Versailles is incredible. Something you have to see to believe.
I missed my first train by seconds so I didn’t get there until 9 when it opened, instead of 8:30 like I’d planned. However, taking the metro and the train that early on Sundays….highly recommend. Almost empty and not a steam bath like usual! The train ride was nice, as it’s above ground and you can see the surrounding area. (Small moment of panic at the station…the sign indicated that I should take an elevator down to get a few floors to where I needed to be. I looked at it and realized it was made of glass and I could see the ground from the space on the sides and thought – HELL NO and immediately looked for stairs – thanking they were just down a bit! The height thing has gotten me a few times this
After an hour of line-ups to get in, I toured the Chateau. It was very crowded but worth it. It is extravagant, opulent and decadent. Walls covered in velvet damask. Room upon room of gilded….well, gilded everything. Chandeliers, beautiful draperies, gorgeous silks covering furniture. There are portraits of the Louis’s everywhere – egos abound. The floorings were amazing – marble tiles, parquet or hardwood – all of it intricately designed. Every room is different and has a name, if not a particular purpose. The views from every window are breathtaking. There is no mistaking it – in any room, looking in any direction, you could not help but be reminded – I am in the presence of royalty, of grandeur.
It almost makes you forget that the colour puce was invented by dressmakers at Versailles to hide all the bugs on the ladies. Gross but true. It’s one thing to build a place like that, it another to keep it running.
Despite the business of a Sunday, I chose to go on a weekend because of the water fountain show (basically, it’s really expensive to run them so they don’t do it all the time) – which consisted of…turning the fountains on. It was worth it though – truly impressive and the classical music played throughout the gardens helps the atmosphere. Louis (I can’t remember which one) inspired this himself as he couldn’t afford to keep the fountains running continuously. When guests would tour the gardens he had servants turn on the fountains just ahead of them so it looked like all the fountains were going continuously even though they weren’t.
The gardens are stunning. All of them! The small lakes, the fountains, the topiaries, the foliage – all of it. Incredibly well designed and aesthetically gorgeous. Later in the day, many people rented out the boats available and tried to cool off on the lake.
I went to the Petit and Grand Trianon – originally where one of the Louis’ put his mistress but later was gifted to Marie Antoinette from her Louis. Beautiful as the Chateau, just on a smaller scale and with less gilt! When I was in Petit Trianon, there was one hallway of stone (see picture). I was alone in the area and it was darker there. As I went forward, I could hear whispers – it made my heart skip a beat- before I realized it was an audio recording from the speakers. They should warn people!
I was very curious to see Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet. Basically, she had built a teeny village for her to play in. It reminded me of Heritage Park in a way – a fake but liveable fairyland that she lived in when it struck her fancy. Apparently (she wasn’t that popular at court) to escape her troubles, she had the village built for her and her ladies and they played pretend. They would milk the cows (that had been cleaned before hand and the milk containers were expensive china that just looked like wooden buckets and everything had Marie Antoinette’s monogram on it) and pretend they were simple villagers (they even dressed in a very expensive villager costumes, more or less). And while the outside of the homes looked simple, the insides were marble and silks, as that’s the way these ladies had become accustomed to living. I’ve always thought that Marie Antoinette has gotten a bad rap – but really? Huge expense to build a really large tree house and people are starving?!? Self-indulgence to the nth degree. However, it is certainly idyllic and frankly, I doubt Hollywood could have done a better job.
Oh! The Hall of Mirrors – you were right Margarita – totally incredible! And also, I found a room in one of the Trianons that has the exact colour scheme I want for my apartment. I will be the crazy lady at the store with pictures of Versailles to match to the paint and fabric samples!!