Day 3: Versailles

Versailles Travel Blog

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Golden entrance gates at Versailles

We rolled out of bed Sunday morning and started our now-familiar morning ritual: heading to the Metro station 2 blocks down with a stop first at the neighborhood patisserie for breakfast. The shop sold the most delicious pastries I've ever had, baked fresh every morning. My favorite is the Gourmandise - a long éclair shaped pastry split open stuffed with sweet cream, strawberries, and almonds.

 

We metro'd over to the appropriate station to catch the RER (French regional trains) to Versailles.  Thirty minutes later we were at the palace.

 

What began as a relatively humble (in terms of royal standards) country retreat house was significantly expanded by King Louis XIV and he eventually came to conduct all state business from the location.

Courtyard
This effectively ended the use of the royal palace back in Paris (which is now the Louvre) for day to day operations. Louis the XIV was  an amazing man. He spent over half of his nation's money supply on himself, his family and his palace at Versailles, yet the people adored him.

 

At the time of his reign, France was the leading superpower in the world. The language of business was French. The capital of fashion was France. France France France! The man was so popular that when he had the creative idea to cover his receding hairline with a white wig, it quickly became the fashion compulsion OF THE ENTIRE WORLD. A little bit of historical fashion trivia for you in case you'd always wondered WHY our forefathers wore wigs. Another trend he started- eating meals in courses.

Original modest royal retreat home. Added onto extensively over the reigns of King Louis the XIV - XVI
Prior to his reign, food was brought to the table en masse in a spectacular display. Preferring his hot foods to stay hot and his cold foods to stay cold until he was ready to eat them, he perfected the concept of serving food in a series of courses.

 

My first thought as we passed through the golden gates that frame the royal courtyard: I was born to be a princess, why can't everyone see that the grounds are absolutely breathtaking. What must it have been like to enter this palace as Queen? Surrounded by your servile staff, the entire French treasury at your hand should any sudden impulse to buy strike….what a life. Except for that nasty guillotine bit, I envy the life of the French royalty. (I know it's wrong.)

 

We entered the Palace in the Queen's wing and began our slow progression through the palace, snapping pictures as we passed from royal room to room.

Chapel inside Versailles. King Louis XIV and his wife were married here.
The artwork collection amassed by the King and Queen is spectacular and I tried to capture many of the best with my digital camera. Alas, the glare from the palace lights rendered many of the shots unusable.

 

By mid-afternoon we'd covered the entire palace. We ventured to the café on the grounds for a quick bite to eat before beginning our tour of the grounds. I had my favorite French sandwich again - Ham and swiss on buttered baguette. Yum. For dessert - pear custard tart. The lunch was uneventful other than several rude Brits bumping the line and pushing (I think we're up to black mark #4 against the Brits by now aren't we?).

 

Over the afternoon and trailing into the sunset, we toured the majestic grounds.

Royal hall of statues
Fabulous. So fabulous. Water and greenery as far as the eye can see. A strong projection of nobility and grace. The king and his queen installed a number of unique features on the property. The king, admiring Roman ruins in Italy had his own replicas built on the grounds. The queen, curious as to what it must be like to farm, tend to animals, and engage in other forms of manual labor had an *entire* small working class village installed on the grounds so that when the urge struck she could milk a cow, sheer a sheep, or cut the grass. Manual labor for recreation! How quaint.

 

At the far end of the property were "smaller" royal homes built for the queen (and at time's the king's mistresses) to escape the stuffiness of the main Versailles palace.

 

Only one ugly detail marred our sightseeing trip in Versailles - a modern art installation on display within the palace.

artwork gracing the walls inside Versailles
I don't know who had the asinine idea to fill glories royal rooms of gold and history with ugly plastic hippo floaties, Michael Jackson chimp kissing statues, and giant paper mache lobsters but they should be shot. Shot! To make the entire matter humiliating, it seems the "artist" featured is an American, tarnishing our national reputation on the world stage.

 

Our group gathered together and returned to Paris as planned. We did dinner that evening in a little cozy café specializing in Basque cuisine that came highly recommended. I had braised chicken with peppers and onions and Jon was brave, trying the large spinach salad that featured duck intestines and a sunny-side up fried egg atop. The food was delicious and the company was great. Tracy and I couldn't help but begin to form a stronger bond as our days together in Paris accumulated.

 

Tomorrow: a full day of touring Paris.

kvom says:
Since I'm feeling pedantic today I thought to comment on your otherwise great entry:

Louis XIV was not married in the Versailles chapel, as it was built at the end of his reign. Louis XV was married at Fountainbleau. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were married at Versailles, probably in the chapel.

Posted on: Jun 27, 2012
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Golden entrance gates at Versailles
Golden entrance gates at Versailles
Courtyard
Courtyard
Original modest royal retreat home…
Original modest royal retreat hom…
Chapel inside Versailles. King Lou…
Chapel inside Versailles. King Lo…
Royal hall of statues
Royal hall of statues
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
Courtyard
Courtyard
Courtyard
Courtyard
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
artwork gracing the walls inside V…
artwork gracing the walls inside …
Royal fireplace
Royal fireplace
statues on the exterior
statues on the exterior
Versailles
photo by: EmyG