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We were really looking forward to visiting Versailles. We got our tickets in advance and had made plans with our friends, Laura and Cass to spend at least half the day there. Most days the gardens of Versailles are free– except when they have the Musical Fountains Show or Musical Gardens as it is called. Today was one of those days.
Our tickets included the Palace, Grand Trianon, Petite Trianon and Marie Antoinette Estate, in addition to the the special garden show. There are a variety of ticketing options, including special tours (only a few are in English) of portions of the Palace that general ticket holders don’t get to see. We did not add any additional tours and I can assure you that there is plenty to overwhelm your senses without them.
The grounds of Versailles covers over two thousand acres of which 213 acres are formal gardens. What you see when you visit, particularly in the Palace itself, is pretty astounding. Especially when you consider it began as a hunting lodge! Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, had an unwavering determination and vision to create what Versailles was to become. He chose the sun as his emblem because of its association to Apollo– and it was the symbol of peace and art.
The Château de Versailles and the gardens were designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1979.
Putting this post together was a little difficult with so much to cover: which photographs to use, how much history/facts to include, and of course, the experience itself. (I’ll be posting more photos of Versailles in a separate blog post, immediately following this one.)
If you are interested in the history of Versailles and Louis XIV, and I promise you, it is really fascinating — I encourage you to explore the subjects online. I’ll try and keep my inclusions here- brief; and focus more on our experience.
The four of us took a taxi to Versailles, arriving about a half hour before the Palace opened. This gave us plenty of time for pictures of the magnificent exterior. Then, while Michael and Laura waited in line, Cass and I took turns running back to take a few pictures in the gardens (The Orangerie) before it had a chance to get crowded.
The Palace. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the beauty and grandeur of the Palace. Versailles, rightfully, is on most top ten lists of the most beautiful palaces in the world.
The effort made to maintain and restore the Palace is some of the best I’ve seen in our travels. In so many places we’ve visited, you find faux finishing used to repair, restore or represent what had been there originally. I didn’t notice any of that here.
Every room is dripping in its uniquely-styled opulence. Ceiling mural, elaborate moldings, wall and ceiling medallions, gold leaf everywhere– it doesn’t stop. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The palace is absolutely stunning! I stepped outside to wait for the others to finish in the Battles Gallery and saw the crowds of people lining up to enter. It made me really glad we arrived early.
While waiting, I noticed the military presence outside the Palace. Actually, it was the most visible of our entire trip.
When the others came outside, we decided to head out to the gardens. Cass suggested we establish a time and meeting place in case we split up but the consensus was it wasn’t necessary at this point.
The Gardens. There are more than 50 fountains and water features in Versailles. My biggest disappointment was the fountains aren’t continuously working. Being that is was a Musical Fountains Show or Musical Gardens day, I expected to see more flowing water. We never did see any of the larger, world-renowned fountains working.
We were told different fountains come on briefly, at different times, throughout the day. You either had to wait by a fountain, or hope to pass one that was working. Since they charge more money for this, I would have thought there would be a schedule and/or a map assisting you in enjoying them. This wasn’t the case. There are maps of Versailles but no indication when the individual fountains would be running.
As we wound our way through the garden maze, we heard music ahead. Tucked in a secluded section, we found a modern water show in progress. This was nice, but I would have rather seen the many older fountains working.
The views of the garden are breathtaking. There is something new to see around every turn– statues, alcoves, private garden enclaves– they never end. There are large map boards strategically placed throughout, to help you find your way around.
After some wandering, we made our way to the Grand Canal and the Apollo Fountain.
Walking from the Palace to the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette Estate covers about two miles- one way. There is a tram (for a fee) that can transport you as well. We didn’t discover the tram until we were halfway through the gardens, along the canal– and decided we’d walk the rest of the way to the Grand Trianon– knowing we’d probably take the tram back to the palace after we’d seen the other features of Versailles.
Grand Trianon. We reached the Grand Trianon, divided in two sections by a peristyle (breezeway). Louis XIV had this built as a retreat. His getaway from the nearby palace.
Getting Lost. Taking my last picture, I exited the final room of the Grand Trianon, to look for Michael who had been ahead of me. Cass and Laura were just a room or two behind us in the chateau. I got outside– no Michael. I went back in, getting stopped by a guard– and was told I had to wait there. I saw Cass and Laura coming though – but no Michael.
We got outside and just waited. Where was he?
WWMD? What would Michael DO?
Not disappear. But he had.
To make a long story short(er)… we waited… worried… went ahead… backtracked– about three hours went by before we found his whereabouts. We wouldn’t see him again until we got back to the hotel.
Going on through the park, we passed several small buildings and more sculpted gardens before reaching the Petit Trianon.
A guide pointed us in the direction of the Marie Antoinette Estate, more like its own little village. He neglected to tell us that the main house was under renovation. It was completely covered up, in fact.
We looked at a few of the small cottages and then decided to backtrack, hoping to find Michael along the way.
When we got back to the Grand Trianon, we discovered the tram stop and decided to take it back to the Palace. Just as we got on, there was a brief downpour– with some hail. Luckily, it had stopped by the time we reached the main entrance. Laura had cell service, so we called the hotel and left messages, hoping to find Michael, or at least to let him know we were on the way back.
Just as we were getting in a taxi, Michael responded. He had just gotten back to the hotel. (It turns out he had been waiting by an exit at the Grand Trianon that we didn’t even know existed. Then he went on his own adventure, searching for us as we were searching for him.) He was safe, we were safe. A sigh of relief.
On the way back to the hotel, we had some terrific views of the Eiffel Tower. If we’d been any closer, it would have been hard to get all of it in a picture.
Back at the hotel, Laura and Cass went up to their room and Michael came down and met me out front. We recounted our search efforts, vowed to never let that happen again– and then Michael informed me that the day’s drama wasn’t over yet.
Our friend Janet had emailed Michael to let us know that her flight from the U.S. had been cancelled. She and her son, Ken wouldn’t be arriving until the next day. We’d already prepaid for dinner and a show so we had to find someone to take their place.
We found our friends, Marilyn and Rita, who had experienced their own misadventure that day– and were thrilled to join us.
Paradis Latin. All of us met in the lobby (including Laura and Cass) and then got a car to Paradis Latin. Like Moulin Rouge, this was one of several venues catering primarily to tourists. We all had a really nice time. Dinner was very good and the show was pretty much what we expected. Topless showgirls and shirtless men, a comedian, an aerialist– song and dance — including the Can-Can. An enjoyable evening, though by our standards, a bit overpriced.
We’d had quite a day and walked over ten miles! In spite of the drama, it had been a pretty fulfilling adventure.
AND— we had another great travel story to tell. Let’s just hope it’s the last one of its kind.
Travel Date: May 19, 2017 (Day 7)