Day 8: Chateau du Versailles

IMG_0815

Today was our visit to the Palace of Versailles (the French refer to it as the Chateau du Versailles)…but if you know anything about it, Versailles is much more than just a palace!  The vast gardens as well as all of the other buildings (Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon) make this a massive place to tour on foot.  All told, we walked over 8 miles!   Lena (our 6 year old) is a trooper.  She ran most of those 8 miles.  Even as hardened New Yorkers that walk everywhere we go, I must admit that by days end, our feet were like raw, ravaged pieces of meat.  Not to mention that it was rather muddy and puddle-filled all around the grounds!  Luckily, the rain held off for us all day, but there was a bit of a cloudy, foggy gloom hanging over Versailles, but that did not spoil our visit.

Versailles is only a 30 minute train ride from Paris, and then a short 10 minute walk from the train station.  Like some of the great houses of England, I suppose I had always envisioned it being a stand alone structure out in the country…sort of isolated…but it is literally smack in the middle of the town (but I suppose at one time it was isolated, and the town of Versailles grew around the palace).  As you are walking from the train station down the quaint streets, you turn a corner and the palace gates abruptly hit you in the face… and then BAM…a big, gleaming, palace stands before you! Voila!

IMG_0669

IMG_0841 - Copy

I specifically recall learning about Versailles in my 9th grade history class.  My eccentric, older teacher, Ms. Hoskins, was very dramatic in her descriptions.  I remember her describing the vain and powerful King Louis XIV, the Sun King, who remodled Versailles during his reign.  It was he who had the famous Hall of Mirrors constructed.  Ms. Hoskins would pretend to be a visitor to Versailles, and she would pace back and forth in the classroom, pretending to be walking down the Hall of Mirrors, admiring all of the wealth and grandiosity of the French Court.  Looking up and around at the reflected light of the mirrors, the artwork and chandeliers.   And having been there now, I realize that she nailed it…this is exactly what you feel when you walk in the space (when you aren’t being trampled by the other tourists who insist on taking selfies every 5 feet).  The Hall of Mirrors is beautiful, over the top…a little gaudy…ostentatious…but truly amazing.  Over 240 feet long, with a total of 347 mirrors…and at the time it was built, in the 1670’s, mirrors were super expensive, rare, and were imported from Venice.  So having this many mirrors in one room was the ultimate display of power and wealth.

IMG_0737

IMG_0748 - Copy

IMG_0745 - Copy

IMG_0751 - Copy

IMG_0764 - Copy
Lena liked the cherubs’ cheeks
IMG_0782 - Copy
Some of the mirrors had “scratchiti” (graffiti on glass) from different time periods, but it was hard to photograph. This one is from 1949.

IMG_0786

IMG_0773

After the Hall of Mirrors, we toured all of the private apartments of the King and Queen, but they were too crowded and dark for good pictures.  You can imagine that they were silky and gold and big and sumptuous (I did get a few pics of Marie Antionette’s bedroom).   After finishing the interior tour, we grabbed a coffee and a pastry and then headed out to the gardens.

IMG_0799 - Copy
Marie Antionette’s bedroom in the Palace. But she had her own estate at Versailles, where she preferred to stay, which you will see later.

IMG_0795 - Copy

IMG_0810 - Copy

IMG_0684

IMG_0682

IMG_0719

IMG_0699

IMG_0695

IMG_0701

IMG_0704

IMG_0726

IMG_0707

IMG_0808

IMG_0806 - Copy

IMG_0849 - Copy

IMG_0852 - Copy

To give you an idea of the size of the gardens (compared to the size of the Palace) they had these models as part of an exhibit.  The palace is the structure all the way to the right of the photo…the gardens are the rest!

IMG_0693

IMG_0885

IMG_0879

IMG_0878

IMG_0877

Besides being vast beyond comprehension, the gardens are VERY French and very formal….every tree and shrub is manicured to within an inch of its life.   It’s quite different from the English gardens that we toured last summer that were designed to look natural and untamed, but are actually very man-made and cultivated.  With the French, there is no question that nature has been tamed by man.

The next image is dedicated to my mother, who texted me to tell me that I was posting too many “naked pictures” on my blog and that “enough was enough”!  Honestly, I hope I haven’t offended anyone, but I didn’t even think about it…it’s art and statuary. Who cares? Only Lena, who is 6 years old, has pointed out a butt or a penis here and there.  So the next image is just for Mom! Enjoy!

IMG_0880

The French garden designers also really like an allee of trees!  They were everywhere in the gardens.

