Over the Christmas holidays, my family and I spent a few days in Canberra; we had arranged to visit the Versailles Exhibition. Some months previously, I had been watching Season 1 of the series Versailles and have been thoroughly enjoying it, so I jumped at the opportunity to catch a first-hand glimpse of what life was like within the palace walls (who knows how long it will be until I get to see the place in its entirety?)
The opulence struck me immediately, which I suppose was always its original intent. A bust and various portraits of King Louis were just some examples of his self-indulgence (after all he did call himself the ‘sun king’). Despite the fact that on a personal level, the style of that period is not to my liking, I did not fail to appreciate the craftsmanship and level of detail that were involved in the objects on display.
There are numerous paintings, including family portraits and pictures depicting scenes of the exterior of the palace throughout its various stages. There are also various items of furniture, as well as tapestries and rugs – some of which had never been used. The exhibition does not neglect the palace grounds, for on display are various sculptures and water features, including sculptures once belonging in the children’s garden depicting animals from Aesop’s fables.
I spent the longest amount of time in the last room of the display; the room showing items that once belonged to Marie Antoinette. I had learnt back in High School about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution, read A Tale of Two Cities (and I always, always, always cry at the end of the movie with Dirk Bogarde) and could understand why the people rebelled. However, it was not until I had seen all these items first hand (which are only just a small amount of items coming from the palace of Versailles) that I understood it better. I don’t blame the people for having a revolution, yet at the same time seeing that the king and queen were living in some kind of bubble. It was a situation that could hardly be sustainable.
Have you visited the Versailles exhibition? Have you visited the palace itself? What did you think? Have you had a better understanding on a certain period in history once you have seen some of it yourself? What did you do over the Christmas holidays?
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Header image courtesy Ticketek, other images by Debbie Johansson.
Recently, I visited Parramatta, a suburb of inner western Sydney. I grew up around the area, and frequented the shops, movie theatres and other venues of interest here during my teens and early twenties. It is this area of Sydney where some of my stories are located.
The local aboriginals named it ‘the place where the eels lie down’, due to the large number of eels that frequented the river. Parramatta was founded in 1788 (the same year as Sydney) and is the oldest inland European settlement in Australia. Parramatta River became useful for farming and was a popular form of transporting goods into Sydney. Parramatta is now a major business district.
These are just three of the historic buildings in the area that I visited:
- Experiment Farm Cottage: This home is the site of the first land grant made in Australia in 1789 (30 acres). Former convict James Ruse successfully farmed the site, which became an experiment in self-sufficiency. Surgeon John Harris later bought the land, and the house that stands there today contains the largest collection of early colonial furniture in the country.
- Elizabeth Farm: John Macarthur was a lieutenant and was granted 100 acres from the acting governor. Together with his wife, Elizabeth, they became pioneers of the wool industry (although his wife’s contribution is rarely credited). Today, the house is a hands-on museum, complete with a re-created 1830s garden.
- Old Government House: Once the country residence of early governors, including Governor and Mrs Macquarie, Old Government House is Australia’s oldest surviving public building. The appearance of the house today owes much to Governor and Mrs Macquarie, where visitors can capture the period of the 1820s.
Here I some of the photos I took on the day.
Do you enjoy visiting historic houses? Does your home town have a rich history? If you’re a writer, do you use your home town as a setting?
Images by Debbie Johansson.
The country town of Bathurst, about 200 kilometres (124 miles) west of Sydney is best known for its annual car racing, yet tucked away on the outskirts of town visitors can discover a little piece of history.
William Stewart arrived in Australia in 1825 and became Lieutenant Governor General of New South Wales. He was granted land in Bathurst in order to help colonise the region; his land extended as far as where the town is currently located, including Mount Panorama itself, about 6 kilometres (3 miles) away. Abercrombie House was built in the 1870s by his eldest son, yet after World War I it fell into decline. It became the home of the current owners during the late 1960s and since then they have spent many years restoring the house, grounds and outbuildings, and is now heritage listed.
Today the house would be best described as a mansion, containing at least a dozen bedrooms, a turret and a ballroom. For some months now I have had an idea for a new novel and I think I may well have found the perfect setting with Abercrombie House.
Here is a glimpse of the photos I took inside the house and around the grounds of Abercrombie House.
I have something special coming up, so I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks and will return on the first week in April. Consider yourselves warned! 😉
Do you visit historic houses? Are you one to enjoy undertaking a big project – like house renovation? Have you made a lucky discovery recently?
Images by Debbie Johansson.