Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Final Paris Destination - Versailles
Since it was our last full day in Paris, my in-laws decided that they wanted to see Versailles before we made our way back to Luxembourg. We had originally planned to go on Sunday as their first sight-seeing trip of the vacation, but we changed our minds thinking that 1) they may not be up for the amount of walking required to see it, and 2) it pretty much requires the whole day, so we would run the risk of having to rule out one of the other "must dos" on the list. Well, having covered most of the "must dos" on Monday, we were left with a free day to make the venture. Luckily for us, the RER train that leads to Versailles has a stop right near Notre Dame, so the walk to the station was only a 10 minute walk from the apartment. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not ideal. Storms had ventured into Paris the night before and promised to stay for the remainder of our trip. We did have to bundle up a bit more as the temperatures had also dropped a bit.
The train ride was quick and we were soon within the gates of the palace, awaiting our turn to make our way through security and to the ticket office. The lines at Versailles can be very similar to those at the Louvre, so the Museum pass is very handy to have. When we bought our passes earlier in the week, it was before we had changed our plans. Therefore, by the time we got around to going to Versailles, our passes had expired. Thankfully, the lines were shorter than usual that day, so our wait was rather manageable.
It is unfortunate that what Louis XIV created was passed down to other Louises that were not as politically savvy as their ancestor. The helpful audio tour that accompanies your ticket is wonderful in summarizing the amazing history of the place, including the fall of Versailles under Louis XVI's rule. Some of the art is worthy of the Louvre (and in some cases, copies actually reside in the Louvre), and the Hall of Mirrors is a true sign of wealth and vanity given how precious mirrors were regarded back in the day. But again, the gardens take the palace to a whole different level. Unlike the Louvre, whose Tuilleries are quite lovely and have a rather similar feel, the gardens at Versailles are vast and impressive. You could spend hours visiting each walled garden and never fully see or appreciate the place. If you are fortunate enough to visit on a weekend during the high season, you have the added treat of seeing the various fountains in action, many of which are set to music similar to those at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Our visit last July with the kids was fantastic and we did manage to hit the palace on a Sunday. This trip, however, was on the early side, so most of the gardens had not been planted for the high season just yet. We did enjoy walking through some of the gardens and catching a quick lunch at one of the outdoor garden restaurants. Again, not the best of weather for eating outside, but the hot chocolate and burgers hit the spot.