Europe, Travel

Palace of Versailles, France

It was my fourth visit to Paris before I finally managed to see the Palace of Versailles. My previous trips had only been for a couple of days each and there’s so much to do in Paris there was never enough time to make the journey out of town to visit the royal château.

But on this occasion I had it all planned out. I strategically chose a hotel close to Javel RER station, which meant I could get a direct train to Versailles via Line C. It’s worth mentioning that a regular Paris metro ticket is not valid all the way to Versailles so you need to purchase a ticket that covers zone 4. The journey from Javel took less than 30 minutes and trains are fairly frequent. The Palace of Versailles is only a 5 minute walk from the train station.

I had heard about how busy The Palace of Versailles gets and I didn’t want to spend hours waiting in a queue, so I booked a Versailles tour before arriving in Paris. The tour company’s office was located close to the train station and from there we were led to the palace.

We skipped the lines and our guide gave us a brief tour of the gardens to start with. The gardens are larger than I could have possibly imagined so it was good to have this little introduction in order to understand how to navigate the gardens on my own later in the afternoon.

We then began the guided tour inside the palace. Our guide told us all about the history of the palace, how Louis XIV took his father’s hunting lodge and transformed it into a work of wonder and moved the whole court and government of France from Paris to Versailles in 1682. It stayed this way until 1789, when the monarch was forced to return to Paris.

The rooms were stunning, particularly the Chapel of Versailles and the Hall of Mirrors. The later was where The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, officially bringing the First World War to an end.

My only gripe with the palace tour was that there were just too many people inside the rooms and that does detract a little from the experience. I’ve been to my share of palaces throughout my travels but never encountered one as busy as this. I did visit on a Saturday so perhaps it was more crammed that day than it would be mid-week but from what I have read it seems to be busy all year round.

It was a welcome relief to be able to explore the gardens afterwards and enjoy my personal space again. There are 250 acres of landscaped and manicured lawns and fountains so even though I spent hours wandering the gardens there was no way I could cover it all.

In the middle of the park you’ll find The Grand Trianon, built for Louis XIV and his family as a place of escape from the rigid etiquette of the court.

Also tucked away in the gardens is Marie Antoinette’s estate. Louis XVI’s wife loved this place where she could return to the pleasures of simple, rural pursuits, away from the burdens of court life.

I made my way back to the train station feeling quite tired after all that walking but so happy that I’d finally seen the Palace of Versailles. It was worth the six year wait.

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