Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
A Special Philanthropic Trip and Tribute
A trip to Paris is always memorable. But ultra-memorable is the chance for visitors to hobnob with the First Lady of France, the head of the French royal dynasty, and the American Ambassador. Add to that strolling through the historic rooms of the Palace of Versailles for a formal black-tie dinner that concludes with spectacular fireworks over the palace gardens and it’s truly a luxury experience.
These special events can be part of tours arranged to help raise funds for preservation projects. In addition to paying their travel costs, attendees contribute toward projects supporting worthy institutions. Extra funds for the projects add a little to the price of the trip, but some of the experiences are priceless.
Private Time at the Palace:
A trip to Paris in June this year was the ultimate effort of the American Friends of Versailles (AFV) to support restoration of the deteriorating ceiling of the Queen’s Guards Room in Marie Antoinette’s suite of apartments in the palace, and the four day extravaganza of events opened in that very room when the President of Versailles greeted the group and showed off the 17th century picture of Jupiter Triumphant, now gloriously restored.
With the palace closed to the public on Monday, the AFV group enjoyed private tours of palace suites, preview of an exhibit of 17th-century paintings in the Trianon, and a chance to tour the Hameau, the fancy “farm yard” enclosure where Marie Antoinette dressed as a shepherdess to escape court intrigue. Luncheon was served at Ore, Alain Ducasse’s newly opened restaurant in the palace.
Luncheon with the Royal Family:
The next day’s luncheon was also extraordinary. HRH Prince Charles de Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro and his wife HRH Princess Camilla entertained the group at their elegant apartment on the Seine overlooking the Eiffel Tower. The sumptuous buffet was truly fit for a king and the mingling Prince and Princess and their daughters were gracious hosts.
Welcomed by Dignitaries:
Brigitte Macron, the First Lady of France, was another memorable host. We were in the midst of a private tour of the Elysee Palace, France’s equivalent of America’s “White House,” when the First Lady appeared and proceeded to lead us through the private offices and led us “backstairs” to see samples of the porcelains and silver used for State dinners.
Down the street, at the official American residence, America’s new Ambassador Jamie McCourt welcomed us to a garden reception.
Other events included private tours of unusual museums, a visit to the French Senate in Marie de Medici’s Luxembourg Palace, a dinner reception in the extraordinary hotel particulier of renowned decorator Juan Pablo Molyneux, luncheon with AFV Board member Natalie, Comtesse Serge de la Bedoyerein her classic apartment just steps from the Champs Elysees, a starlit formal dinner cruise of the Seine, an opportunity to see how Francois Pinault has transformed a 16th-century hospital into modern quarters for Balenciaga and other brands of Kering S.A.
A Private Gala in the Palace
And on top of all that, there was the gala dinner in the palace itself. Wearing elegant gowns we sipped champagne in the Hall of Mirrors before dignitaries and guests joined us for a lavish dinner served in the vestibule to the Royal Chapel. Capping the evening we descended to the garden terrace where spectacular fireworks, all white as known to King Louis, burst and exploded lighting up the sky.
© October 2018 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.