As I’m sure many of you are aware if you follow me on twitter, I’ve been in Paris for the past few days. In fact, it’s mostly all I’ve been prattling on about for the past few months. So, on Wednesday, we headed off to our local airport (which by the way has to be the smallest airport I have EVER seen) and made our way over to Paris. After an exhausting day travelling, we decided that our first proper day in Paris would be spent at the Chateau Versailles. First of all, I just want to say that getting to Versailles was an absolute nightmare! Thanks to various metro closures due to engineering work, we had to get off the RER line and get a bus. Yet the woman sat outside the train station gave us completely the wrong directions and so we got on the wrong bus – it was only when I asked the bus driver if we were on the right bus that he laughed and said “Oh dear, how embarrassing. You’re on the wrong bus”.
At any rate, we arrived at Versailles just after 9am and I was immediately surprised by the high amount of security there was. This would be a constant during our visit to public attractions, and I’m guessing it’s a massive thing since the recent awful terrorist attacks in Paris. Still, it was a comfort that such security measures were in place even in the shopping centre local to our hotel.
As we queued up to get in, we walked past the famous gold leaf gates. These gates are only a replica of the original, as the original gates were torn down during the Revolution.
Once inside, the first stop was the famous Cour D’Honneur with it’s beautiful marble flooring. As we stepped into the courtyard, I was speechless at the beauty of the place and it took me more than a moment to remember that at one point, this had been a simple hunting lodge until Louis XIV expanded it to the sprawling palace that we see now.
The Hall of Mirrors was one of the places within Versailles that I was very excited about seeing. I was stunned by it’s beauty, the mirrors on one wall reflecting the light from the large windows which made the hallway seem so much bigger than it was. Add that onto the many chandeliers that hung from the beautifully painted ceiling, I was in complete awe when I stepped into the hallway.
The gardens of Versailles have to be the most gorgeous gardens I have seen in my life. The flowerbeds are tended to with loving care, the bushes and trees looked after. We even saw one of the shaped bushes being tended to whilst we were walking back from the Petit Trianon.
By the time we reached the Petit Trianon I was feeling incredibly unwell and found myself sitting on the steps around the back of the sweet little chateau. I found the little hamlet to be a very peaceful place, and could imagine Marie Antoinette wandering the gardens with her friends and children. The little chateau had been given to Marie Antoinette by her husband after previously being the domain of the hated Madame Du Barry, and the Queen spent many happy years there. It was her escape from the rigorous etiquette of Versailles proper.
Seeing the famous portrait of Marie Antoinette holding the rose was one of the highlights of the day for me. I absolutely love the portrait, painted by the extremely talented Le Brun – she was the only artist able to capture Marie Antoinette’s regal look as well as her fun loving nature. Yet, like many artists that tried to capture Marie Antoinette, Le Brun struggled to capture Marie Antoinette’s complexion.
Following on from the Petit Trianon, we walked to the Grand Trianon. I found the gardens there to be stunning, providing a beautiful backdrop to the marble colonnades of the building.
You definitely need a full day to see all of Versailles, simply to give yourself the time to not only see the inside of the palace but also to see everything around the estate as well. The gardens are a lovely place to wander around, and I found the open space to be a much needed relief after being jostled amongst so many tourists within the palace itself. There are parts within the grounds that are so peaceful – I felt so calm and at peace within the gardens of the Petit Trianon, despite the fact that there were still people milling about. I’d also recommend wearing comfortable shoes! We ended up walking over nine miles on this visit, simply by wandering the palace and the gardens – I made the mistake of wearing a pair of boots that I believed were comfortable as I wear them everywhere, but by the end of the day I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Still, having such sore feet is worth it to see what was at one point the centre of power for the French Royal Family. And Versailles is somewhere I will definitely visit again.