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Versailles

Locales > France


VERSAILLES


Versailles is the massive, spectacular palace complex/tourist trap set just outside Paris.
I first went on a school trip in 1969 (which you can read more about here). My memory is of a huge complex of boring, ornate rooms and being taken around by a surly French guide who spoke only French and demanded a tip at the end. I seem to remember tipping him 1 centime (about 100th of a penny).

March 2017


So on a gorgeous day in March 2017 we decided to go again. As you approach the sheer scale of the placed is striking – the gold roofs sparkling over the vast coach park in front of the building. You walk past the array of multinational coaches to a huge courtyard filled with people queuing.  Following the signs you find a queue for the tickets and then join it. Most people ignore the automated ticket machines – so we bought our tickets – 18 euro each and re-joined the main queue. Eventually we got to the security scanners where they were obsessed with selfie sticks and took mine away.

Hall of Mirrors

So now you follow the crowds up and through gilded splendours in every room after room. Mobile phones and cameras whirred everywhere and the people who weren’t busy making the same videos as every one else were busy listening to the audio guide in whatever language they had chosen. How anyone could get develop any sense of history beat me. Bed room, state room, bed room, sitting room – and on and on. Eventually the seething mass made it’s way to the Hall of Mirrors and took more videos and listened to more audio guides.
Hall Of French Military Victories

Then onward to the Hall of Military pictures which are a succession of massive scale pictures depicting French military glory. For an English perspective  - let me just say that this - seemed ironic and pass rapidly on – which is what the crowds did – by now either anxious to get to the coach home, visit the loo or see the gardens.
The Gardens

If the palace is an ornate tourist trap, then in complete contrast the gardens are truly awesome.

The gardens run to some 2,000 acres with a spectacular 1.8km canal on which you can hire a row boat for a mere 13 euro. There are cafes tucked away and as you walk toward the canal and classical music leads you on. The fountains are superb with the cascades spraying water in glittering cascades.
Then when you have explored the central formal water gardens you can go on to the other fantastic sections of the gardens, there are sub gardens – called bosquets which radiate from the main paths. There is a major area the Trianon, an intimate area of rural artifice. There is the Garden Anglaise.

All of these are amazing and I could have wandered happily for hours if time wasn’t so limited and my shoes hadn’t decided to blister my feet. Words really cannot do justice - check out the slide show below.
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