Published: June 13th 2011June 13th 2011
The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century.
The Palace of Versailles is one of my favourite places in the world, so I figured why discuss anything less extravagant in my first post?I visited this magnificent palace back in August 2010, when I was in Paris for a few days. This was my number one place I wanted to visit when I was in Europe, and boy, am I glad I did. When I was in high school I did extra studies outside of my curriculum and the French Revolution was one of them. One of the key places during the revolution between 1787 and 1799, was Versailles. As it was the residence of the head of the state, the King, it stood as one of the icons of the french monarchy. After hours and hours of reading and studying the world changing history that occured here, it was quite surreal to be standing on the same floors that key figures during the revolution, during, pre and post have stood. And I also must admit.. my fondness of the fallen french queen Marie-Antoinette also helped to fuel my ambition to come here.
Before heading to Europe, I decided to book my tour through
the cityrama website who, with in conjunction with Guidatours, run tours to Versailles. The tour I decided to book was the Versailles Express train transportation, and I must say, I was very happy with the service and tour. We met our guide on the day we were heading to Versailles at the Opentour Boutique in Paris, where we met up with our tour guide. She then gave us return RER train tickets and showed us how to make our way on Paris’ train system down to Versailles. I must admit, being from Melbourne, where our CBD only has 4 main stations, this was a definite help. Once we arrived in Versailles, we were then taken to the Guidatours office, where we picked up our tickets, and were also able to purchase tickets to the gardens and Marie Antoinette’s estate (Defiantly got both!). We then made our way to the Palace. From the train station… off of memory it was only about a 5-10 minute walk and fairly easy to find… just look for the big palace! Once we were there, we walked straight up to the dates of the building, past hundreds of people waiting on the hot sun, and
waited for out guide to go inside to organise out priority entrance. After around 10 minutes, we were straight in. This was the thing I was happiest with the tour. The tour cost 36€ however once you totaled up all your cost of your train ticket, entrance to the palace and headset charges, it was pretty obvious to me that this was a great deal.
Once inside, our tour guide gave us headsets so we could hear her talk, and showed us around the palace. She was extremely informative, but sadly i couldn’t take a whole heap in as I was pretty stunned at the beauty, detail and extravagence around me. At the end of the tour, we gave her a tip as she was brillant.
After the tour, we made out way outside to start exploring the gardens and the trianons. The beauty of the gardens blows you away as soon as you step a foot outside of the chateau. We had a little look around a parts of the gardens surrounding the chateau, then caught the mini train down to the trianons. It was a gorgeous ride on the way down, going past some of the
fountains and beautifully manicured gardens.
The first stop was the Grand Trianon. Due to a short amount of time we didn’t get off here to look around, but just from what we could see when the train had stopped shortly, it was stunning. It was built in the northwest of the Versailles area, after Louis XIV had commissioned it, for himself and his mistress of the time to escape to, away from the formalities of the main Chateau.
After this quick stop, we moved onto the Petit Trianon and queen’s hamlet, the main section of Versailles I wanted to see on this trip. Before we started this part of our self guided tour, we decided to have lunch at Angelina, the tearoom at the Petit Trianon. I decided to post what we had for lunch, as it was one of my favourite meals of the trip. Whilst being quite simple, i think being something light and refreshing, whilst we ate outside in the gardens all contributed in the greatness of that moment. I had a roll with ham, tomato and something else, but i cant quite remember, and we also got a salad. To top it all off,
we got some gorgeous macaroons for desert. We got a chocolate and vanilla. Of course I had the vanilla, as it is my absolute favourite!
After we finished our lunch I went and explored the Petit Trianon. Personally, I prefered the Petit Trianon over the main Chateau as it felt more personal, and also matched my taste in decorating to a tee. This was where Marie Antoinette would come to escape from the rigrous ritruals and schedules of french court life. Inside was just stunning. Each room had its own little theme, however each room still tied in with the same running theme. Whilst it is still very extravagent, in comparisen it is quite simple compared to the Chateau.
After we finished exploring the Petit Trianon, we decided to walk over to Hameau de la reine (translates to Queen’s Hamlet). This was my main reason for coming to Versailles.
The hameau, a small and rustic ersatz farm (or ferme ornée) meant to evoke a peasant village in Normandy, was built on the far side of a landscaped pond. Begun in 1783 and finished in 1787 to designs of the Queen’s favoured architect, Richard Mique, the hamlet was complete with farmhouse, dairy, and mill. Here, it was said, the Queen and her attendants would dress as shepherdesses and milkmaids.
The little houses in the farm reminded me of something out of a childs story book. They were absaloutly stunning. There was a couple of different houses for the queen, her close friends or other visitors, and her servents. It was complete with a farmhouse,
dairy and a mill. Sadly however, you can enter or even look in really the buildings as most of them have been closed off. It was still a wonderful experience just walking around taking in the beauty of these buildings. If your ever going to Versailles, this is an absaloute must do! For some reason, majority of tours dont come down to the trianons and hamlet, however I feel that these are the most special thing that Versailles has to offer.
After we finished up at the hamlet, we walked back to the Petit Trianon and caught the train back to the main Chateau. On the way back it made a stop at ‘Little Venice’ on the grand canal. Sadly we did not get off to explore this area, as we had to get back to Paris, but hopefully when I am back again in august, I can have a look around here. Here you can hire row boats for the grand canal, and bikes so you can ride around the gardens, which I think is a fantastic idea. When I am back, I plan on hiring a bike and just riding it around the gardens so I can
see much more of what has been described as the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Pretty much in summary, if you get the chance to go to Versailles I would recommened the following;
Booking your tickets (Versailles and train) through this site. It is definatly worth the money as it provides express entry into the palace, you train tickets, and allows you to explore the gardens and trianons at your own pace
Taking the Petit Train to the trianons and Hamlet. Whilst the website for Versailles claims that it is just 20-30 minutes on foot, I have read/heard many cases of people claiming that it is more like 50 minutes. I would definatly recomend the train as you will be doing alot of walking around to the hamlet, etc. It is only 6,70€ return, so I believe it is definatly worth the money.
If you are not going with Guide tours, then i more then recomend to arrive early! The lines can be incredible (you cannot imagine untill once your there!) long. They go on for ages, and I have heard that it can take a few hours to get in, therefore,
if you want to beat the crowd get in early.
If you want anymore information information on Versailles please see the following links;
Thanks so much for reading and have a fantastic day.
There are more photos below