Some things just never get old…
Dressing up like 17th century French bourgeoisie and partying from dusk til dawn at the Orangerie of Versailles is definitely one of them.
Every year since our first soirée in 2013, we look forward to the night. We boast about the magic and opulence to those who’d never been before. We recruit. Every year our entourage has gotten bigger. Every year the fun has multiplied. Each year after the first, there is always a glimmer of doubt that it won’t be as good as the previous year.
Thankfully that is never the case.
This year we were 25 strong. A mix of Canadians and Americans and one token French guy and a German. Some were veterans, others were Grand-Masked-Ball-virgins. Some even came back to Paris from the U.S. just for this night.
And you’ll see why it’s worth the trip. (Don’t miss the video at the end of this post!)
Conditions were perfect this year. The temperature cooled off just enough in the middle of a week-long heat wave. We all met on the Champs de Mars for some champagne and photographs. Tourists stopped to take pictures with us. It was funny at first but it got old real quick. We just wanted to have a good time with our friends, not feel like Disney characters roaming Disneyworld.
As the clock struck 10pm, we ran through the metro and train station to get to our train where we took up most of the car. The looks on people’s faces were priceless. Funnily enough we didn’t run into anyone else… Not until we stepped off the train and walked toward the golden gates of the Château de Versailles.
We entered the palace grounds, showing our tickets and hiding our loot: bags of wine, beer and food for later in the night.
The Orangerie was magical as usual. The most elegant, original and refined ballroom anyone could ever dream of. Fantastically lit up in pink and purple. Scantily clad men and women greeting people and entertaining the crowd.
Our group set up camp along the wall where we stayed all night for the most part. Elaborate and sexy acrobatic shows lured some of us closer to the stages. Rest breaks outside around the fire were necessary. Trips to the bar for more champagne – a must.
The music kept us going. Oldies and Top 40 mixed seamlessly. Screaming and singing for hours, we risked losing our voices (oh wait, that actually happened). Jumping and dancing full of endless energy, we risked loosing our wigs and ripping our costumes (that happened too!).
At dawn, they kicked us out into the gardens where the party continued in the open-air Ballroom, called the Rocaille Grove. Surrounded by cascading waterfalls, it was used for dancing, a skill in which Louis XIV excelled.
We made our way back toward the train station, but not before waiting in front of McDonald’s, minutes away from its opening. All we wanted was breakfast but we were told only Big Macs were available. We happily chowed them down before heading back into Paris to sleep the morning away.
I won’t pretend to remember the entire night. The videos and photos the next day jogged my memory but it was still pretty fuzzy. Sore feet and a raspy voice were proof a good night was had. I suppose there are a few ways to stay up all night… a 3-hour afternoon nap, 2 Red bulls and (probably a bit too much) vodka is all it took. But having great friends to share the experience, pumping music, and never wanting the night to end is what really did the trick. I was just so happy to be there again for the third year running with our Paris family.
For us this has been the best event in Paris. Surely something we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives.
If you ever have the chance to go, it’s worth the money, the hassle, the two-day hangover (for those over 30 years old).
Besides, then you can say you’ve partied in masks and costumes where the kings of France kept their orange trees in the winter.
That’s just pretty f**king cool.