IMG_1133

IMG_0888

IMG_0889

IMG_0871

IMG_0865 - Copy

IMG_0860 - Copy
Lena took this photo with my camera…she staged the shot as well.
IMG_0856
Josette checking out the map…and then leading us into the depths of a garden and getting us lost.

IMG_0882

So…for the Sun King…the Palace wasn’t enough.  He needed a retreat from the formality of the French Court.   Being royalty was intense…every minute of every day was a planned, intricate, formal affair and it got tedious for the King and his close friends.  So King Louis XIV  had Le Grand Trianon built.  He and his friends could go down to the Le Grand Trianon and hang out in this 1672 version of a “man cave”.  It was also a great place to hide his mistress, the Marquise de Montespan.   In the pictures, you might notice that the interiors don’t look 17th century…they were redecorated by Napoleon and Josephine when he was living at Versailles…and they have remained in that Empire Style.  But you get the idea of just how “low key” this more informal retreat was.

IMG_0924

IMG_0922

IMG_0932

Francois-Athenais_de_Rochechouart
Loius XIV’s mistress, who he hid away in the Grand Trianon.

IMG_0894

IMG_0891

IMG_0909

IMG_0912

IMG_0907

IMG_0896

IMG_0914

Next up was the smaller “retreat” on the grounds of Versailles…Le Petit Trianon.  It was actually built by Louis XV for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, but she died before it was complete…so her successor (as mistress) Madame du Barry lived there for a time.  When Louis XVI became King, he gave Le Petit Trianon to 19 year old Marie Antionette, for her own use and enjoyment.  Everyone thinks of Marie Antionette and immediately thinks of the tall wigs, diamonds, huge dresses…”let them eat cake” version of her….but she was actually just a kid when she became Queen.  She was from royalty herself, but nothing compared to the formality and demands of the French Court.  When she was at the Petit Trianon, she could be simple and live care free.  In touring it, It is rather simple in comparison to the rest of Versailles.  She only let her very closest friends come to visit.

IMG_0987

Marie_Antoinette_1767

IMG_0951

IMG_0969

IMG_0970

IMG_0975

IMG_0973
The panel with the mirror could be lowered and raised for privacy…this is the room where she changed clothes. There was a crank in the room below…she would ring a bell and the servants would turn the crank and the wall would go up or down, as needed.

IMG_0948

IMG_0977
The Queen’s crapper. I LOVE a historic toilet.

IMG_0983

IMG_0980IMG_0989

IMG_1006

IMG_1005

IMG_1010

IMG_1013

In the 1780’s, Marie Antionette had the Queen’s Hamlet constructed.  It was a rustic farm village, modeled after a Norman-style village.  It was a real, active farm village.  She brought in farmers and their wives to live there.  She and her children would dress up in peasant clothes and wander around…hang out in the little houses and live like the common folk.  You can imagine how this went down with the starving French people (and we all know Marie Antionette’s ultimate fate) .  But to visit the Hamlet was awesome.  It was very bucolic and fairy-tale like, and the scale was so much more “human” compared to the over- the- top size of the rest of the Palace gardens.  This was our favorite part of Versailles.

IMG_1037

IMG_1030

IMG_1066

IMG_1099

IMG_1116

IMG_1121

IMG_1124

IMG_1108

IMG_1083

IMG_1090

IMG_1096

IMG_1111

IMG_0934
We met this little guy on the grounds, we named him Louis, after the king. He followed us to lunch.
IMG_0875
Lots of snails all over the place…after the rain

IMG_1128

IMG_1136

We enjoyed a coffee and a bit to eat at a little cafe beside Le Petit Trianon, and then decided that we had seen what needed to be seen!

We were totally exhausted and literally limped back to the train station.  Tomorrow (Friday) is Disneyland Paris!

3 thoughts on “Day 8: Chateau du Versailles

  1. So very amazing.. thank you so much for the fabulous pictures..and for the great history lessons!! I did not know all of this stuff… very interesting!!

  2. As usual the pictures are wonderful. I think your mother is lucky that you are taking the pictures and not Lena. I have a feeling she would find many more butts and other body parts than you. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  3. First,the photo that Lena took of the two of you is great!
    Versailles! What can you say? Insanely opulent! I laughed as you described Ms. Hoskins. She loved history.
    The home itself is amazing, but the gardens are wonderful. It must take an army of people to tend the property.
    I absolutely adore the Queen’s hamlet. I love everything about it. Imagine having the money to say “I want to create my own hamlet to run around in and enjoy”.
    I read a biography about Marie Antoinette. I remember reading that she spent most of her time in the “smaller” home on the property.
    Thank you for allowing us to visit Versailles with you.
    I have so many questions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s