Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Versailles

Versailles wasn't on my original list of things to do in Paris, mainly because;
  1. It wasn't in Paris proper, 
  2. Wayne said it was quite similar to the Louvre, (and the Louvre was better).
  3. In my online research I'd found several articles by people who were underwhelmed with their visit.
  4. We were going in the middle of winter. 
That last reason probably carried the most weight; I knew the fountains would be turned off and I expected the gardens to be brown and dreary. I'm glad I was talked into changing my mind at the last minute, because I totally loved our visit to the palace. Yes, the gardens were brown and the fountains were turned off, but it definitely wasn't dreary. Both the gardens and the palace were quite fascinating.


We took the Metro from Cadet to Invalides and then caught the RER C train to Versailles. (Someone else gave great details here.) The palace is literally a five-minute walk from the train station, although we stopped along the way to read a couple of signs.
Just follow everyone else through the gate and into the building, but be sure to get a free headset so you can hear all the details in English. The first exhibit, which wasn't there when Wayne visited several years ago, was a series of rooms outlining the history of Versailles.
Through the windows you could get a glimpse of the extensive gardens.
And a more close-up view of the exterior building details.

The exhibit rooms were to the right of this long hallway filled with statues.
And at the end of the hallway you could get a glimpse of the chapel. Apparently while Louis XIV lived here, they had mass every morning at 10 AM. I would have loved to see the organ more closely; it was at the far end of the hall.
The self-guided tour took you through a series of ornate rooms to the beautiful Hall of Mirrors

We spent a lot of our time looking up at the detailed artwork on the ceilings.
The Queen's Salon was closed for refurbishing (you could just peek through the doorway), but Wayne remembers it being his favorite room last time.
The temporary exhibit at the palace, in commemoration of King Louis XIV's death 300 years ago, was called Le Roi est Mort (or The King is Dead). It was actually quite fascinating (although also quite dark so pictures didn't turn out well). Here's a model of the funeral coffin.
After a quick lunch at the cafe, it was time to explore the gardens. When he visited last time, it was a wet and misty day, so Wayne didn't spend much time outside. He kept exclaiming over how extensive the gardens were. It takes at least 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other, and that's without traversing all the various intersecting pathways.
The pond (not the fountain) behind Wayne was dug by hand, by a Swiss army hired for that purpose. We were impressed.

You won't find pictures of statues here, because they were all under wraps, but we were able to see a lot of the non-operating fountains.
The gardeners did a great job of laying out straight lines!
Our walk through the gardens led us to the Grand Trianon - a "summer" place that was just as ornate as the original palace, although a bit smaller.

How would you like one of these giant bowls in your bedroom?
Imagine the party you could have in this room!
Grand Trianon even had its own set of gardens out back.



Those gardens led to the Petite Trianon.
There was still more to explore, but it was nearing closing time, so we headed back to the main entrance, detouring to see a few more fountains along the way. 



We loved the detail found everywhere, and thoroughly enjoyed our beautiful day.
When trying to decide why this turned out to be my favorite day of our trip, I figured there were several reasons. First, it was the first full day experiencing Paris. Second, I got to spend the entire day with Wayne doing just what we wanted to do. Third, the buildings and grounds were much better than I was expecting. Finally, it was the day that came closest to our "normal" National Park vacations. Someday it would be nice to go back and see Marie Antoinette's Estate, the statues without coverings and the fountains in operation. However, in order to do that, it will probably be hot and crowded. I wonder if it will be worth it, or if I should just be satisfied with my memories of Versailles on a cold day in January?

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