The Palace of Versailles
I first have to apologize because I know at the end of my last blog
post I wrote I was going to described how I managed to pack for a full
year into one carryon suitcase. That will be in my next post as I thought
I’d mix it up a bit with things we’ve been doing while we have been here.
So stay tuned!
One place that has been central to our whole trip is the city of Versailles.
Not because of it's historic importance which it has, not because of its
architectural beauty or the fact it's a treasure to the French. Talk to any
local here young or old and they are more than willing to share with you
all they know about the history and splendor of that incredible national
It’s because Versailles happens to be the city that boarders the town where
our French friends live. So when I looked for places to stay I wanted a town
as close to our friends as we could get.
I opened up the Airbnb app and began looking on their map. I found a
place in a small town called Viroflay. It is 15 mins by train to Paris and 2
stops by train to Versailles.
Since we've been here we have been to Versailles a half dozen times.
Not always to the palace because they do of course charge an entry
fee, but we wander the gardens that wrap around the palace’s boarders
which is completely free and open to the public.
Remember we have our sweet little Rosie with us and she is not allowed
in the palace but is free to roam the grounds with us. She has sniffed
virtually every square inch of it. She's been around the palace 5 times.
John and I bought a Palace Passport which gives you total access to the
whole palace grounds on 2 separate consecutive days including the “Peter
the Great” exhibit. This allowed us to tag team with Rosie. One of us goes in
and meanders around while the other is walking Rosie. Then we switch.
Sounds inconvenient but actually it allows each of us to spend as much
time as we want on the parts that interest us individually without the other
person getting impatient. A bonus really.
Our passport ticket also included the palace itself, all of the gardens,
the Grand Trianon (The Kings’ mini palace located deep on the grounds
where they played house with mistresses and was a general escape from
the formalities of palace life. Other than scale, the grandeur to me felt the
same. I guess everything is relative based on what you're used to), the
Petit Trianon (The mini palace for the Queen where she kinda did the
same, a weekend escape from the big house) and lastly the “Village”.
This was another escape for Marie Antoinette. She had a “mini” village
built on the grounds of Versailles which allowed her the experience of
being in an ordinary village (with her servants and ladies - in - waiting
acting as villagers) all the while being totally protected.
The opulence of the palace is a given, the thing that always strikes me
when I'm there is the shear scale of the place. It's easy to see why they
felt they were the center of the universe. The vastness of the grounds does
something to your perspective.
The other thought that always gets me is everything at Versailles was
literally made by the hands of individual people. Artisans of every type
from textile makers, sculptures, gardeners, stone masons, painters, metal
workers the list goes on and on. Every single item down to the nails were
hand crafted by someone.
The Palace and its history is as much about the individuals who help to build
and ran it as is it about the Royals who lived and died there. I'm grateful that
most people treasure their history enough to preserve a place like this so that
we ordinary folk have an opportunity to go and walk in these spaces that played
such a huge part in history and where we are today.
Once last interesting side note is that our friend Veronique picked us up one day
and as we drove around the palace on our way back to the train station , she
pointed out a house that sits just on the perimeter of the palace itself.
She said, “See that house?” As she pointed to a nice sized old home that appeared
to be a part of the wall of the palace which separates and protects it from the rest
of the city. We said, “Yes, we’ve past it at least 5 times on our long walks around
the grounds.” She said, “That house belongs to a good friend of mine, she bought
it about 20 years ago.”
All I could think was how incredible is that. This woman owns a home which the
whole backside over looks the inside of the Palace’s courtyard. I asked if there were
a lot of rules imposed upon her because of it’s location. I was thinking like no big
parties or playing of loud music, things that most of us take for granted having the
freedom to do what we want [within reason] when we own a home.
She said no. The only restrictions her friend has are she can not create a door on
the backside of her house that would create an access point to the palace. No remodeling
of the original structure from the outside, so as not to disturb the historic look and
any new paint color has to be approved by the Board that runs the palace.
A small price to pay to own and live with a piece of history that is a World Heritage
Site and one of the most beloved treasures of French history. Lucky her!