Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Field Trip: Finding Awe

“The grass was still wet with dew when they emerged from the Petit Trianon. Dawn was Antoine’s favorite time of day and the sprawling grounds of Versailles did it justice. The dim light veiled the garden’s colors, but Antoine could already smell the flowers flitting in the air along with the gurgle of distant fountains. Yellow. Pink. Peach. Everything was still so new, he thought. It was easier to be happy.”*


This is from another scene in Before Ever After. It takes place at the Palace of Versailles just outside Paris. The name Versailles is said to have come from the Latin word versare which means to “to turn over and over.” In medieval times, this term was used to refer to plowed lands that needed to be “turned over” in preparation for the next planting season.


In 1788, there was a proposal to change the palace’s name to Berceau-de-la-Liberté (Cradle of Liberty). I’m glad they didn’t. Versailles, I believe, does exactly what its name suggests: It turns you over and reveals something new.


I first visited the palace with my family when I was sixteen. Back then, like most sixteen year olds, it took a lot to impress me. A passing glance and disinterested mumble were the most I would bestow upon anything that wasn’t on MTV (Yes, young readers, the myths are true. MTV has been around for a while and it was actually a channel for – wait for it – music videos * gasp * and not Jersey Shore.) Versailles, however, was the exception. It taught me the meaning of awe – which I later learned was a rather tricky thing. Awe was addicting.


Feeding my addiction led me to my second visit to Versailles. I was in my early twenties then with a backpack filled with dirty clothes, a guidebook, and a crumpled Eurail pass. I went back hoping to recapture the way I felt the first time I wandered through Versailles’ sprawling grounds. Instead, something very different struck me. I felt small. Lost. I was twenty-two with a stale baguette in my bag that was going to serve as two of the day’s three meals. I was twenty-two and I had no idea where I wanted to go. Versailles had turned me over again.


The third time I visited Versailles was on my honeymoon. I remember sitting on the grass eating crackers and cheese that looked better than it tasted. I also remember no longer feeling lost or overly impressed – at least not by the palace. I was older and found awe in smaller things: the ring on my finger, two toothbrushes in the sink, a hand to hold for the rest of my life.


I’m in my late thirties now and I’m still addicted to awe. Fortunately, it’s gotten easier to find. It giggles and laughs and runs around my home on two pairs of little feet.


Still, Versailles will forever be close to my heart. I discovered awe there and I hope you will find some there too. Let’s go! Leave your things on the bus and follow the red umbrella!


*Copyright © 2011 by Samantha Sotto-Yambao

21 comments:

MuMuGB said...

Thanks for this post. I studied in Versailles for a while and your words brought back some memories. Am very impressed by your knowledge...

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Thanks, MuMuGB! Versailles remains a magical place to me. I'm glad you enjoyed today's field trip! :)

Catherine Stine said...

Lovely post!
I've found my bliss in faraway places like Russia and India--traveling with family to keep me grounded.

locke said...

I pronounce Versailles this way: Ver.sigh!

Janel said...

I have never been there, but I have to say the pictures are awe-inspiring. That's the kind of place that you could work at and still never get enough of.

EQ said...

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.
-- Helen Keller

C.M. Villani said...

Awww. I'm officially jealous, Sam. I've been to England, Ireland, and Italy, but I have yet to make it to France.

The romance of the french countryside has always called for me. Hopefully someday my husband and I will make it there.

Scrollwork said...

Awww!

And I didn't know you were ever unsure of life. You were always the girl with the Midas touch to me!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Catherine -Thanks! Russia and India! Wow! Hope to visit those places one day with my family too.

Locke - Haha! Perfect!!

Janel - I agree! There are so many little secret nooks to explore!

EQ - Indeed :)

C.M. - I can't send you a ticket to France, but I hope our little Friday Field Trips will keep you entertained until you go on your dream trip! :)

Scrollwork - Haha! The angsty twenties...I remember them well. :)

ocmominmanila.com said...

Oh to go to Europe... we've never been. But with your post, I feel like I need to go next week. I can't wait to be awed.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

OCMom - Shall I book our next joint vacation? :)

kellyhashway said...

Okay, I'm officially jealous! I've been to the Caribbean quite a bit and for that I'm very grateful. I was in awe a lot there! Now that I have a little one at home, I'm awed on a daily basis like you.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Kelly - awesome little ones trump old palaces any day of the week :)

Jennifer Walkup said...

What a lovely post. The snip from your book is gorgeous. I can't wait to read it! Also, your tale of not only your trip but finding awe in your marriage and children was beautiful.:)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Awwww...thanks, Jenn!!! :)

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Fun! So jealous of your travels, and excited to read your book in August!!

Speaking of books, you won the pre-order of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY over at Operation Awesome! Congratulations! Send me your shipping info when you get a chance. :)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

*Does the Snoopy Dance* Wow! Thanks, Katrina! So excited to read the novel! It sounds awesome! :)

Cathy Kozak said...

What a telling line - "it was easier to be happy"! This snapshot has be wanting more. How many more sleeps until we get there?

http://cathykozak.com

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Cathy - Haha! Too many! :)

Deborah Lawrenson said...

I've just found your blog on the SheWrites blog intro ball today, but I thought I'd post my hello here as I'm semi-based in France.

All the best when your book comes out - I remember that feeling with my first book, counting the weeks and months until launch day... Enjoy it!!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Hi Deborah! Thanks for stopping by. (I'm jealous that you're semi-based in France!) Thank you for the best wishes on the book! :)