Say what you will about her, Marie Antoinette knew how to live the life. Just for a moment, let's forget what she did to the coffers of the French people and appreciate her taste in leisure activities and whimsical architecture. France in general begs to be written about in fairy-tale form and Marie seemed eager to create her own fairytale worlds. Nowhere is this more evident than at la Domaine de la Reine (the Queen's Domain) on the grounds of the Palace at Versailles. The Domain includes the Petit Trianon, the Temple of Love, le Petit Theatre (a tiny, decadent theater where Marie would put on her favorite plays in front of close friends) and Le Hameau de la Reine (the queen's hamlet), a home away from home for the young queen who preferred the "simple" (if comfortable and refined) life to the rigors of court.
While the Petit Trianon is a lovely retreat, the highlight of la Domaine is certainly le Hameau. Pretty much, I want to live there. Built between 1785 and 1792, it's a real life fairytale village. On the 1 to 10 Victorian Swag scale of awesome this place easily scores a 9.5. If I were to shoot a new Beauty and the Beast, this would totally be my "poor provincial town" of choice. The main house is large and rustic, perfect for cozy dinner parties and weekends "away." Thatch-roofed farm buildings surround an idyllic duck pond complete with foot bridge.
There is a water mill and even a lighthouse-inspired observatory, all of which are surrounded by flower beds, vegetable gardens, and animal pens. While Marie loved to play farm-girl, she was still a queen after-all. So it should come as no surprise that all of the farm animals reportedly received regular baths. Some of the sheep were even dyed pink to please the queen! Pink sheep; it really doesn't get any better than that.
If you are looking to do a little bit of your own research on the other aspects of the decadent life of Marie Antoinette (and her fabulous taste in clothing, food, and fairytale architecture), I recommend two things: 1. Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. While it may not be completely historically accurate, I think it captures the essence of the life - however frivolous - Marie tried to build for herself. And 2. Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette, by Sena Jeter Naslund. One of the best historical novels I have ever read, it truly describes a life of sad abundance. But it is delightful and highly recommended.
Sweet dreams, dear readers. Dream of France!