Now after a really great day at Paris, we wondered what to do the next day which was a Sunday. My friend C had to work on Monday. So even though our trip had started with a conversation about the original chateau that was the inspiration for Versailles and which we did want to see, somehow it didn’t fit into the schedule and we decided that the time would be better spent in seeing the Versailles. C had been to Versailles in one of her previous trips, but she was so kind to accompany me and see the palace once again. And then we went to sleep, which came easily after the exhaustion of the day and the lovely dinner that we had.
When we woke up, it turned out to be a cloudy, slightly rainy day. But that didn’t dampen our spirits. After breakfast with M and P, we drove down to Versailles. It was not too far from the village where we were staying. After purchasing the tickets, we wondered whether we should first go to the gardens or to the palace. We decided to walk through the really huge gardens first because the weather looked dubious and it felt reasonable to stay out as long as possible and the get inside whenever it started to rain.
After the experience, I can say that one can easily spend one whole day just going through the grounds of this palace and probably still not cover all of it! At some point, I remember myself looking ruefully at the people who had rented the golf-carts!
A little introduction of the Versailles palace. It is the biggest architectural legacy left by Louis XIV – the Sun King. It became the royal residence, and hence the center of politics, in 1682, when the King moved his residence and court from Paris to here. Earlier, his father Louis XIII used to go to Versailles for hunting and had a hunting lodge there. It remained the royal residence from 1682 up until the French revolution, when the royal family was forced to return to Paris in 1789.
Back to the spring day in 2018 – we started walking towards the gardens and tried to find the source of the music that we kept hearing. On the pamphlet, we’d read that there were some fountain shows with music. We did come across some ponds and fountains and they were quite pretty, but it might be my being “geographically challenged” or may be the place was built like a maze, that we couldn’t find what we thought we should be finding, according to the pamphlet! In between it also drizzled and I had to whip out my black colored rain poncho which gave me a kind of wizardry appearance! C was more relaxed about the drizzle and cooly walked about without a worry :-).
After looking for the fountains and failing to find the source of music, we gave up and decided to just go towards the Hameau de la Reine. On the way we found the Petit Trianon. Went inside and looked around. It was a lovely mini-palace with its own chapel and beautiful rooms.
The funny thing that happened with us there was at the restrooms! The ladies restroom had a super long queue while the men’s was empty for some time while we stood in the queue. So some ladies including decided to make use of the men’s restroom. C and I followed. By the time, our turn came, the men, who arrived in the meantime, got impatient and went in, even though the ladies outside told them that there were some women inside. That was a little embarrassing but then I guess in France, there is no concept of embarrassment. Now I am wondering, how come it happens that I have a restroom story to tell for both times that I have been to Paris! In the first trip, it was at the Eiffel Tower and this time, it was at Versailles – both great places and instead of some exciting story that I could have had there, all I’ve got are the restroom experiences as memories! It must be only in the movies that something magical happens! Frankly, I’m losing my belief in magic..sigh…
Anyway, we moved on and followed the directions to the miniature village that was made on the orders of Marie Antoinette. We followed the directions but then found on reaching the entrance or what we thought to be the entrance, that it was closed and had to go back to another location that we had already crossed earlier, from where we could enter. I was so tired that I was almost on the verge of asking someone with the golf car to give us a lift! But we carried on and finally reached the location. It felt quite deserted and the gloomy weather gave the feeling of a ghost village! There were animals which were probably the descendants of the original species of ducks, turkeys, pigs, donkeys etc., which were reared on the farm during the 18th century. It was a kind of refuge for the queen, away from the pomp of the Versailles, where she liked to maintain a rustic atmosphere. It was considered to be in bad taste – the general populace was convinced that the queen was mocking the poor people by having this kind of a hamlet where she pretended to be a milkmaid or a shepherdess. This also added fuel to the resentment towards the royal family which ultimately led to the revolution.
After the visit, we decided to walk back and go the palace. We kind of got lost, found a few others who were also trying to find their way out (I guess the makers made the layout of the grounds quite complicated – may be to help Louis XIV with his several amorous rendezvous or who knows!).
Once we could find our way, we proceeded and found a lovely restaurant and since our breakfast had become a distant memory by then, we decided to sit down and rest our feet and feed our tummies. C had a lovely looking pizza. And I found a gluten-free pasta dish, which worked well with a glass of wine.
I also ordered a side of French Fries – but then it was a lot, so I got it packed. That proved to be a good idea because when we reached the palace, we found ourselves facing a serpentine queue which seemed to just be there without a beginning or an end! Kept walking until we found the place where we could join the queue. The French Fries, even though cold by then, helped to keep away the boredom of standing in the queue.
Finally we could get inside and looked at the various rooms of the palace. I don’t remember too much now except the opulence on display.
The Hall of Mirrors was a huge hall with amazing frescoes and magnificent chandeliers.
Funniest thing was to learn about the bed chamber of Louis XIV. It was a privilege to see the king go to sleep at night and get up in the morning (and do his business in the morning, if you know what I mean)! Sycophancy at its best or worst – depends on the point of view. If you are interested, just search the internet and you would find really incredible stories about what all went on in the French court during the times of Louis XIV.
After looking at everything, it was time for the palace to close and so we had to get out, although I guess we could have spent another hour easily there had it not been the closing time.
Then we left and returned to our temporary home. When we reached, we found that M had prepared a lovely dish for dinner. After having dinner and some chatting, it was time to sleep and prepare myself for the next day when I would be solo explorer, as C had to make some visits as part of her work with the schools.
P.S. It’s interesting that my visit here was on a dark gloomy day, quite like my visit to the Schonbrunn palace in Vienna in 2017. Is it to indicate the dark history? Food for thought..