Chateau de Versailles is a palace dating from the 11th century. It was the seat of political power when Louis XIV moved the royal court there in 1682. When construction was begun, Versailles was a small village. Over the centuries it has grown into a wealthy suburb of Paris. We took the Metro from Paris (near Notre Dame), and were surprised when we exited the train station and saw that the Chateau was just a 10-minute walk away.
The entrance to the Chateau is via a large avenue that I suspect was the grand boulevard in Louis XIV’s time. From the street there is large area made of large cobblestones—A challenge to walk on, especially when they are wet. Then there is a grand, gilded gate that opens into another huge courtyard. The visitor’s entry is to the left of that.
The weather was dreary that day, but, we thought, it doesn’t rain inside. Little did we realize how much there was to see outside—many acres of gardens, ponds, trianons (entrances to gardens) and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. What a joy they would have been to explore on a lovely day. No matter, what we did see both inside and out were spectacular.
As you enter the King’s quarters, there is a beautiful Royal Chapel with gilded walls, a great organ, and a magnificent ceiling. A free audio tour guides you through the building, including the king’s quarters–quite opulent, especially when you get to the Hall of Mirrors.
After walking through the King’s quarters, we decided to venture out to the gardens in spite of the inclement weather. We boarded a little train that made stops at various points—the Trianons, the Queen’s Hamlet, and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. Driving around made us aware of the expanse of the gardens. It was also interesting to note that there were entrances from local streets, in fact making it a public park, and lots of people walking, running, and riding bicycles–I’m sure it was private in the Royals’ day.
We chose to stop at Marie Antoinette’s Estate and were not disappointed. It was quite magnificent and, unlike the main buildings, not crowded. We walked through leisurely, observing Marie living quarters and bedroom. Then we went outdoors to the gardens. They stretched in several directions, and we chose to walk to a what appeared to be a beautiful gazebo surrounded by a canal. Indeed, it was called the Temple of Love, and had a beautiful statue in the middle and a lovely view of the back of the estate.
As we left Marie’s estate and got back on the tram, it began to rain steadily so we decided to call it a day after one more stop. Outside the gates are the stables that housed the king’s chariots as well as horses. There is an amazing display of chariots covering many centuries of use. I did not take pictures but Bob did, and you can view some on his blog: blogbybob.wordpress.com
Coming next: Visiting Notre Dame and discovering Sainte Chappelle