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This blog speaks of places that shine with beautiful secrets, shimmer with burnished histories and sparkle with the lure of untold stories

Forget the glittering Hall of Mirrors or the sprawling formal gardens, this was Marie Antoinette's real "home". And it stands right within Versailles

Forget the glittering Hall of Mirrors or the sprawling formal gardens, this was Marie Antoinette’s real “home”. And it stands right within Versailles

Shimmer Shine Sparkle began at Versailles, near Paris. But not in the coolly luxurious Grand Apartment. Nor the epic gardens. Not even at the glittering Hall of Mirrors. This blog began in quite another part of the famous château: the Hameau de la Reine, or the ‘Queen’s Hamlet’. Marie Antoinette’s personal playground, away from the pomp and ceremony of a French court that stifled her with its many, many rules of conduct. A rustic playground dotted with simple stone cottages, soaring water mills, functioning dairy farms, earthy poultry sheds and an airy dovecote. A veritable farm, whose products supplied the kitchens of the château.

This is a part of Versailles that few visit. Yet, to one of the world’s most intriguing queens it was the real “home”. In fact, historical records show that the Austrian-born monarch didn’t even eat at the main château, merely picking at food till she could escape to her hamlet. Because this was where she could be herself: Unbound, unfettered and happy in its wildness. At the secret hamlet, as she herself said, Marie Antoinette truly shone, shimmered and sparkled.

And that’s what led to this blog, on so many levels. Hameau de la Reine is one of those beautiful places that are often hidden away right under our nose. It’s an integral part of Versailles, yet one that’s seen by barely 10% of the chateau’s six million visitors every year. It tells stories that take you into the personal, intimate part of the country’s history. And its beautiful… far more beautiful in fact  than just another glittering palace or state ballroom.

Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet consisted of a variety of different cottages and buildings, all built around a small lake. Each building had a specific function, and each played its part in the daily life of the Hamlet

Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet consisted of a variety of different cottages and buildings, all built around a small lake. Each building had a specific function, and each played its part in the daily life of the Hamlet

And those are the places that this blog celebrates. Places that are hidden away in plain sight, with a deep core of history and a beauty so startling that you will wonder how they ever escaped your notice. Whether it’s Iceland’s Pingvallavatn Lake, whose subterranean waters are spread over the boundary between North America and Europe (divers can swim in between the tectonic plates of these two continents) or Isola Tiberina, the world’s smallest inhabited island that’s hidden right in the middle of Rome, these are places that shine with beautiful secrets, shimmer with burnished histories and sparkle with the lure of untold stories.

So, keep reading… and keep writing to me about what you want to read! My email address is anubha@anubhacharan.com. Or drop by and chat with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest.

Hoping to hear from you!

XOXO
Anubha Charan
 
The 12 cottages constructed in the hamlet can be divided into two groups: five were reserved for use by the Queen; the other seven had a functional purpose and were used effectively for agriculture

The 12 cottages constructed in the hamlet can be divided into two groups: five were reserved for use by the Queen; the other seven had a functional purpose and were used for agriculture

And it wasn't just for show: the hamlet's working farm, dairy and poultries actually produced food for the chateau

And it wasn’t just for show: the hamlet’s working farm, dairy and poultries actually produced food for the chateau

 

And who am I?

anubha-charan-shimmer-shine-sparkleTravel junkie. Perfume collector. Book lover. Shopaholic. Vintage car rallyist. Beauty buff. Countryside connoisseur. Champagne aficionado. Head-over-heels for vintage fashions and décor. Besotted by Audrey Hepburn, Marie Antoinette, Princess Sisi and Maharani Gayatri Devi. Tech addict. Devoted to Grey’s Anatomy. Dreamer.

Yup, that’s me. Anubha Charan. A person who can’t sit still at home for more than a week without getting cranky. Who is happiest when exploring the beautiful, glorious, boundless world around me, whether it’s a shack in Goa or the hot springs of New Zealand. And who has distilled this love of travel into innumerable feature stories for magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, Travel+Leisure, Discovery.com, Interior Design, Open Skies, Cosmopolitan and L’Officiel. Previously, I have also held the posts of Managing Editor at Vogue India, Editor-in-Chief at Casaviva, Beauty & Health Director at Marie Claire and Consulting Editor at Cosmopolitan.

But being chained to a desk was never my cup of (jasmine) so now I am now taking all this experience and distilling it into a series of blogs. The first one – The Beauty Gypsy – centres around beauty and was born in 2011. Shimmer Shine Sparkle is the second (deeply ambitious) project and I hope you will like it!

So come, join me on the journey?

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