Monday, April 16, 2012

Lifestyles of the Rich & Beheaded

It's pretty hard to feel sorry for Louis and Marie-Antoinette when you get a look at the way they lived their lives before they (literally) lost their heads.  Although Versailles was built and reached it's glory under Louis XIV, it was Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette who last lived in the palace.

Our final full day in Paris was actually spent in Versailles.  We took the train (an hour's trip) and walked from the station to the Palace. It was a stunning day: warm and sunny with minimal crowds.  We'd purchased our full access tickets (again, kids were free!) from the tourist office en route from the station so we were able to just walk right in.  Although it looks like there were tons of tourists, the crowds were nowhere near what I'd experienced on a sweltering July day 27 years ago.

Visitors to Versailles on a Thursday morning in March
Versailles: the approach across the Place D'Armes

Royal courtyard gate, Versailles
The Royal Gate, entrance to the Royal Courtyard, home of Louis XIV, the "Sun King"

The nice thing about touring sites with teenagers is that we could all don our own  personal audio-guides (and here I recommend plugging in your personal earbuds/headphones so you don't have to hold the audiophone to your ear) and walk at our own pace. That means three people way ahead, and mom taking pictures of everything always 10 minutes behind.

Ceiling, Chapelle de Versailles
Royal Chapel ceiling 

Mantle ornamentation, Hercules Drawing room, Versailles
Gold, gold and more gold. Ornate mantle decoration in the Hercules Drawing Room

Chandelier and ceiling, Hall of Mirrors, Versailles
Ceiling, the Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors: mirrors on the right, corresponding windows overlooking the gardens on the left.

Honestly, they should offer an after-hours tour on wheeled chaise lounges. I'd love to be pulled through the palace while reclined on a comfy bed, just gazing at the incredible paintings on the ceilings. It's really difficult to enjoy the walls and opulent ceilings simultaneously while you have to move at the pace of the crowd. I should have dropped a note in the suggestion box.

Window latch, Palace de Versailles
window latch in the King's chambers

Marie-Antoinette's bedroom & jewelry cabinet, Versailles
Marie Antoinette's bedchamber. Yeah, that's her jewelry box on the left.

Suffice it to say that everywhere you look it's over-the-top opulence. I wish more of the palace was open to the public - apparently up to 5000 nobles could hang out and and party there!  Touring the interior doesn't take very long, but you could really spend an entire day or more just cruising the gardens and grounds.  We made our way out back for a picnic on the stairs overlooking the Royal Drive (along with Italian, Dutch and Spanish high school students on tour).

statue at water parterre, Versailles
Statue detail, water parterre

looking over the Orangerie to the Palace, Versailles
overlooking the Orangerie to the main palace

Orangerie, Versailles
L'Orangerie - where Louis displayed his more than 1000 orange trees in summer. B wondered if there were still citrus trees and sure enough, behind those enormous garage doors are hundreds of potted oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes awaiting warmer weather before they are moved into position in the outside garden.

Cherubs, tired of waiting for tulips to grow, Versailles
Poor little cherubs, sitting around for 300 years waiting for flowers to bloom

D loves Versailles, 2012
Fully recovered from her stomach flu, D's feeling energetic in the Versailles sun. 

And then, following Rick's advice, we decided to do something super touristy and fun: we rented a golf cart.   I really wanted to see Marie-Antoinette's little getaway, the Petit Trianon (which was actually built for Louis XV's mistresses, but last decorated and used by M-A) as well as the Grand Trianon, built by Louis XIV as a summer getaway from the hustle and bustle of the main palace.  We decided to expedite the visit by motoring the through the gardens instead of walking in the hot sun (round trip, including touring the buildings, was estimated at 5 hours on foot).  When horse-drawn carriage is not an option, a golf cart seems like a good back up plan to me. The kids even grew to enjoy the baroque music pouring from the golf cart speakers!

Off we went, at a blistering pace (D was able to run faster than the cart's top speed. Yes, she proved it) along the prescribed route.  A 15 minute drive and we'd reached Trianon. First, a few shots taken at the Grand Trianon, a pink marble mini-version of Verailles with two main living/meeting wings joined by an open  colonnade. 

Grande Trianon covered passage between wings
Colonnade, Grand Trianon (main entrance courtyard to the right, gardens to the left)

Grande Trianon, Louis XIV bedchamber
Louis XIV's bedchamber (apparently build for his chief mistress)

Is this chartreuse? I never know...

En route to the Petit Trianon, you pass by the sweet little French Pavillion:

French Pavillion

Petit Trianon, Versailles
Petit Trianon with a view of the dome atop the Temple of Love 

Neoclassical Petit Trianon, Versailles
Petit Trianon

The building was lovely inside, on a much more manageable scale than the gigantic main palace; although that also meant that T barely fit.

