A Voyeur in Versailles

June 29, 2016

While visiting Paris, the only side trip that I demanded of our stay, was a day in Versailles.  Both Dan and I had never visited these once Royal Palaces, and I was determined not to miss another chance.  I think I had mistakenly thought that it was much further from the center of Paris and thus a time-consuming and overly expensive excursion, when in reality, it was an easy and relatively affordable destination to include in our itinerary.  The first step is to visit the official Palace of Versailles website, which gives all sorts of tips on the best days and times to visit in order to avoid the worst of the crowds.  It also encourages one to buy tickets in advance so that you might be able to skip some of the longer ticket lines.  We decided to get a combo ticket which also allowed us to visit the Palace, and the Petit and Grand Trianon Palaces, in addition to Marie-Antoinette’s Estate.  There are also musical fountain shows and musical gardens, and special guided tours that operate in different seasons and days of the week to hidden areas of the property.

The early morning metro/train journey was a breeze, taking less than an hour.  From the main station we had to only walk a couple blocks to the golden gilded entrance gates. Despite our midweek trip and early arrival, the Palaces were still crammed full of tourists and bus groups. We shuffled from one sumptuously, ornate room to the next, craning our necks to study the ceiling art and elaborate cornices.

After our crowded tour of the palace, we took a break in Angelina’s to eat sweet pastries and drink intensely rich and dark, hot chocolate. The clouds were clearing just in time for us to enjoy the vast gardens and minor palaces.

However, my favorite part was the whimsical hamlet representing idyllic peasant farm life that was built for Marie-Antoinette. This fake, rustic retreat has quaint farmhouses and cottages that are merely facades, lacking interiors, that the Queen and her consorts could prance about, pretending they were simple shepherds and country folk. She even had sheep, cows, ducks, rabbits, and chickens which roamed the fields, designed with lakes, ponds and streams. This fantasy setting was rounded out with real orchards, vegetable and flower gardens, a vineyard and a mill & tower. Stella and Gabriel were much less interested in the spectacle of wealth within the palaces, than the farm animals and outdoor playhouses of the Queen’s peasant hamlet. The grounds are so immense that I can imagine an afternoon biking via its many parks would be most fulfilling in warmer months, and a good way to extend a visit.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Laurie June 30, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Absolutely stunning! To think that women in those immense dresses and wigs would be gliding through the halls of the palace. To realize that those buildings are hundreds upon hundreds of years old is hard to imagine. I had no idea that Marie Antoinette had that little village to spend time in. Thank you for sharing all these marvelous places with us. I doubt I will ever be able to visit these places in my life, but I have been able to spend daydreaming what it would be like through your gorgeous pictures. Love to you all, and continued safe travels.

  • Reply theresa June 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I’m curious about the napkin artist
    Mom

  • Reply Deb & Brian June 30, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Wow!
    I have a difficult time expressing what following your travels has meant to me. I’ve been with you the whole time, but this is my first post, and I apologize for that.
    Sarah, you are a poet, and your writings have been truly inspiring.
    We miss you more than we can express, but value your sharing of this experience, and have been so happy for you all along the way.
    We have booked a week in Paris for late October, and your experiences have made me even more excited!
    Thank you so much for taking us with you all these months, we are changed for it as well….
    We love you,
    –D & B
    xoxo

  • Reply Julie j July 5, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Next up Florida….?

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