A royal weekend in Versailles, France

Thanks Mom, it was a Royal French break. It’s rare when I don’t have to organise anything but my own transportation, plus the weekend was sunny and touristy as we like it. 

I had not seen the Versailles Palace since school days (a.k.a. the day before yesterday?) and I had forgotten how impressive, but also maybe how crazy busy and touristy the place can be. We learnt a few lessons on the way on what not to do when organising a Royal weekend (see bottom of the mail). So what’s the big deal?

Le Domaine de Marie-Antoinette my personal favourite. It’s where the actual stuff happened: Le grand Trianon was used by Louis XIV to hide his love with the Marquise de Montespan, then rebuilt entirely by Louis XV in the late 17’s century to host his mistress Madame de Pompadour, it’s even where De Gaulle proposed. There you go, love in a bottle (a fair bit of adulterous love too!!). 

Obviously, all those ladies only deserved the finest, and the place is not only made of pink marble but also full of fine upholstery made with Lyon silk, porcelain, crystal chandeliers, beautiful marquetry… 

Le Grand Trianon

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Le Grand Trianon, made of pink marble….a girl’s dream

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pink upholstery!!

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* Marie-Antoinette’s gardens and farm

The Austrian princess and then Quenn was a bit of a hipster in her times and probably would have probably been “glamping” if such thing had existed. She had the most possible luxurious castle, but all she really wanted was a posh farm in some chocolate box setting. I can’t blame her, it’s pretty…

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* The Gardens

Le Notre inaugurated the Versailles castle gardens in 1666, and with it produced the first ever fountain show as ordered by the King…

Nowadays, performance artists set up a top-notch sound and light show in the gardens every Saturday evening in the summer. I had attended the Fountain Night Show a few years ago and was anxious to get back as it’s truly beautiful, but I have to be fair, it’s also very busy. 

Also this year, Anish Kapoor was invited to create some installation in the gardens. He seems to have reused the mirrors he had installed at the Serpentine Gallery a few years ago, it does work really well and “turns the world upside down”. However personally, I am not a huge fond of his Queens’s vagina getting in the way of the stunning perspective…”The dirty corner” has not won my heart. 

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The world upside down, by Anish Kapoor, currently in Versailles

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The main entrance gates in the sunset

* The Palace 

It’s more fun than a history book for sure, but I get a tiny little bit anxious when it takes 20min to queue for the loo, and when half my pics look like this:

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But let’s not put everyone off, it’s absolutely worth a detour, if only for the exaggerated display of gold and baroque ceilings, sculpted door handles, grand columns, and my…the infinity of chandeliers in the “Gallerie des Glaces”

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The infamous ballroom, la Galerie des Glaces

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Gold everywhere!!!

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Taking some fresh air away from the crowds

* Next time we will…

So here’s mum’s 3 “next time we will…”:

# The Castle is closed on Mondays thus “next time we could explore the gardens only, on a Monday…”. Right fine but that probably only applies to locals…

# Get a queue-jump ticket (private tours) or at the very least pre-order a ticket online and arrive at the open at 9am. We showed up at 12′ with our tickets in hand and yet waited for over 2 hours – fail. 

# “Next time we want to see several bits of the castle (castle, gardens, Marie Antoinette’s gardens etc) we will get a weekend passport“, as it’s cheaper than buying tickets bits by bits. 

 

So much wisdom!!!…ah if the Kings and Queens of France had only known…maybe they wouldn’t have got into so much trouble and got their head chopped?

 

* What we watched in the train

Marie-Antoinette by Sofia Coppola is an entertaining but history-based film – albeit with some arrangement. Kristen Dunst looks pretty genuine to me in the role of the very young – 15!! – Austrian princess getting through the pretty traumatic process of arranged marriage and thereafter falling into the habit of luxury without even thinking much of it. 

and the list of filmed staged in the Palace is virtually endless for those who wold like more…

PS: I haven’t actually read it, but I heard Alain Baraton speaking on the radio about his new book “L’amour au jardin” and felt this could be fun. As a gardener in Versailles, he knows the place inside out and is now publishing those quirky stories about love in Versailles…

 

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