We woke to some serious fog, which almost feels like it’s a common thing in France, given how many days we’ve spent in pea soupers here – especially the first few in Normandy! We went about the usual routine, excited to finally get to go and visit Versailles today.
I missed the driving from yesterday, with the sunshine and beautiful views. Not only that, the traffic continued to get slower and heavier as we approached Versailles.
I had also forgotten just how close the palace is to Paris, explaining some of the traffic. I had enjoyed my last visit to Paris, but we weren’t going to visit this time.
It was just after 1PM by the time we’d finally arrived and parked. We were lucky to have found a park on the main boulevard approaching the palace. Once again, I was thankful to have a van that was small enough to park in a regular space. I somehow managed to find the €7 needed for 5h of parking, too.
It was bitterly cold, and the fog still hadn’t lifted. It didn’t feel like ideal weather for seeing such an iconic location, but we were here now and would have to make do with whatever we got – at least it wasn’t raining!
The walk down the boulevard really set the tone of what was to come. It was lined with grand building after grand building, each slightly outdoing the previous in scale and grandeur. And, in the distance we could see the glint of gold from the palace.
We finally made it to the forecourt, and could finally see just how opulent the Versailles palace was. The buildings were enormous, and the amount of gold on display was unlike any building I could remember. Like Vienna, it seemed like it was built for giants. Even in this dull grey light, it shone brightly.
We bought our tickets, which were €20 for a combination pass that included some of the smaller palaces in the grounds. I was amazed at how quick we were able to buy our tickets. It was only now that I saw the giant queue of the people who had also bought their tickets, and were now waiting to enter. We slowly crept forward, and after 30-minutes of waiting we were ready to explore the palace. I can only imagine that during peak summer period a 30-minute wait would sound like a dream.
It was nice that a free audio guide was provided in the ticket price – even better, it was actually decent. The tour began with a history of the palace, showing the progression of builds until it became what it is today.
We eventually found ourselves upstairs, and we were finally getting a taste of the palace’s interior. The rooms were grand, with liberal use of gilding and marble, with giant paintings completing the rooms. It was quite busy, though still manageable.
The closer we got to the Hall of Mirrors the grander the rooms became. The throne room was not large, but the pomp and decoration was borderline comical.
But, it was the Hall of Mirrors that clearly stole the show. It stretched some 70m north-to-south, with hundreds of mirrored tiles on one side, and beautiful marble arches on the other, looking out over the amazing gardens and lakes.
There were also dozens of amazing crystal chandeliers, and I could only imagine how incredible it looked here during an official function as the sun sets out over the gardens below.
The Queen’s chambers were closed for renovations, so we now had to return back to the ground floor – and via a most splendid and grand staircase.
A lot of the rooms were empty, and those that did have furniture weren’t original as it was all sold during the Revolution. Downstairs they had some of the royal apartments of the princesses. They weren’t as overtly opulent as the ones upstairs, however, they were full furnished, and looked wonderful. It was kind of interesting to see all the instruments and libraries. I hadn’t really thought about the things that these people would occupy their days with until now.
I couldn’t help draw comparisons to Peles Castle in Romania. They were built during different ages, and vastly different scales. However, I couldn’t help think that Versailles looked rather barren in comparison.
It took us much less time than I’d expected to see the inside of the palace, which left us with a little time to walk around the gardens. Just like the enormous palace in Caserta, Italy, the grounds stretched far into the horizon. It was 3.5km to walk from the palace to the edge of the grounds, so it was no wonder there were so many people in here jogging.
The fountains and the landscape cascaded down from the palace. At the lowest level was an enormous cross shaped pond, filled with people rowing – and not just the day-trippers with their rental boats, but proper competitive style rowers.
The grounds were beyond exploration. Even with a bike, you’d spend an entire afternoon cycling around it all. We didn’t have a bike, so had to make do with walking. There wasn’t much time left, but I quickly visited the Petit Trianon, which anywhere else would be an attraction, but here with visions of the Palace of Versailles fresh in your memory, it seems like a servants house. The decoration was also far less exotic in comparison.
But, the gardens surrounding it were sublime. The sun was setting, so visibility was rapidly fading. Inside the park was a set of really beautiful agricultural buildings, which were the palace farms, and also a place for the nobles to come and enjoy.
There were even goats and sheep still here in the farm, and it’s never boring watching baby goats!
By the time we had returned to the main lake/pond, it was nearly dark, with just a thin bright glow of colour in the sky. I was a little surprised at how little of the palace was illuminated at night. Most of it was in darkness, and really not that pretty to see at night time. The Hall of Mirrors was stunning from outside, and I would have loved to have seen it now.
We were exhausted, and I didn’t make it very far out of town before stopping for the night. We’re slowing going through all the canned food that we’d stored for a rainy day. Now that we are nearly finished, we can binge on these canned treasures. Tonight it was duck confit, tartiflette from a can. We’re just finishing up American Gods on TV, which has been good, but hasn’t pulled me in quite like the novel did.
We now have two choices – either head down towards Brittany, or up towards Calais.