Ever since I learned about the Palace of Versailles in the stuffy dark underground lecture theatre at architecture school, I yearned to visit it. It was close to the top of my list of things to do in Paris but as it is a day trip by train, it took the visit of a friend to act as the catalyst.
Of course, romantically I imagined wandering through the halls of the palace to turn a final bend and see the famous Hall of Mirrors just like in the lecture slide below
(Image: Galerie des glaces Chateau Versailles - 360° VR Photo by Laurent Thion)
But of course in reality it was more like this
My 5’3” Napoleonic stature could barely see over the crowd so I invited my 6’2” friend to take a picture for me so I could see it on the camera screen and now for a second time as I write this.
The palace itself is overwhelming, in a spatial and crowded sense, but well worth the perseverance. The audio guide provides great anecdotes about the ostentatious nature of the Kings who lived here. It started off as King Louis XIII’s hunting lodge, an escape from the Royal Palace (which is now the Louvre) to grow into a building that now boasts a façade that extends to over half a kilometre, 600 meters in fact.
…and then there are the royal gardens which are nothing short of spectacular. Well they are, in fact, not short at all extending (at a guess) well over 10 kilometers. It took workmen 40 years to complete André Le Nôtre’s design, it’s just phenomenally large. Even if you aren’t a garden fanatic it would be pretty difficult not to be enchanted as you wander around listening to the classical music or as you pause to watch the water fountains execute their chorographed spectacle.
I am looking forward to going back in the summertime to enjoy one of the “fêtes de nuit” perhaps the Royal Fireworks… follow the link below to get more of an idea…
I know I didn’t make the most of my trip there, missing seeing half of the gardens and most of Marie Antoinette’s quartier… so with the wisdom of hindsight I wish to confirm heeding the websites warning of turning up at the moment the royal gilded gates open as to make the most of this amazing palace. Ça vaut vraiment la peine!