T just fits, Petit Trianon, Versailles

Detail, Petit Trianon, Versailles
wall frieze on staircase, Petit Trianon

17th century lock, Petit Trianon, Versailles
I guess bedchamber security is important when marital trysts are 'de rigueur' 

17th century doorknob, Petit Trianon, Versailles
Love the 17th century details like these gorgeous sunflower doorknobs - everything looks better with a layer of gold on it, don't you think?

There you have it - a little taste of Chateau Versailles and the Trianon! This was a special day - we all enjoyed it very much. 

Especially the golf cart.

Golf cart, Versailles


greelyrita said...

Again, your lovely pictures helped me remember my visit to the Palais. I remember getting overwhelmed with the beauty but you managed to be able to keep noticing the little things. Lovely tour! Thanks!!

Elsa said...

What lovely photos. Makes me want to go and see it all. And how wonderful to experience with your whole family!

rubyslipperz1052 said...

you wore ME out, not hard to do with this OLD body!...that was quite a tour, I'm really glad you opted for the golf cart. All the "stuff" was quite over the top. But, there were some really interesting designs and some WOW colors especially in the last leg of the tour.

Thanks for taking the time to share all the wonderuful pictures. =)


Karen M said...

Thank you so much for sharing your pictures. Versailles is on my bucket list, but since I might not get there, it was nice to visit vicariously through you.

Patti said...

Fantastic photo tour! Thanks for sharing it.

dutchcomfort said...

Your photographs are outstanding! You’ve actually seen more of Versailles than I ever did! Thanks for sharing and telling about your wonderful tour!

toko baju muslim said...

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Andrea C said...

Even better than some of the pictures you posted on Histogram. It's must better spending the day in Versailles with your family than in the office on a dreary Monday morning.

Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts said...

Gorgeous! What I'm most looking forward to on our spring trip. Lovely photos BTW - you been studying?? (and the chandeliers....oh my goodness, the chandeliers).

Nina Lise@Mrs Moen said...

So now you know how we European live! Lucky you to visit twice, I never got to see that much during my stay in Paris. Thanks for the, as always, fab pictures!

DianeY said...

Wonderful pictures! I think I better see when my passport expires=this looks too good!

Tracey Jacobsen said...

over the top crazy! whoa!!! it would be amazing to see that in real life though... I like the rolling chaise idea. :)

Sana Saroti said...

Great pictures! Thanks for the Tour de France/Paris ;-)

CitricSugar said...

Title of this post=awesome.

Opulent. I never made to Versailles but I did see his apartments in the Louvre. I was coming back from Russia so next to Catherine the Great's over the top style, I found the French to be pleasantly understated. :-)

Thanks for sharing.

Katie said...

So. Beautiful. Versailles is the main reason I want to visit France. It's too over the top gorgeous. Just amazing!

Nicola said...

Great photos. The Petit Trianon and the model farm are my favourites - much easier to absorb than the main palace. I get to see the view in the first photo whenever I pop into Versailles for sewing supplies - it never gets old!!

Dianne said...

Okay I now have visions of you being towed on a chaise through the palace by two young and, need I say it, "buff" young men. For some reason you are in a flowing gown and have a box of chocolates. While it may not be approved on that scale I think this is a great idea and you totally should have floated it! I will keep an eye out for the chaise tour should I ever find myself at the close of the day at Versailles!!

Mrs Flying Blind... said...

Oh so you are 'the people' those carts are for!! (You have seen WALL-E haven't you!?).

I haven't been there in about 20 years, I think I would appreciate it so much more now x

Rachel said...

Great photos! I've never been to Versailles when it WASN'T teeming with people. Last time I was there, a "gentleman" even leaned his hand on my head to steady his camera while he took a picture. What nerve!

The gardens are beautiful - I'm saving them for my next visit ;-)

PinkGranny said...


Leanne said...

It is just so hard to imagine that people lived there, doing ordinary things. Your pictures are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is....WOW!!!!!!

karen @ badlandsquilts said...

Fabulous pictures!

Christina Lane | The Sometimes Crafter said...

France has never been a burning interest for me with all my love of history, but these photos makes me want to spend a week in Paris! It would be surreal to visit the homes of M-A and the Louis'. GORGEOUS photos! Just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this post, especially the golf cart story. We never made it to Versailles when we were in Paris, but I remember studying it at art school. Although I don't remember anything about the Petit Trianon. Wouldn't it be grand if we all had a hideaway we could escape to when our husbands or kids drive us crazy? Yes indeed.