Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Final Paris Destination - Versailles

Versailles is undoubtedly the most popular day trip tourists take from Paris. It is understandable as to why once you make the 30 minute or so train trip - there just isn't any castle or palace (I would even venture to say, even Buckingham palace) that quite compares to Louis XIV's "country home." I have been to both, and though Buckingham Palace is quite impressive and is a currently occupied residence, Louis XIV had a flair for the ostentatious. The palace itself is impressive, but you don't truly appreciate the place until you have seen the gardens.

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.

There isn't much to really say about the palace itself, perhaps because I have seen it several times now. The place is chock full of elaborate paintings, sculpture, and opulent rooms, most having some kind of theme or purpose for its time. Louis XIV greatly enjoyed entertaining, not to mention he knew how to do so for political reasons. He carefully masterminded his "humble abode" to ensure that his followers would be so socially hypnotized by the privilege to be in the king's company that they were willing to do anything it took to stay in Louis' good graces, including supporting whatever political advancements he wished to pursue. Therefore, it is no surprise that there would be rooms dedicated to peace making, war planning, billiards, or even the furnished dining room where chairs were strategically placed for invited guests to watch the king and queen eat. Not to join them for the meal, mind you. Just to watch them. It really is amazing what folks would do back then; but, then again, I doubt most folks these days are much different with a number of celebrities.

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.

We ventured our way back to the train station and back to Paris. That night and the next morning would be a rush of laundry and packing in preparation for the train trip on to Luxembourg. The trip had been a great success and the weather had cooperated brilliantly. I knew in my heart that after experiencing Paris, Lux would seem rather quiet and subdued. However, my ILs will be able to look back on their trip to Paris and have fond memories of their experience of the City of Lights. Who could ask for more?

1 comment:

  1. Nice and very informative Blog friend. It is very informative for all travel interest and especially for me. I am tourist and visited in different countries for my travel passion. Paris has various destinations for visiting. The Versailles is the most tourist attraction in this city. I must visit in this destination after my boston to niagara falls bus. I come here with my business partner for business work.