No. 7925934. Sgt. Greenwood.
British Army Exhibition
British Army Staff
Jessie Mine: I have not been quite so idle today… in spite of the heat. I spent the usual hour or so at the exhibition, and somehow the morning passed very quickly. I had made up my mind to go to Versailles… another of those heat-defying excursions – and so had an early lunch and caught the 1.15 pm from the Invalides station:- Half an hour’s run and I was there, looking for the famous palace. I soon found it – and entered the palace itself.
I cannot attempt to describe the place in detail, Jess – and besides it would bore you. Briefly, I found a huge three storeyed building… its architecture obviously that of a “period”. The first floor consists of miles of enormous rooms full of paintings, mostly battle scenes or battle ‘heroes’. This floor also includes a complete opera house, and a chapel. The second floor is again a mass of enormous empty rooms, the walls hung with paintings and tapestries. Some of these are as large as the side of our house. The ceilings too are ponderously ornate, and again full of paintings: I believe they are very marvellous, and regarded as works of art. On this second floor is the celebrated hall of mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was drawn up. It is a long wide room, with hundreds of mirrors along one side, and windows overlooking the main gardens on the other side. I don’t know its dimensions, but I suppose it is roughly the size of a couple of tennis courts laid end-on. Again, on the second floor, there is a glass roofed hall… about twice as long as the hall of mirrors. It is empty, apart from dozens of huge oil paintings, again depicting battle scenes from French history.
God knows what lies on the third floor. I hadn’t time to have a look: it had taken me over an hour just walking around the first two floors. I went into the gardens at the rear – but couldn’t possibly see the lot. For one thing, they are too extensive – and the sun was blazing, literally sizzling. They are very ‘formal’ and ornamental in the Elizabethan style. There are also numerous fountains in the place, but only about two were working.
Looking back at the rear of the palace from the gardens, it is possible to get a rough idea of its size… and it really is immense. The facade is about two thousand feet long, with a large central block, and two long side wings. I heard one of the guides telling some Yanks that it cost £56 millions – two hundred and something million dollars. That’s a tidy sum of money – even for the crazy monarchs of the 17th century. Personally, I wouldn’t live in the place rent free. It is altogether too vast and intricate to really see it. No doubt students of art and history and ancient architecture would find much of interest in every room of the palace… but it would take years to really know something about it. The paintings alone, both on canvas and ceilings, must cover dozens of acres. I am glad I have been to Versailles, Jess – if only to get a rough idea of the appearance of such a historic place, but in spite of my three or four hours there, I cannot claim to have really seen it.
By the time I caught the train back to Paris, I was literally soaking with perspiration and fagged out. The heat and the walk in the gardens almost put me out. But I made a quick recovery. Back in the hotel I had a meal and six cups of tea – and a wash – and a shave – and a ten minute lie down with a ciggy… And then I was out again…to attend a theatre show for which I had been lucky enough to get a ticket yesterday. It was a revue called… God! what was it called? “Here’s the Navy” I think it was. It is a show given by members of the Canadian Navy and has come to Paris for a week from the London Hippodrome. Everyone has been raving about it… that’s why I got a ticket. It was a good show:- a typical revue or vaudeville, with the usual dancing and singing and specialist items. I quite enjoyed it, altho I expected something much more humorous.
It was quite late when I got back from the theatre. That’s why this letter is so hurriedly written: it is long past my bed-time. Please forgive the hurry darling. But I must get some sleep. I am on duty most of tomorrow, but will be writing again in the evening.
Good night, my sweetheart
Always – I love you