leave a comment with your own numbers, especially if you’ve ventured to this humble village yourself.
Au revoir from Paris