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Versailles

Known (for good reason) as the Sun King, this French monarch devoted 50 years to remaking his father's hunting lodge into a royal residence so fabulous, its very name betokens luxury living. Here, he typically hosted some 3,000 courtiers and their retinues at a time. Given the constant entertainment and lavish banquets, few turned down the chance to join the glittering throng -- to gossip, dance, plot, and flirt away while the peasants on their estates sowed the seeds of the Revolution. It all caught up with later monarchs Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were eating cake at Versailles on October 6, 1789, when they learned that citizen mobs were converging on the palace. Versailles became a museum under Louis-Philippe (1830-48) and has remained so ever since.

When the 1999 storm hit, hurricane-force winds peeled layers of lead from the roof and blasted out thousands of windowpanes-but those were quickly repaired before the rain could get at the priceless interiors. Today, visitors can tour the State Apartments, loaded with ornate furniture, paintings, tapestries, vases, chandeliers, and sculpture. The most dazzling room -- a long arcade called the Hall of Mirrors, with windows along one wall and 357 beveled mirrors along the other -- is where the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending World War I, was signed in 1919.

The gardens, though -- that's another story. The Gardens of Versailles were the ultimate in French formal garden design, with geometrical flower beds, terraces, pools, topiary, statuary, lakes, and some 50 fountains. An estimated 10,000 beeches, cedars, junipers, and firs were flattened in the storms, 90% of them over 200 years old. Among the trees lost were a Corsican pine tree planted by Napoleon and a tulip tree from Virginia given to Marie Antoinette. Although new seedlings were planted, it will take years -- centuries -- before those leafy avenues look the way they did.
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Jeff Koons Versailles
Jeff Koons Versailles
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Versailles
Versailles
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Balloon Dog
Balloon Dog
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Michael Jackson & Bubbles
Michael Jackson & Bubbles
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons
Pink Panther
Pink Panther
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Pink Panther II
Vacuum Cleaner in Versallies?
Vacuum Cleaner in Versallies?
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