The Versaille Estate is an immense estate and was started by King Louis Xlll. It was King Louis XlV who turned Versaille into the estate it is now and ensured that it would have a destiny. From 1682 to 1789, Versailles was the seat of monarchy. It is not too close to Paris but is not that far away either.
Nowadays it takes approximately 45 minutes to travel from the Eiffel Tower to Versaille and costs €10.30 return for one adult and one child. I can just imagine how long it would take to travel that distance by horse and buggy. Admission fee into the Estate is €18.00 for one adult and one child. This is alot cheaper than going with a tour company with a coach where it was approx. €70.00 for the adult and €50.00 for the child.
Louis XlV made sure that Versaille held everything for the service of the King. All the officers of the royal house, ministers, private apartments, gardens for walking, a hunting park were all housed in Versaille.
Today Versaille is still vast, though it has lost its hunting grounds. Versaille is 800 hectares, 20 kms of roads, as much if not more enclosing walls, 200,000 plus trees and more flowers, 35 kms of canals, 11 hectares of roofing, 2153 windows, 700 rooms, 67 staircases and more.
Louis XV had the Petit Trianon built and Louis XVl had the Queen’s Hamlet built. The Queen’s Hamlet is not something you would expect and shows a lot about Marie Antoinette’s person.
Visiting Versaille needs to be an all day excursion and we arrive just as the gates were opening and there was a small line up. As there is so much I am just going to tell you about our highlights.
When planning your day a word of warning. If you carry a knapsack you will have to check it. This is because of breakage from not knowing how far back you extend. I totally get it though it is annoying for planning. Women’s purses are allowed. If you pack a lunch – as we did – you will have to come back to the front to fetch your bag and then go back to the gardens to enjoy your lunch.
The Chateau is massive and you are fed a certain path. The apartments are decorated as they were after the last renovation and are beautiful with the heavy brocade curtains, marble floors and statues and heavily ornate pictures.
As with all kids once you see one palace or estate they all start to look the same. What is interesting is the bedchambers. Were people really that short or did they sleep sideways, along the wall. All the beds are made with beautifully carved wood frames that also put the beds higher up needing a small staircase to get into bed. Some rooms were decorated in all one color, which actually worked well, considering one room was a mustard color. Clue anyone?
One of the most memorable rooms is the Hall of Mirrors which was completed in 1680. It replaced a terrace that separated the King’s and Queen’s Apartments. This was Magpie’s favourite room. The Hall of Mirrors was initially furnished with pieces in solid silver by Louis XlV, but were melted down to pay for the expenses of war in 1689. Full dress balls or masked balls in celebrations of princely marriages were often held here. The ceiling was painted by Charles Le Brun who portrayed the history of Louis XlV’s reign.
Magpie’s next favourite room was the Hall of Battles. It is situated in the south wing, also known as the Princes’ Wing. This room is an entire floor and is wall to wall, almost floor to ceiling paintings dedicated to the great French victories. It starts with the Tolbiac victory in 497 to the Wagram victory in 1809. It also holds the busts of all the great officers and princes of royal blood who died for France.
My favourite place was the Queens’ Hamlet. It is located on the opposite side and is a good walk through the gardens. The Queens’ Hamlet is a down to earth area. It reminds me of old english cottages. It unfortunately is very worn down and you are unable to go into the buildings but you can get a feel of what Marie Antoinette was like as there is no grandeur with this hamlet. It has animals, a small windmill and a couple small houses. The gardens around are simple but graceful. Marie Antoinette was also a big fan of the theatre and had a small theatre built for her. She enjoyed singing and putting on plays.
The gardens are incredible but also a little disappointing. Why the disappointment I am not sure. I guess I was expecting more color. Within each section is a special feature, usually a fountain. Some of these fountains are quite impressive and so different.
It is possible to take a small train around the estate as well as a bike. In the canals it is possible to rent paddle boats and row boats. Throughout the estate are picnic spots and small places to get something to eat. The food is not cheap, which is why we brought our lunch, but we did find real sorbet.