Last Friday, Colin skipped work to go with me to Versailles. We knew we wanted to avoid le week-end in hopes of it being slightly less crowded, and the grounds are closed on Mondays and there were transit strikes on Wednesday and Thursday, so Friday it was.
Versailles is only about 12 miles outside of Paris on the RER, but because our local Saint Michel-Notre Dame station was damaged in this winter’s floods and is still closed for repairs, we started our journey with a 30-minute walk to the next-closest station, Gare d’Austerlitz. When we got to the château an hour or so later, we found the line to get in snaking across the plaza practically as far as the eye could see. Practically as long as the Sun King’s reign. And that was not the line to buy tickets, which I had done online the day before. Ce n’était pas bon.
In the time it took us to get inside (just over an hour, which was honestly much quicker than I expected), we had time for one bathroom break (me), one sunburn (Colin), and one awkward conversation with the people in line behind us after Colin overheard them talking about the great state of Michigan. Turns out, they were Michigan State alums, and I guess they didn’t feel like chatting with a couple of Michigan Wolverines. Probably because our basketball team did better than theirs this year—Go Blue!
But the inside of the château did not disappoint in opulence. Literally everything was mirrored, gold-plated, or covered in tapestry and tassels. Just seeing all that made me want to revolt against the monarchy, too. Vive la révolution!
Also making me want to revolt was the sheer number of people inside. We were elbow-to-elbow pushing our way through the rooms, trying to pause long enough to listen to the audio guide and appreciate some of the details, but most of the château passed in a blur. To put a positive spin on it, maybe it was a little like being in a crowd of peasants storming the castle?
In any case, revolution was avoided and we finally made it out of the château and into the gardens. The gardens are massive, so you can fit hundreds of tourists and never feel crowded. Paths wind through ornate hedges, quiet woods, past fountains and pools and a grand basin with rowboats to rent. On the day we were there, there was an event with fountain shows set to music, which was très impresif.
Colin and I ended up spending most of the afternoon in the gardens, leaving enough time to grab a cold drink at a restaurant – Le Saint Claire, chosen because I love seeing my name around town – on the walk back to the train station. Then, when we finally arrived home again, we each drank a liter of water because it was outrageously hot and Parisians seem to think you can get all the hydration you need from a couple espressos and a glass of wine. This is just one of the many mysteries of France that I have yet to figure out.
In any case, I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the glorious ostentation that is Versailles. My indoor photos are mostly ceilings because, well, crowds. And unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a picture of the cutest thing we saw that day, which was a little girl wearing her Snow White dress-up dress because obviously you should look like a princess when you go to a palace.