My work Secret Santa was awesome last Christmas.
I was lucky enough to be given a signed copy of Antonia Fraser’s biography of Marie Antoinette, The Journey, after a chat about my Masters dissertation with a lovely girl from work. I didn’t know at this point that I would be moving to Paris (I like to think the universe was trying to give me a heads up), and absolutely loved the book. I read it quickly over Christmas, and became fascinated by this woman, her court and the palace they lived in.
So naturally Versailles was top of my list of things to see when I moved here at the end of May.
It was the last free weekend N and I had together while he was staying over the summer, and what better way to spend a Sunday than wandering Versailles. We caught the train from Montparnasse, and made our way with the crowd towards the palace. I’d been warned about the crazy queues, so we bought our tickets at tourist information instead and saved about an hour in the queue for tickets.
We decided to see the gardens first because the queue to actually get in to the palace was snaked around the courtyard in front for what seemed like miles, and this was the best decision we could have made.
It was a beautiful day, and wandering through the gardens, looking at the fountains was the perfect way to spend it. Versailles is absolutely massive, huge – so you definitely need a good 5 hours to see just the gardens and the Grand and Petit Trianon. Thankfully we packed a picnic and lots of snacks, and found an empty field to sit and talk and eat before going to see Marie Antoinette’s estate.
This was the part I was most looking forward to going to see. I’d read about her house, Petit Trianon, in the Fraser biography, but was still amazed at how simple it was in comparison to the rest of Versailles. Her model village, complete with a tiny working farm, with goats, donkeys, sheep and chickens, was so beautiful – I heard a guide describe it as the 18th century Disneyland! August was the perfect time to see it too, when all the flowers were in bloom, and it was warm enough to sit by the lake and watch the world go by.
After 5 hours and a 19km walk, we made our way back to the queue for the palace. I was surprised that we didn’t have to queue too long, and after about 45 minutes (I was reading and N was playing Pokemon Go…), we were in. Each room is connected to the next in a long line – so the closer you got to the king’s bedchamber, the more elaborate the furnishings, and the more important you would have to be. It was beautiful but completely overwhelming (especially after such a long day) – I could see why Marie Antoinette decided to spend her time on the other side of the estate!
The chateau is absolutely stunning inside, but I did feel a little enclosed so it was hard to really enjoy it in the same way we had seen the rest of the estate. The crowd was so huge that we did feel a little like sheep.
It was absolutely worth it though, and we had a wonderful time. Absolutely shattered, after walking nearly 22km the entire day we made it back to Paris and fell asleep.
A day well spent.