Versailles on a crisp autumnal sunny sparkly day – you can’t beat it – but go to the gardens and grounds not the Palace. All the guidebooks tell you to get there as soon as it opens – 9am to beat the crowds, but if everyone reads the guidebooks, guess when they all arrive? We left in plenty of time, but had not factored in peak hour traffic on the metro and travelled like squashed sardines. To get on the train, you abandon all notions of politeness and civility and push with aggressiveness to get on that train – otherwise you get left behind.
There must have been at least fifty buses parked in front of Versailles when we arrived with hundreds if not thousands who had travelled by train at around 9.30am. Already, I was wondering why we had come. We managed to get through the entrance fairly painlessly and entered the Palace – along with the crowds. From then on, you had no choice about where you moved or what direction you walked – you went with the flow.
Each room was palatial, golden and completely over the top – what we could see of it. What made it bearable was this fascinating collection of contemporary sculptures that gave me something to smile at. We moved slowly from one room to another, up the stairs and I wondered how I could get out and leave the crowds.
The glass room is enormous and one wall is lined with floor to ceiling windows with a view to the gardens – and they glistened and sparkled in the sunlight – this is where I wanted to go. Somehow, Keith and I managed to move through the crowds and found “sortie” signs that took us outside. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt.
This Palace is over the top indulgent – I can’t imagine building it, let alone living in it. Louix XIV was living in the Palace at the Louvres which is enormous and had decided it was not big enough. Greed.
Four years ago, we had four days in Paris, staying with friends. They took us to Fontainebleau and they told us it was much better than Versailles – smaller, similar architecture with very few people. I believed them at the time, but wish I had heeded their words and returned to Fontainebleau. However, the gardens and grounds were magnificent and Keith and I had one of the best days walking around and exploring while most of the crowds remained indoors wandering around the palace.
We had taken our lunch – quiches we had bought locally and some fruit and sitting outside in the sunshine was a joy. We did walk and walk and covered much ground. It is possible to hire bikes here and it would be fabulous to explore the grounds on a bike – they go for miles and are flat.
On our return, we went for a walk to shop in Montmartre. We encountered three young girls on their first day of working – they were delightful and it was nice to be able to encourage them – each were a little out of their comfort zone, which I understand, as this is how I feel, I am not sure how things work and I appreciate it when a local takes the time to help and explain something such as how to do the washing at the local laundry – I would have been completely stuck without the help of someone who managed to explain what to do.