Our last full day in France, we decided to take a trip to see the Palace of Versailles. We don’t see enough palaces in Britain–so we felt the need to see a Parisian one. After reading some information about how and when to get there, we tried to follow the advice of getting there early. We took the RER C train to Versailles. There are two stops in Versailles, and both will get you within a ten minute walk to the palace.
It did take over an hour from Paris to Versailles by this route. When we got there, it was a little after 10a and the line was outrageous. There were easily several hundred standing on the cobblestones in a three-layer snake design that covered the entire courtyard. So, we decided we would tour the grounds and see Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet before coming back in hopes of a diminished line.
The gardens were an additional cost, but it was due to the water shows that were on schedule for all of the fountains. The Paris Museum Pass was getting us into the palace and to the Hamlet, but just look to see if there are special events happening in the gardens that require an additional charge.
The grounds were exquisite. As we walked around, we tried to think of palaces in and around London that would compare and basically decided if you added the Leeds Castle grounds to the existing ones surrounding Hampton Court Palace and took the theme park feel out of Hampton, you’d have Versailles.
We walked around the gardens and took roads less traveled around. Then, every hour a fountain would burst into a playful display that matched the classical music piped throughout the park.
We continued on our way and found some ducks for Jeff to feed. He was so excited to now add Parisian ducks to his list of fed animals. They were certainly very French because they were aggressive. They jumped out of the water to grab the morsel straight from your fingers.
After all the crackers were gone, we headed toward Marie Antoinette’s hamlet. The map supplied at the front was rather misleading. It made us think it was close to the palace. I guess when Marie wanted privacy from Versailles, she wanted to really get away. We wound up walking over a mile toward her farm all the while rain threatened to open up on us.
There were all kinds of animals in her little farm including a baby boy peacock that was trying desperately to attract a female with his tiny feathers. It was awfully cute. We wandered around and realized this area was not just a little getaway–it was a palace in and of itself. As if Versailles wasn’t enough…
There was a Petit Trianon which acted as Maris Antoinette’s palace away from palace and the Grand Trianon which was commissioned by Louis XIV and his mistress, but did continue to be a getaway for the later Louis’. Both spaces were massive and a bit excessive. The English had it somewhat right–if you’re going to have palace after palace, at least space them apart so you don’t appear unnecessarily greedy. No wonder the revolution occurred.
By the time we toured the area, it was about 2 o’clock and we were ready to see the palace. We would have liked to have caught the little tram back to the palace and saved our feet, but we didn’t have €8 between us (so take note when you make your plans). We walked back and made it to the entrance which did have a significantly less intimidating line.
We waited for only about 20 minutes when we were ushered in. Ushered is a bit soft–I think elbowed and shoved in is more like it. The line was only for security, and once we made it through there, we were in the palace. So, everyone who was in the line before must have still be in the palace as we couldn’t see anything properly without a horde of tourists pushing you out of the way.
The biggest offender were the tour groups for other languages. Certain nationalities who don’t speak English or French have to go on certain days for translators, so that resulted in shoving, pushing, and more photo-bombs than I thought were possible. It was all we could do to snap the photos we did without getting trampled.
We were also rather disappointed because we couldn’t stay in rooms to really look at them for long. We were whisked away with the mass. Thankfully, the Hall of Mirrors is so large, so at least we could stay a few extra seconds to observe it. But we missed the Gallery of Battles because we took a wrong turn and couldn’t turn around.
I don’t remember there being that many people when we went seven years ago. I was actually able to read inscriptions and take pictures. So, it was rather disappointing to not get the full picture. However, this did bode well for our trip to the Hamlet, as there were not many people out there.
When we were leaving the palace, a frantic woman was shoving her way through the crowds. She had lost her daughter. I could not imagine losing someone in that mass and trying to find them. It was hard enough for me and Jeff to stay together. I do hope she found her daughter, but when planning, always have a contingency point of where to meet and maybe a leash for small kids.
We headed out of the palace and back toward the train station. Luckily, we boarded the direct route train back, so it took only twenty minutes instead of an hour. I wish we had known there was a direct route out because that would have cut down on time significantly.
That evening, we laid low in our neighborhood. London has very strange hours on Sundays for stores. Most grocery stores are open 11-5p here. But in Paris, they were open 9-12p. So, by the time we got back, everything was closed. We wandered around to find some food, and came across The Green Fairy.
We never made it out to Montmartre of Moulin Rouge fame, but this was a great alternative. This little pub was famous for their collection of absinthe. We ordered two different kinds from other sides of the spectrum, and they brought out a water dispenser that allows you to drip ice cold water over your sugar cube to dissolve in the shot of green liquor.
I believe you’re just supposed to put enough water in to dissolve the sugar as opposed to filling the glass, and we enjoyed our first glass of absinthe.
The next morning, we headed off to catch our train back to London, and we still love that alternative to an airport. It was so much easier to travel. Paris was great fun, but with the amount of tourists it did make it difficult to enjoy the more intimate moments. Nonetheless, we’ll always have Paris.