Travels with Dick and Karen


Part 5


Many of the Metro stations are connected underground to (nearly) co-located RER (train) stations. "St-Michel - Notre Dame"(on the Seine's Left Bank, right next to Notre Dame) was one such, giving us convenient connections to Versailles (line C) and Charles de Gaulle airport (line B).

We got to the station early (for us) because the travel books said that this was the way to avoid a long wait in line to enter Versailles


We arrived at the station in time to catch the 8:45 am train. Ticket purchase was quick and easy, the first level down was the correct one for our destination. We passed through the turnstile and waited expectantly...


..., and waited. And waited. The train arrival kept being re-scheduled and was ultimately 45 minutes late (rumor of an other train's breakdown up the line).


But, once on board, the trip was quick and easy... the underground tunnel semi-surfaced beside the Seine, providing a view of the river from the north side of the cars. Eventually it completely surfaced, and then spent a portion of the journey as an elevated run.

At 10am we arrived at the town of Versailles, King Louis the 14th (and bird) presiding over a vast parking lot.


(Here it is later in the afternoon after the busses have cleared out.)

This section of the palace only hints at Versailles' sheer size.

Despite having purchased entry tickets in Paris at the Hotel de Ville's tourist office, we still had to pass through the single security line. The line was long but fast moving.
The gilded fence is almost as long as a US football field and spans twice the width of this photo.
The building in the painted "wrap" was undergoing external restoration.

After clearing security, we could skip the ticket window and join the folks milling about choosing where to start.
Choices included: the château, various gardens, Marie-Antoinette's Trianon Palaces, house and "hamlet".

The small central section in the background of this photo is the original "small hunting lodge" that was expanded beyond belief to become the seat(s, rooms and beds) of Louis XIV's government.


We went for the Château (palace) first.

It starts slowly with a room of models

and paintings of what it used to look like at various stages versailles
There was a model of the adjacent opera house (which is not usually open for viewing so we wouldn't see it in the flesh (or plaster)) versailles
The royal whim caused Versailles to be built and decorated, and that whim was occasionally whimsical. versailles
Ho hum, seems similar to the Louvre (says a certain jaded tourist walking before the camera). The style of "long halls, art everywhere" did lend a familiar motif to the visit. versailles
We peeked out a rear window at the gardens versailles
featuring more plant torture. versailles

Then we arrived at the public rooms of the palace.

Their intent was to stun the visitor to the court with the sheer opulence, power and wealth of the Sun King. They suceeded.

Stone, statues, paintings, lots of gold

painted ceilings versailles
ornate furniture -- Karen liked this table versailles
with its stone inlay map of France
(including newly annexed regions to the north and east).
Room after versailles
room versailles
after room versailles
after room of it versailles
And then you get to the hall of mirrors and everyone stops and stares. versailles
it cleared out a good deal in the afternoon as we came back through after lunch versailles
But in the morning it was thick with tour guides giving their spiel despite the signs admonishing them that tours were not allowed to linger for a talk in the smaller rooms. versailles
especially the ones roped off like this versailles
Consequently some of the larger rooms got so crowded you just had to wait till the larger tours moved on. versailles
then you get to the large hall of paintings of French battles which can easily hold many groups.. versailles
(we think it shows only the battles the French won) versailles

Yes, that's George Washington: the French won the battle of Yorktown.


If you go into the places tours do not, it is nearly empty versailles
If you want to see how the parts relate to the whole, you can buy a model of Versailles at the shop versailles
Back outside in the courtyard we go around to the entry to the apartments of Louis XV's three daughters (les Mesdames Apartments). Tours groups usually skip this area so it is much less crowded versailles
This personification of America, with 'gator, is used in several places versailles
This area is less elaborate but more home-like versailles
The shortness of the beds always made Dick's back ache in sympathy.  versailles
There's even a library versailles
The guide points out that they ran short of funds and used trompe l'oeil techniques in this room to simulate the elegant rooms above versailles
After dozens of rooms, we come outside behind the main building complex to the top of the gardens. We decided to walk rather than take the little train to the Trianon. versailles
Near the palace is all gritty paths and sculpted vegetation versailles
We strolled down the grand vista.
The fountains put on Spectacles on weekends. Louis XIV had a river rerouted to power them.
We strolled past statues, fountains and teams of gardeners versailles
part way down they were working on something versailles
We reach the well known Apollo fountain
(and circled it, taking many photos)
We turned off to go through some of the grids of shaved trees. versailles
Peeking through the fencing it looks like plants inside are allowed to grow quite naturally. versailles
There are interesting "rooms" at the intersections of the tree rows. This one was blocked off for some reason
(photo taken through a small gap in the fence)
A major feature of the gardens is the "Grand Canal", a cross-shaped mile-long lake. Further down the lake people had rented boats and were enjoying the water versailles
At that point (after ice cream) we branched away from the lake through less heavily groomed landscape versailles

to go to where the little train from the palace went, the Grand Trianon


This is where the royals went to "escape" from court life (escape = no painted ceilings?)

"Trianon" was the name of a village adjacent to Versailles that Louis XIV bought ... and demolished. He built the Grand Trianon Cheateux, and Louis XV built the Petit Trianon nearby.

Everybody used the buildings, including Napoleon and Louis-Philippe. Charles de GAulle ordered its restoration in 1965.  versailles
The Grand Trianon was also known as the Marble Trianon  versailles
The plants don't get any less rigid treatment than at the palace versailles
Were the rooms color coded so the servants could tell them apart? versailles
Just a simple cottage in the country...  versailles
Karen would have loved to have taken home this malachite basin but it probably would have been difficult to fit into the luggage. versailles
How to deal with high ceilings: a table that converts to stairs versailles
Another long hall of paintings, quite elegant if you hadn't already been through the palace versailles
If it's decorated in purple, it was probably Napoleon who chose the fabrics.  versailles
Karen finally found some stained glass in the chapel versailles
The marble columns and diamond-patterned patio are behind the arches between these wings of Grand Trianon. But it's time for us to exit and go over to the nearby Petite Trianon versailles
Through more manicured vegetation versailles
Still ornate, with slightly more "managed" crowd control. It was also a much smaller simple square building. versailles
(simple if compared to Versailles or the Grand Trianon) Since color schemes were repeated, the rooms had functional names instead just "the pink one". This is the Company Room... where you'd greet company. versailles
The clocks throughout the three complexes were delightfully ornate and whimsical.  versailles
The Petit even allows you to visit the kitchen versailles
Marie-Antoinette liked to play at being a simple peasant farmgirl, and had a twelve-house village built elsewhere on the grounds.
We chose not to visit the mock village of the Queen's Hamlet, and instead toured the wilder part of the gardens. Here's a lake with a folly.
and beyond that a man-made grotto. versailles
and another lake with swan versailles
circling back to the Trianon area the vegetation gets more ordered versailles
We hike back to the main Versailles palace area (note sheep) versailles
and find the Apollo fountain is now turned on, although not in full "performance" mode. versailles
more statues amd sculpted plants versailles
fountains versailles
with waving merman versailles

and a dragon.

This is the oldest fountain at Versailles, and the most powerful... water rising from the dragon's mouth shoots over 90 feet into the air.

One larger body of water near the NE corner was surrounded by statuary Karen liked very much versailles
so you get 3 photos of the Neptune fountain versailles
With its representation of Neptune, Amphitrite, Ocean and Proteus.  versailles
We slip out the dragon gate for a stroll through town versailles
back to the souvenier sellers and the RER station. versailles
to catch the train back to Paris versailles

Our day of departure happened before we ran out of things to see

Even at the airport there was a small museum display of travel furniture, courtesy of the Museum des Arts Decoratifs Paris

And art inspired by exotic places

Out over the fields of France Paris
With a video to tell us when Paris
we were over the cliffs of Dover we had seen the year earlier Paris
iceburgs still floated in the sea off Greenland Paris
Northern Canada was snow free Paris
But there was still snow on the Canadian Rockies Paris
Finally we see the familiar shores of Puget Sound and home. Paris



Back to main travel page or Inside Museums

The Neighborhood Along the Seine
North Loop South to NE Boise Vincennes & B. Boulogne Versailles
Inside the Larger Museums: Louvre Arts Décoratifs Orsay Guimet (Asian art) Quai Branly

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all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
and may not be reproduced without written permission

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