Friday, July 6, 2012

A Day at Versailles.

As you probably know, I collect castles. Versailles has been on my radar ever since the days of Count Duckula, who I'm pretty sure had something to do with the Hall of Mirrors. High school history class glossed over the palace, Marie Antoinette, bread vs. cake, and the guillotine, but it was the Hall of Mirrors in this baroque palace that stuck in my memory.

Anyway, we visited the Palace of Versailles last Tuesday, and, despite my aching feet and general fatigue, both David and I were pretty much blown away. Both of us had been to Paris before, but neither of us had made the daytrip to Versailles. It IS worth a full day of your time, even though the train ride is only about 30 minutes.

David waited well over an hour in the rain in a line that snaked around the massive cobblestone esplanade at least five times, while I sat, aching and pregnant, on a bench reading. Thankfully, we'd already purchased tickets through our Paris Museum Pass, so there was only one line between us and the Chateau itself.

To say the palace is grand is a severe understatement. Much of the exterior is lined with gold, and the estate is bigger than any castle I've ever seen. The inside walls are decorated with paintings, tapestries, chandeliers, statues, and even modern installation art hanging from the tall ceilings or taking up the center of a once-bedroom. Even the bits that are over-the-top-tacky are mind-blowing in their scale.

The Hall of Mirrors was nothing like I imagined, but, again, I had Count Duckula in my head. Rather than being dark and vampiric, it was on an upper floor, bright, wide, and filled with not only mirrors, but crystal chandeliers and golden statues. It was stunning in its gawdiness and grandeur.


If you aren't particularly attached to seeing the King's bed chambers or the Hall of Mirrors (I wouldn't leave without seeing them), then I'd suggest skipping the Chateau itself and heading straight for the gardens. At almost two thousand acres, they stretch far enough for you to imagine you are in a pastoral paradise, not even close to a city the size of Paris.

We were fortunate enough to visit in the summer, with flowers and trees in full bloom and grandiose fountains spouting water to baroque music piped through hidden speakers throughout the grounds (you pay extra when the fountains are on, but we really loved seeing it in full action). Had we been rich, we would have rented a golf cart to go exploring (30 euros an hour -- not bad, but we were traveling like students), as I was all walked-out for the day (again, skip the Chateau and you'll have plenty of energy for the gardens). We didn't even make it out to the summer houses or Madame de Pompadour's Petit Trianon yet were still thoroughly blown away by the size and perfect planning of the stunning gardens. I'd love to go back on a pretty summer day with a few bottles of wine and a cheese spread.

No comments:

Post a Comment