|Subject: Re: Versailles and Saint Germain-en-Laye|
We spent all day at Versailles. It is well worth the time. Here's what I wrote in my travelogue in 2002.
We took the RER suburban train from Austerlitz to Versailles Rive Gauche. The RER station and ticket counter is below the main line station. Price: just under 5 euros return for each of us for our 45 minute train journey. It is a short walk from the train station to the Chateau.
We arrived at 10 am, just in time for a guided tour (4 euros on top of entry fee - covered by the third day of our 3 day museum pass) whose theme was the daily life of Louis XIV. It was wonderful, highly recommended. The guide, part of the Musees de France, was knowledgeable, our group was small (just 6 of us) and we were able to visit a few rooms only open to those on a tour or those who rent the audio guide. Because our guide had huge keys to doors that block the general public, we were able to move from room to room the way the king would have, not the courtiers with the added bonus that we avoided the crowds. We also learned some interesting details about the kings, architectural style, daily life, and the palace itself - for example, that the Hall of Mirrors cost more than the rooms with paintings, that Venetian craftsmen with the secret of mirror-making was invited to come to France to train craftsmen.
After our tour, we were able to make a complete circuit of the public rooms on our own. By this time the palace was packed and we shuffled through with incipient claustrophobia! We decided to save the garden until later because it was a little drizzly and cool. so we walked to the two Trianons (covered by museum pass). I really liked the Grand Trianon - the brightness of the rooms and the lightness of the furnishings (Empire). Then to Le Hameau, Marie-Antoinette's private fantasy village, complete with thatched cottages, fanciful architecture, animals and gardens. Lovely cottage gardens of white calla lilies.
There is a fee now to visit the main gardens, 3 euros (not covered by museum pass) but worthwhile. The ticket is good for the whole day (multiple entry). We visited just some of the bosquets (groves) because the grounds are so vast. We had seen the fanciful paintings of the Versailles gardens in the Grand Trianon which illustrated these groves. Especially impressive were:
* the ballroom (rocaille) which was designed like a Roman amphitheatre with a cascade decorated with millstones and shells brought back from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea by the royal navy. This is the only grove that is entirely authentic and intact.
* Baths of Apollo with sculptures in a grotto.
* Colonnade Grove with Persephone
* Best of all, because the fountain was playing, Encelade Grove with the chief of the Titans. Water gushed from his finger tips and sprayed high in the air. It gave us a taste of what the others must be like when they are working.
By this time it was about 3:30 and we decided to see whether we could see the chateau again without the crowds. We were able to walk through the rooms at a reasonable pace, stop and appreciate the spectacle and the grandeur.
We took a short walk in the town of Versailles before we took the train home. There was a delay with the trains - no explanation and the sign boards did not match the trains. But they all go to Paris and we had seats! Still we had to be serenaded by some accordionists again...
Frances Toronto, Canada