Being a videographer and photographer, I’ve been fortunate to see amazing things all over the world. You learn to seek out these locations and experiences like a visual drug, and while it increases your tolerance for beauty, it doesn’t diminish your appreciation of it.
However, becoming a “Beauty Junkie” elevates your scale for impressiveness and it becomes more challenging to see something that’ll knock you into next week. But occasionally it does happen: Those moments when your eye cannot believe what it’s seeing and triggers the drawbridge of your jaw to drop involuntarily.
These are moments when I heard myself gasp. Photographs of them would not do the moment justice. They have to be experienced in real time, in first person.
The Hall of Mirrors
Palace of Versailles, Versailles France
The grandeur and opulence of Imperial France under King Louis XIV was on a scale you have to see to believe. Beverly Hills and Hollywood wealth is a joke compared to the Palace of Versailles.
Experiencing it, you’ll get why the French Revolution happened a few Kings later under Louis XVI. Keep in mind that that The Louvre was once where the King of France lived but that wasn’t good enough so the Palace of Versailles was built.
I’ve been in upscale country clubs, resorts, hotels and some posh mansions but there’s only one Hall of Mirrors. You’ll be guillotined with gold, bronze, crystal, marble and mirrors. I’m sure the floor has seen it’s share of drool outclassing even Frat House parties and via “sober drool” on top of that.
There’s also a lot of history in that room. The Sun–King Louis XIV would walk daily from his apartment to the Palace Chapel through the Hall of Mirrors. The Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, was signed right in that very room. Numerous Heads of State and Embassies met there, marriages consecrated, and real Royal Balls of Cinderella fantasies were held there.
One time during a visit to France, I arranged to meet a friend at the train station Gare Montparnasse as he was visiting his parents outside Bordeaux. I gave him my tour of Paris and had to take him to the Palace of Versailles.
We hopped on a train at Gare Saint–Lazare en route to Versailles. I remember his first words once we entered the Hall of Mirrors: “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
So if you’re ever in Paris, take the 20–30 minute train ride to Versailles and get your gasp (or drool) on. Get there early (there’s always a line of sometimes an hour wait or longer) and plan on being there the entire day to take in the main Palace and the even larger manicured grounds.
Your eyes will do a double take that rooms like this actually exist for real on this planet and not just via computer graphics in movies like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.
As a tip, for optimal photography inside the Palace of Versailles, kneel down and take your photos. It’s always crowded and there’s mirrors everywhere so crouching down and taking your photos from a lower angle cuts out the reflection of tourists—a photographic guillotine without the mess.
Pharaonic Statue Room
I was walking around doing photography in Turin (Torino), which is a beautiful old European city with cobblestone streets, idyllic rolling hills and a plethora of storefronts with way overpriced women’s Italian designer leather boots.
This northern Italian city is where the famous Shroud of Turin is located but that’s not something you can just buy a ticket and popcorn for. The Royal family has it in their possession and only takes it out for display every so often and there’s a waiting list years in advance for that once in a blue moon occasion.
Since I was going to take a train back to where I was staying with a friend later that evening, I decided to take in the Egyptian Museum since I’ve always been fascinated by that ancient civilization. I’ve been to plenty of museums with Egyptian artifacts before including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. But I’d heard the Museo Egizio had one of the most extensive collections outside of Cairo.
I went through the entire museum taking several hundred pictures communing with the past. Artifacts, artwork and mummies, the stuff of Indiana Jones’ wet dreams, more so than I’ve ever seen (over 30,000 in the collection).
The museum also has the oldest known copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead on the planet. But then you go into the final part of the museum, the final room. And that’s when your eyes REALLY get transported back to Egypt.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing—it was my Howard Carter moment (the archaeologist and Egyptologist who discovered King Tut’s tomb).
I walked through the doorway into a room the size of a supermarket and gazed upon those “wonderful things”: rows and rows of massive Egyptian statues; statues bigger than I’ve ever seen before—some over 20 feet tall; statues in better condition than I thought possible after several thousand years with the intricately ornate paint scheme still visible.
It was like seeing an afterimage where I could extrapolate just how incredibly awe inspiring these statues once were, and the extravagance and grandeur it must have burned into the eyes of the Egyptians who worshipped them. Art can encapsulate and preserve the Sacred even if those Gods and Goddesses are less popular now than Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian.
And wow, seeing that was seeing the Aura of ancient Egypt still thriving and preserved in time for anyone who hasn’t become culturally comfortably numb to their innate sense of wonder by the superficialities and “cosmetic” concerns of modern industrial technological societies.
The European Alps From The Air
This was flat out the loudest most involuntary reflex gasp I ever made. It was like nature hit a kneecap somewhere in the heart of my being and I heard myself making a sound and remember feeling it escape from my mouth.
I felt my jaw drop. In some way it was as if the consciousness of the Alps interacted with me somewhere over 30,000 feet. It was like seeing a gargantuan ice castle piercing the clouds in a subtle reserved display of it’s awesome power.
It was on a flight into Geneva, Switzerland and the Captain got on the intercom and gave us an early heads up on the right side of the aircraft. We flew over a high ridge temporarily obscuring our view, then once the flyover was complete, the Swiss side of the Alps was revealed beaming reflected sunlight off snow and ice like a majestic mountain lighthouse.
I was sitting on that side of the aircraft but stood up and moved to an empty row to get a better view. A few seconds later, I took a picture still dazed in the moment, still stunned by retinal overload. The sight actually interfered with my ninja photographer reflexes and my body’s normally quick neural connections.
When you approach the European Alps, the telltale sign you’re getting nearer is the crystal clear translucent blue water runoff from the ice–capped mountains stains the rivers with it’s unchallenged purity. And you know the Ice Queens are nearby.
There are places on the planet right out of Lord of the Rings and the European Alps are one of them. Even Superman would probably want a vacation home there as it’s a Fortress of Solitude par excellence.
In the era of the attention span challenged, people get desensitized to the marvels and quiet regality of nature. You’re not going to experience these heightened moments of transcendence and keyhole peeks into Divinity being a slave to the LCD screen of your cellphone. You’ll miss the times nature sends YOU a text.
When we landed, I strolled around downtown Geneva with my friend and window shopped watches that cost more than the photo and video gear I had on me. Nope, I thought, I just saw something more incredible than the finest Swiss watch ever made.
I cannot wear those jagged giants emerging from the cauldrons of molten mantle on my wrist but I wear it around my pineal gland in it’s collected orbits of awesomeness.
There’s dimensions missing from that moment in the pictures I took. I look at them and only see what’s not there. The Alps didn’t interact with my camera, it interacted with another living consciousness and that connection cannot be photographed.
But I knew in that moment I would remember that mighty wink at my Soul the rest of my life. And I do.
Sometimes even lying down in bed before I fall asleep, the Alps visits me in an afterimage and the power of that moment’s residue is still there. The pulse of that Infinity in the Alps still echoing inside me.
© Composer Yoga
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