this entry is written by ari, who’s helping me catching up with the Europe Travel entries. but to be honest, going to Versailles is one of the biggest reason why i wanted to go to France.
In the morning, I woke up and prepared some bread while Thalia wakes Aina up. Although it was just some bread and coffee / tea, it was good that we had eaten something before leaving, because the panini place (also recommended by Yosi) that we were after hadn’t opened yet when we got there that morning. So we decided to get some croissants at a regular bakery chain for later. We continued our way to Versailles.
We ran into a bit of trouble getting the RER C ticket to get there since we went to the wrong station. Or maybe it was just the wrong entrance to the same station? After some embarrassing attempts at pronouncing our intended destination and a few highly expressive gestures, we understood that tickets for the train could only be purchased at another area, not that far away actually…
When we got there, the people in charge for tickets and the assistants near the train to Versailles could actually speak English and were very tourist-friendly. There were people wearing a red uniform telling the tourists what time the Versailles train will be arriving since it was the same platform used for commuter trains as well. When the train finally came, they confirmed once again, that yes, this is the train. So we definitely knew we were getting on the right train. Which was incidentally, a double-decker train, which was greeted with glee by a little girl called Aina.
Fast forward after the crowded train ride, through and finally out of the bustling Paris commute, we were out to the city’s outskirts. Enjoying the morning sun through the window of the upper deck, looking at rural Paris.
We reached the station and was quickly scooped by an English speaking lady who directed everyone (tourists) coming out of the station to ticket counters for the Versailles. After waiting in line for about a minute or two, we realized that we were actually at a travel agency. So we quickly broke out of the line, leaving other puzzled looking foreigners, and headed down the pavement towards where the palace is located.
Although the super wide gravel pathway leading to the first gate was largely empty, from a distance we noticed that the place was packed with visitors, school kids and tourists from all around the world. It must be the school holidays, we thought to ourselves…
When we reached the elaborately decorated black and gold outer iron gate, we had to take turns with other tourists for picture taking.
The inner iron gate is all gold. I know this much bling and gold in one place could have turned for the worse and become tacky alltogether. Maybe its the immense proportion of distances between things, making the estate feel appropriately larger than life. Perhaps its the history that makes it credible; knowing that this is the “real thing”, and others like this are just copies. Or maybe the age old incredible details and craftmanship. Nevertheless, in our opinion, the Versailles is completely dignified and sophisticated.
Further into the compound, the ticket purchase process was pretty painless. After waiting in line at the entrance, we were guided to one of the side wings of the enormous building. There were actually waiting rooms prior to getting to the ticket counter, decorated with shockingly modern wallpapers using graphics of royal French symbols.
Unfortunately, strollers were not allowed in the main building. So we had to leave the croissants were planning to eat for lunch with it at the coat check.
The Interior of the Versailles was equally as if not more stunning than the outside. The structure is roughly a U shaped complex. The hallways were lined with marbel statues of nobelmen. Each of these are larger than life size, very intricately carved whole marble piece. In one of the statues, we could even see the stitching on his boots.
Inside the rooms, every inch was decorated and painted up to the max. It was so crowded in there that it was sometimes difficult to see things.
the two-storey chapel:
Salon de Apollo, which serves as the throne room, although built as the King’s bedroom:
Grand appartement du roi:
Salle du Sacre:
The much anticipated Hall of Mirrors was no different, jammed packed with picture-snapping tourists. But it was beautiful indeed, although in reality much narrower than I had remembered depicted in the dance scene of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Aina was delighted of course, imagining handsome princes and beautiful princesses in ballgowns gliding across the hall. But her favorite room was the Queen’s bedroom with flowery wallpaper and an extra ornate bed.
Thalia’s favorite bedroom is the King’s, because he’s got THE view…
After checking out the restaurant, which was overpriced and super crowded, we decided to come out of the main building and grab a sandwich from the deli instead. We had a quick and uneventful lunch and headed towards the garden at the back as soon as we were finished.
The garden was gigantic. Literally, it stretched as far as the horizon. Trimmed hedges on the right and left, manicured trees framing a crossed shaped lake down the center, flanked by giant maze and a hunting ground for the king. It was unreal.
Aina, who has been fascinated with mazes, enjoyed walking around in the tallest maze she’s ever visited.
At the lake, we rented a boat with oars. The weather was so perfect, clear blue skies and the sun was shining. It was so warm people were sunbathing and having picnics on the grassy banks of the lake. Even aina shed her jacket and sweater and walked around with only her t-shirt and jeans. There were white swans everywhere. The strangest part were the straight-edge treelines on our left and right, sharply defining a very deep perspective of the lake area into the horizon. The whole atmosphere felt very surreal. I would say this was my favourite moment of the trip.
After returning our boat just under the 15 minute mark, we started our looong journet back to the palace to pick up aina’s stroller before leaving. We regretted not taking the stroller with us when we ventured out to the garden, but I guess it would have been tough pushing the stroller all the way on the gravel path anyway. Aina was a real trooper the whole way back, although she did complain a bit that tiny gravels kept getting inside her shoes as she walked. She had to stop many times to take off her shoes and shake them out.
From the station, we took the RER back into Paris and stopped at the Eiffel Tower station.
All of Versailles pictures are in the versailles 2012 photo album… Turst me, there are a lot more pictures there. We have too many pictures to put in one entry.
And the rest of today’s pictures are in the flickr’s 16 march 2012 archive archive.