Few years ago we took a day trip to Versailles while vacation in Paris. Every time I think of that trip, the first image comes to mind is the Gardens of Versailles, not the museums of Paris. And I LOVE Paris, who doesn’t.
There are three major sights in Versailles: the Chateau, the palace itself; the Gardens around the palace; and the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette, the pastoral area away from the palace.
Versailles is huge and has many visitors in any given day. Smart travelers buy tickets online to avoid the ticket-buying lines and get there early to avoid the crowd. The Versailles “Le Passport” Pass includes both tickets for the Chateau and the Domaine and an audio guide. The Gardens have free admission, so have children under 18. We had the Paris Museum Pass, which included the admission tickets but not the audio guide. So we downloaded Rick Steves’ self-guided tour on our iphones. It worked out well.
The Chateau was built by Louis XIV, the Sun King (1638-1718). His bedroom with the three arched windows beneath the clock (the left photo) faced the rising sun. The 72-year reign of Louis XIV, longer than any known sovereign, ushered France into her golden age. This grand Chateau was not only the palace but also the seat of French government. This epic-scale Hall of Mirrors showcased the then #1 dominant power in Europe.
Louis XV and XVI also resided here. Sadly, it was from this palace King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette were captured and taken up to the guillotine during French Revolution (1789-99) which overthrew the French monarchy.
Louis XIV reminded me of Kangxi emperor (1654-1922) of China’s Qing Dynasty. Not only they ruled in the similar eon, he was also the longest reigning emperor in China, 61 years! The era name Kangxi 康熙 literally meant “Peaceful Harmony”.
King Louis XIV loved outdoor. He took care of his Gardens as he did everything else in the kingdom: in total command and doing the unthinkable. The Orangerie showcased his thousands of orange trees growing in chilly France.
We rented bikes for about €8/hr. It gave us the freedom to bike away from the crowd, and retreated to the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette. The bike ride was very pleasant.
According to Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door”, if you plan to visit just one palace in Europe, make it Versailles. How glad I am to have followed his advice, and not disappointed!