Virginia Woolf famously wrote that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I completely agree. Ms. Woolf could not have been more correct – except if she had written “A woman must have a room of her own if she is to remain sane while studying abroad in France.” That might have been more accurate.
As you can probably tell, I was desperate to get away this weekend: desperate to get out of the city, away from the noise, and into the quiet suburbs that could offer me to peace and solitude that I needed. So I did what every good American girl does, and ran to her aunt’s house in Versailles. I could not have made a better choice. I arrived at Chaville-Velizy Saturday afternoon, equipped with everything I needed for a peaceful weekend away: books, my computer, movies, comfy yoga pants, and my slippers. I spent the afternoon cuddled in front of the television, nibbling on snacks, and surfing the internet mindlessly in an effort to escape the tenacious mental grip of academic life at Sciences Po. It was heavenly. Saturday night I helped myself to delicious home-cooked food, and sampled the cheese plate that my aunt keeps neatly stored in the refrigerator, and was served tea and financiers (delicious almond cakes) in my little guest bedroom where I was letting myself get lost in cyberspace.
Perfection. Virginia Woolf knew what she was talking about. Just to have a small space all to myself for 24 hours was divine. The sunlight shone through the window onto the clothes that I had let scatter about the floor, and onto my bed where I sat letting myself just be. I hadn’t been alone – in complete and total solitude – with my thoughts in so long, and the peace and tranquility that it brought was blissful. I will never again take my room for granted.
And then there was Versailles.
On Sunday three of my friends made the trip to Versailles to meet me, and we had the most wonderful day exploring the gardens of the chateau and taking an obnoxious amount of photos. We are not sure whether facebook will be able to handle the sheer amount of photos that we’ve uploaded in the past day. It was so beautiful – the sun was shining, there was the most gentle breeze blowing, and it was warm enough but not hot. We made our way to the Grand Trianon, and the Canal, and then to Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s personal playground, which consisted of cottages and ponds that glorified peasant life to the utmost degree. I have never felt so happy and at peace as I did yesterday, rambling around this beautiful park with three of the most amazing friends I have ever had. I don’t think I stopped laughing or smiling, and it made me forget about all of the troubles that have been plaguing me here in Paris. I truly escaped for the weekend, and let myself get lost in the past world of kings and queens for a day in order to gather my strength for another trying week at Sciences Po (expose, reading, interrogation…more reading…).
If heaven had a synonym, I think it would be solitude. I was skyping with a friend Saturday night who said something interesting: there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. He is completely right (perhaps why he’s at Harvard): you can be in a city surrounded by a million people, or in a cafeteria surrounded by a hundred students, or in your apartment with y0ur cohabitants, and still feel completely alone. On the contrary, you can be completely alone, away from everyone, and feel so full of life and so happy to just be enjoying yourself – by yourself – for once. I find that these moments of pure solitude are when I feel the least lonely, and often the most fulfilled. It is the time to reflect, process, and engage your mind while preparing yourself for what’s to come. And it doesn’t hurt to be ten minutes away from one of the world’s most impressive palaces, either.
I won’t waste more blogspace describing Versailles – later post to come about the touristic aspect of this adventure.
I leave you with this: