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.
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|
|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))|
|The royal whim caused Versailles to be built and decorated, and that whim was occasionally whimsical.|
|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.|
|We peeked out a rear window at the gardens|
|featuring more plant torture.|
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
|ornate furniture -- Karen liked this table|
|with its stone inlay map of France
(including newly annexed regions to the north and east).
|after room of it|
|And then you get to the hall of mirrors and everyone stops and stares.|
|it cleared out a good deal in the afternoon as we came back through after lunch|
|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.|
|especially the ones roped off like this|
|Consequently some of the larger rooms got so crowded you just had to wait till the larger tours moved on.|
|then you get to the large hall of paintings of French battles which can easily hold many groups..|
|(we think it shows only the battles the French won)|
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|
|If you want to see how the parts relate to the whole, you can buy a model of Versailles at the shop|
|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|
|This personification of America, with 'gator, is used in several places|
|This area is less elaborate but more home-like|
|The shortness of the beds always made Dick's back ache in sympathy.|
|There's even a library|
|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|
|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.|
|Near the palace is all gritty paths and sculpted vegetation|
|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|
|part way down they were working on something|
|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.|
|Peeking through the fencing it looks like plants inside are allowed to grow quite naturally.|
|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|
|At that point (after ice cream) we branched away from the lake through less heavily groomed landscape|
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.|
|The Grand Trianon was also known as the Marble Trianon|
|The plants don't get any less rigid treatment than at the palace|
|Were the rooms color coded so the servants could tell them apart?|
|Just a simple cottage in the country...|
|Karen would have loved to have taken home this malachite basin but it probably would have been difficult to fit into the luggage.|
|How to deal with high ceilings: a table that converts to stairs|
|Another long hall of paintings, quite elegant if you hadn't already been through the palace|
|If it's decorated in purple, it was probably Napoleon who chose the fabrics.|
|Karen finally found some stained glass in the chapel|
|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|
|Through more manicured vegetation|
|Still ornate, with slightly more "managed" crowd control. It was also a much smaller simple square building.|
|(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.|
|The clocks throughout the three complexes were delightfully ornate and whimsical.|
|The Petit even allows you to visit the kitchen|
|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.|
|and another lake with swan|
|circling back to the Trianon area the vegetation gets more ordered|
|We hike back to the main Versailles palace area (note sheep)|
|and find the Apollo fountain is now turned on, although not in full "performance" mode.|
|more statues amd sculpted plants|
|with waving merman|
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|
|so you get 3 photos of the Neptune fountain|
|With its representation of Neptune, Amphitrite, Ocean and Proteus.|
|We slip out the dragon gate for a stroll through town|
|back to the souvenier sellers and the RER station.|
|to catch the train back to Paris|
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|
And art inspired by exotic places
|Out over the fields of France|
|With a video to tell us when|
|we were over the cliffs of Dover we had seen the year earlier|
|iceburgs still floated in the sea off Greenland|
|Northern Canada was snow free|
|But there was still snow on the Canadian Rockies|
|Finally we see the familiar shores of Puget Sound and home.|
|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|
Back to Main Travel Page
all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
and may not be reproduced without written permission
Back to the Seymour Stained Glass website:
|DIY Book &