Last Sunday, I woke up surprisingly early (for a Sunday, 10:30 AM), worked on some college stuff, ate a huge brunch consisting of two boiled eggs, the veal that I had leftover from Friday night, and the garnish I had cooked it with, had phone conversation with my grandparents, and left home to take the metro to Versailles (around 12:30).
It’s a pretty long journey to Versailles – about 1 hour by metro – but thanks to my trusty navigo, I got to go to whatever zone I wanted for free, since it was a weekend. The RER to Versailles Château Rive-Gauche was very touristy – even the interior of the train had special designs on it!
About an hour later (during which time I may or may not have fallen slightly asleep), I finally arrived! Upon exiting the station, I was immediately struck (like I was by Strasbourg) by how different of a feel Versailles had. It was much less crowded, much more open, and much more pleasant. The fact that the weather was beautiful helped, too.
Instead of heading straight towards the palace, I decided to take a walk around Versailles to see what the city had to offer, just in case the weather went sour.
All of those buildings were on the same street, and from that street I saw to my left the Palace of Versailles, which even from far away looked splendid in all its shimmering, bright gold.
The weather was beautiful and it was a Sunday, which was wonderful, but unfortunately it also meant that there were a lot of tourists. I know that February isn’t really peak season (I’m afraid to imagine how crowded it is in the summer), but even so, I was really surprised by how many people were visiting.
This gate was huge, and the gate was shimmering in the sunlight.
The next gate was even more adorned. So much decadence.
Very, very splendid. I wonder what it was like to be a noble living in this place. Must have been ridiculous.
I had a little bit of trouble, actually, getting through the ticket check. Thanks to my super unofficial-looking carte consulaire which is actually an authentic identity card from the French consulate stating that I’m a French citizen whose permanent residence is outside of France, the lady had to take a long time before deciding to let me through. I’m not going to post a picture of how sketchy-looking my card is for obvious reasons. Maybe I’ll see if I can get a French ID card, but I just checked their website and it seems pretty complicated.
What matters though, is that I finally got through! I decided to visit the women’s apartments first (I use the word “apartments” lightly)
And they were pretty cool. The entrance hall was filled with various sculptures, most of which had been put indoors to prevent decay of the statues. There was a series, “Les Quatres Élements,” which reminded me of the Avatar: the Last Airbender. I have no idea why, but they had all of the elements: Earth, Water, and Air – but Fire was missing. Maybe it’s because the Fire nation attacked (sorry, I had to).
This was only the main entrance hall of the apartments – then we got to the actual apartments themselves.
Like le Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, there weren’t a whole lot of labels. I’m assuming that these piano-looking things are dressing tables – the front part is probably a mirror with makeup products, and the back part (maybe) has clothes, or more likely, linens and stuff. Seems like an awful lot of trouble to decorate something that pretty much nobody but the woman and her servants will see.
Most of these rooms probably were not originally like this – most of them were recreated by historians’ imaginations.
That pretty much summed up the women’s apartments, which were not the main exhibition. That’s coming up next.
I was struck, upon entering the main exhibit, with this incredible sight. The whole ceiling was actually painted, but you can’t see it from this angle. Everything about this palace reeked of grandeur and royalty. We weren’t allowed to walk into the area, hence the empty picture, but this area reminded me of a scene from God of War, when Kratos has to pull out the section in the middle to climb up. Anyway.
There was a section with a lot of the history of the Palace. Versailles used to be one of Louis XIII’s hunting grounds, and he had a hunting lodge built in the area. He often brought his son, Louis XIV with him, and when Louis XIV grew up and took the throne, he wanted to spend more time in Versailles (and going there, I can see why). The Sun King developed the palace during his reign and eventually moved his court and government there in 1682. It remained the seat of power until the end of the Ancien Regime in the late 18th century. It then became a historical museum, and today is a restored royal palace, a historic museum, and an official residence of the Republic.
What followed was a series of rooms with paintings depicting the palace during different time periods:
This was the last main event that took place in Paris rather than Versailles, which was held to celebrate the birth of the king’s eldest son, the Dauphin. The tournament took place in the court separating the Palace of the Louvre and that of the Tuileries, where five groups of horsemen fought by tilting lances.
Let’s see the evolution of the castle! 1667/1668 above, early 1700s below.
Then I moved on from the historical area, and I saw that same room that I mentioned up above again (the chapel), except this time I could see the whole ceiling as we were a floor up. And boy, was it magnificent.
This was followed by a series of very well-decorated rooms, with paintings on the ceilings and strange but cool-looking patterns on the wallpapers.
The amount of opulence is crazy. Next up was La Galerie des Glaces, or the Hall of Mirros, which is a long hallway with art on the walls and the ceiling, and 17 windows, which looked out onto the stunning garden (more on that later) facing 17 mirrors. I’m not sure what the significance of the number 17 was, although French people tend to consider odd numbers more attractive. At the time mirrors were a very difficult thing to obtain so it was yet another sign of how wealthy the king was.
In the middle of the hallway I also got to see the king’s room (or was it the queen’s room? I’m not sure). I saw both of them, and they were both either part of or at the end of the hall.
Sorry that these photos are kind of blurry – there were a lot of people and they were all kind of moving along so I didn’t want to be that guy.
It wasn’t very pleasant because it was so crowded, so I kind of hurried through so that I could get to the next area (and some fresh air!): The Gardens.
I was really excited to see the gardens. For one, the weather was magnificent, and after seeing the garden from inside the palace I could not wait to get outside.
As I walked out, I got to see the view above, and then I turned around to see:
I spent a really long time just walking in the garden. It’s gigantic, first of all, and secondly it was a great day, the weather was great, and it was really a beautiful place to be in.
The next couple of pictures are just a progression as I walked town the steps.
Now this was really something. I just sat in this spot (on the grass) for about 20 minutes, soaking everything in. Then my butt started getting wet, so I got up and kept walking 🙂
From there, I tried to find my way back to the train station while simultaneously discovering more of the gardens. I got kind of lost, though, and ended up in the middle of nowhere. With no data on my phone/GPS, it was time for some wonderful exploring!
I ended up finding a different section of the gardens and tracking my way back up to the palace from there. I didn’t take many pictures, although I did see this, which was pretty cool.
From there it was only a matter of time before I found my way back to the train station and eventually back home.
I saw a lot of runners on the trip, and it made me want to smack myself for not coming in running gear. The weather was incredible, the air was great, and the scenery even better. Too bad. As soon as I got home I laced up my shoes and went for a brisk run.
So.. how did you spend your Sunday?