“Marie-Anoinette: This is ridiculous.
Comtesse de Noailles: This, Madame, is Versailles.”
– Marie Antoinette, 2006
The palace of Versailles is just a hop, skip, and a half hour train ride outside of central Paris in a way that belies the income, cultural, and geographic divides of the 18th century it represents. In the 1700s it was a mere 12 miles outside of the city but an entire world away.
The private domains of the last three kings of France, the brain child of Louis XIV who styled himself the Sun King and developed a court structure and architecture that literally revolved around himself, and no small contributor to the eventual Revolution itself… Versailles is just a bit much. In that glorious Rococo sort of way. Perhaps it’s just me, but wandering through the gilt laden and marbled inlaid, well, everything really, I can’t help looking around and thinking to myself, “Yeah, I would absolutely have revolted too.”
Versailles was a gigantic feat of social engineering as well as building design. As chief gravitational force of his own private solar system, Louis XIV literally required his nobles to up sticks from their estates to come and wait on him personally hand and foot 24/7/365. Instead of living on and working their properties, managing their own affairs, or contributing in substantial ways to the French economy, the nobility lived almost entirely off of incomes supplied by the King’s government and existed in a perfumed, periwig-ed cocoon of privilege.
“Come now,” I imagine Louis XIV said of an earlier incarnation of this room, “there is simply not enough gilt and cloth of gold here. What am I, a peasant? MOAR GOLD!”
The Queen’s, er, equally restrained and tasteful bedroom…
Meanwhile, outside of the (literally) golden gates, wars, economic collapses, and famine were doing their level best to flatten the commoners – who of course paid for all the upkeep since the nobility and clergy were exempted from taxes.
The justifiably famous Hall of Mirrors.
Our trip to Versailles started off a bit sodden as the morning was gray, rainy, and quite chilly. But by the time we made it through the palace and out into the gardens the sun had burst out to warm us all up. We trekked to the Grand and Petit Trianon minor residences and meandered through the false hamlet built so that Queen Marie Antoinette could play at being a peasant maid (complete with Sevres china milk buckets of course), and then back along the grand canal where crew teams and romantic pairs were rowing on the once royal waters.
The gorgeous colonnade from the Grand Trianon.
The last time I was at Versailles was about 8 years ago (*clutches self a little to realize that*) when my mother and I came here on a girls only vacation, so it was great to get an updated view of the site. a number of restoration projects are underway and new rooms have been made available to the public since my last visit. It makes for an excellent day trip, but do book tickets in advance if you can – especially if you go in the high tourist season! Katie, our expert traveler, booked tickets for all four of us in advance and we got to swan past the throngs of other tourists waiting in line.
It costs under 10 Euros for two people to get to the Versailles Rive Gauche station on the RER-C line from the Notre Dame Metro stop, and the palace is a 5 to 10 minute’s walk away.
There are simply too many stunning photos for one blog post so keep an eye on my Instagram feed for more snapshots of our meanderings through Versailles this week.