Oct 6, 2019

The Paris Diaries #2: Versailles. The Palace. The Gardens.

Grab that coffee you may even have successfully made on the first go with your hotel room coffee machine and your trusty Kmart camping mug,

because today’s diary entry sees me hit the ground running and rediscovering my inner tourist.  

Literally running - the hotel thoughtfully supplied my favourite dreadmills in the fitness centre!!!!!  What a time to be alive.

Given that I have a difficult to explain love of Darling Harbour, the latter really wasn't that hard at all....

I cannot go any further without sharing some breakfast photos.  Grapefruit segments and a selection of cereal toppings that feature chia seeds and linseed!  My every need seems to have been anticipated by the hotel.

My visit to the Palace of Versailles was part of a day trip through Paris City Vision.  In addition to the palace, we had a stop for lunch before driving onwards to Giverny where we visited the garden and house of Claude Monet.  

I highly recommend considering a tour with Paris City Vision if you're short on time and like everything planned ahead when you sightsee.  The photo above is of the line for general ticket holders waiting for entry to the palace at around 9am.

The line only got longer as the day progressed.

Tour groups enter the palace grounds through a separate entrance.  We also had our own audio units so that Pascale our tour group leader was able to talk to us throughout his presentation without losing his voice.

Pascale also drove us expertly from our hotels onwards to all our destinations on the tour.  Groups are small - mine totalled six visitors and it was great fun getting to know people from other parts of the world and sharing our travel stories during the drive and over lunch.  It was also interesting to discover Paris beyond the city centre.  The area around the palace is now mostly residential and a highly desired place to live.

I'm not a historian and this post is by no means meant to be a history lesson.  I took a ridiculous amount of photos so I hope I don't bore you with them all but we need to discuss the golden gates of the entrance.  They're actually a relatively new addition to the grounds and were erected as part of a restoration project.  That fresh golden glow of the sun king, royal crest and the fleur de lys all come from the wonders of modern gold coloured paint and not gold leaf that the romantic in me dreamed they would be.
Looking toward the marble court inside the palace grounds.

The palace grounds were initially a farm and hunting lodge until King Louis XIV decided that Versailles would be the new royal residence.

In his youth, Louis XIV imagined himself as an extension of Greek mythology and many of the portraits and sculptures commissioned of him in these early years do feature this motif strongly.

The painting above is part of the State Room where the palace tour begins.  It's a representation of the history of France politically from the time of the French Revolution.  The King is that upper left corner, in the shadows while the church don't seem to fare much better with their bottom left, heads down position.

The Salon of Venus is one room of the King's State Apartments.

The King's bedchamber.

The Queen's bedchamber.

If you look closely at the photo below you can just make out the secret door in the wall between the chair and the cabinet.  It leads to another room whose name escapes me but strangely, it was definitely not the King's room.

There's an interesting series of portraits of Maria Theresa of Spain in the palace.

The first is from around the time of her marriage to King Louis XIV and then the second below sees some of her regal bearing lost some years into a marriage that weathered infidelity and the loss of several children to illness.

This portrait of Marie Antoinette is unique for many reasons.  Firstly, the artist was female (Vigee-Lebrun) and secondly, the theme of a royal mother has been presented with a twist.  The portrait features Marie Antoinette with three of her children and an empty cradle that her son is showing us.  The cradle was that of Sophie, the fourth child who had died around the time of the portrait being painted.

A portrait of Louis XIV aged in his sixties.  The obsession with Greek mythology now a distant memory as the king breaks with tradition and reveals his legs and the stacked heels of his boots.  He was not a tall man so revealing 'the secret' to his height and his true physique in an official portrait were probably both humbling decisions.  That trademark big hair remains though.

 If I had this view from my windows at home, I don't think I'd ever want to leave.  Not even for coffee....

I have no word to describe the Hall of Mirrors except breathtaking.

The mirrors of the wall were a world first when the room was constructed.  Making even the smallest mirror at the time was expensive and complicated but somehow Louis XIV found people to make bigger mirrors happen.  Then he lined an entire hall with them.  He was also the first man in history to be able to view himself in a full-length mirror.

The final room of our tour pays homage to Napolean and is fittingly called the Coronation Room.

At its centre is the Austerlitz Column which Napolean commissioned.

Logically. a painting of his coronation occupies a wall of the room.

A moment please to behold the magnificence of the Orangerie garden.

It takes a good half an hour to power walk from the palace to the perimeter of the garden.  Shooting practice from a nearby military base gave my mission a bit of purpose.

At around 11am, the fountains spring to life with a soundtrack of classical music.

The Fountain of Latona as seen from the Grand Canal side.

The government hit water supply issues for the fountains of the gardens in the 18th century so they built stone aqueducts to divert water from Marly to irrigate the fountains.  Today, only a few of the fountains have an active supply of water and this is strictly managed to conserve this precious resource.

The Colonnade Bosquet can be found at the end of one grove of the garden.

There were too many groves to explore in the time I had at Versailles.  Though future me is dreaming of a retirement return to Versailles so that I can find a B&B in the area and tackle a section of the garden on each day of my stay.  With the future equivalent of Airpods stuck in my years and possibly an Alpine walking stick in each hand, I see myself striding with purpose up and down those groves.  Possibly chatting away in French and quite likely in some activewear.....

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