Blog

Lauren's Visit to Versailles

image

Ahh, Versailles, the disgustingly opulent palace of French royals, and boy is it freaking gorgeous. Do you ever think about those castles and mega-mansions and think to yourself: ‘I could live there. I could be waited on hand and foot. I would find a use for 20 bedrooms. I also need five kitchens, obviously.’ I thought I could be like that until I spent literally all day walking through Versailles and killed my poor little feet. No wonder the French aristocracy took so many tea breaks and naps; they were exhausted from all that walking!    

image

The front courtyard of the Palace of Versailles. Photo by Lauren Dare

In May 2013, I took a trip to London and Paris with Kelly, my old college roommate. We obviously had to fit Château de Versailles in our itinerary. Our day started easily enough, we hopped on the Metro and then the RER C line, which took us on a 20-minute ride outside of Paris. Luckily, Versailles is the last stop on the line and pretty much everybody on the train is going to Versailles so you can just follow the crowd and not get lost. Versailles opens at 9 and we were in line by 9:30. Probably the longest line I’ve ever experienced. In. My. Entire. Life. Hundreds of people zigzagged up and down the ‘driveway’ waiting to clear security. It’s an excellent time to read through the guidebook or eat snacks or take awkwardly composed pictures of whatever you can see from where you’re standing.

image

Me, educating the masses while waiting in line. Photo by Kelly Kalk

There are three distinct areas: The Palace, The Grand and Petite Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s Estate, and the Gardens. Buying the one-day €18 or two-day €25 passport will get you access to all of them. Due to time constraints we opted for the one-day passport but Versailles can easily be stretched to a more relaxed two or even three days. There are also several transportation options inside Versailles: Les Petits Trains will take you around the main areas for €7.5 or rent a bicycle for €6.5 an hour/ €17 the day or a golf cart for €30. We decided to be cheapos and walk the entire thing. BAD IDEA. Paying for a mode of transportation is worth it especially if you plan on doing any walking the next day.

Once you’re through the fairly lax security it’s a one-way street in the Palace. GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU GO INSIDE THE PALACE. Trying to go backwards is like swimming upstream through a swollen river of people. And you’ll get yelled at in French and then again in English because you’re obviously American.

Don’t get me wrong the Palace is beautiful. Art-history me loved seeing the interior decorations, the architecture, the furniture, and the artwork. Regular me hated the other pushy tourists, the lack of respect for my personal bubble, and the nonexistent places to sit down. 

Be sure to watch out for the tour guides and their tours. Especially the Russian ones. One tried to insist that I wasn’t walking fast enough and didn’t appreciate me pushing back when she tried to get her entire group of 40 people in the tiny personal bubble I had left for myself. Kelly and I then got scolded in Russian bringing our ‘how many languages have we been yelled at while at Versailles’ to three.

image

Me, already exhausted in the Hall of Mirrors. Actual thing teenage girl said: What’s so special about it? It’s JUST a hallway! Photo by Kelly Kalk

After the Palace you are dumped in the Gardens, which are very green. Personally, I imagined more flowers and fewer hedges. Walking through the hedges made it feel like I would never find civilization again. 

image

One day they will find my skeleton. Photo by Kelly Kalk

In between the greenery are small food carts, very nice restaurants and BATHROOMS, so good! The food carts have sandwiches and such that are actually quite good and not disgustingly expensive. Take advantage of unusually quiet corners to have a break and eat a snack before heading back into the crush of people. The fountain shows are quite subdued and not at all Las Vegas like I thought they would be.

Our next stop was the Grand and Petit Trianon. Both are obviously significantly smaller than the main Palace and were used as houses for the King and Queen’s extended family.

image

A panoramic of the Grand Trianon and its Gardens Photo by Lauren Dare

The Petit Trianon was built for Madame de Pompadour, official mistress of Louis XV, but she died before it was completed. Marie Antoinette however, made good use of it as the fanciest, most exclusive party house. It’s cute and little and very pink. The splendor that explodes all over the main Palace is mostly gone here. Marie Antoinette used this mini palace as a vacation home to get away from palace life and her royal duties. She also declared that you were only allowed on the grounds by order of the Queen, this edict also applied to her BFF’s Princess Lamballe and the Vicomtesse de Vaudreuil, her rumored lesbian lover, the Duchess de Polignac, and even her husband King Louis XVI, creating the most exclusive club ever.

What I think is the best part about Versailles is Marie Antoinette’s little country farm she had built in the farthest corner of the Palace grounds. It’s almost like going to Disneyland. Sometimes the Petite Trianon was not far enough to escape palace life so Marie Antoinette had this little Hamlet built. Nothing is more quaint than royalty pretending to be peasants while still being waited on hand and foot.  Look how cute it is! The peasant look was very in. 

image

The Queen’s House and Billiard Room Photo by Lauren Dare

image

The Mill. Though nothing was ever actually milled here. They occasionally used it for laundry. Photo by Lauren Dare

This was definitely our favorite part. And the most relaxed since the other tourists hadn’t walked out this far. We even made friends with this goat. Look how cute!

image

Ignore the poop. Photo by Lauren Dare

We had a hard time getting back to the main gate at the end of the day literally walking in circles through tall grass. The guards also wouldn’t allow us back inside the Palace to use the bathroom insisting that we walk around to the non-existent bathroom at the front resulting in us visiting the McDonald’s a block away. Oddly enough their French Fries were not very good.

Maybe one day I’ll go back when I’m rich enough to rent a golf cart and have a few select Russian swear words in my vocabulary. 

By Lauren Dare

Lauren Dare

Sr. Editor