Sunday was a free day, so a group of us decided to embark on the hour-long journey to Versailles, since it’s a full-day trip. Teo hates Versaille and says it is a gorilla compared to Vaux le Vicomte and really just a nightmare. Now we know why.
It’s exactly like Disneyland meets Central Park. I make this comparison to emphasize both the horror and the splendor of visiting a magical kingdom: it’s a huge gigantic impossible-to-get-through estate with hoards of tourists shoving each other to look at King Louis XIV’s bed. Of course it was beautiful in its grandeur and symmetry and landscaping and gold touches, but it was an exhausting trip. And it didn’t help that it was 90 degrees as we walked through an enormous estate on empty stomachs.
(The view from the back)
(A typical ceiling)
(Fountain in their backyard, no big deal)
We arrived at Versailles at about 10 a.m. and didn’t get inside the entrance until noon. What were we doing, you may ask? Waiting in the longest line I have ever seen, which wound six times around the entrance courtyard in order to scan our tickets to get in. Did I mention it was 90 degrees?
Now that I am officially a Versailles expert, having been in the first group of my program to go, here are my tips in case you ever find yourself in Paris wanting to visit Versailles:
• But in all seriousness, if your heart is set on seeing the most magnificent palace in France or even the world, at least don’t go on a weekend unless it’s your only free time like us.
• Aim to arrive at 8:30 a.m. since it opens at 9 a.m. Leaving our hotel in Paris at 8 a.m. was mistake #1.
• Bring sunscreen, shorts, sunglasses, comfortable shoes and water if it might be at all hot. Apparently the sun shines a lot brighter on an open park than it does in the city (duh); so many people we passed were absolutely tomato-red all over.
• Eat a huge breakfast and bring snacks. I made a big mistake, since I’m used to eating a light breakfast.
• Rent a bicycle to ride from the Versailles palace to Marie Antoinette’s estate – it’s a long walk in the heat. I didn’t rent a bicycle because I never learned to ride one, but I wish I could ride because everyone had fun and got there much quicker.
(Marie Antoinette’s estate)
• Don’t bring your dog. The poor puppies were panting and/or absolutely covered in dirt.
• Most importantly, go there with the expectation that you are going to a tourist trap with a ton of people and a ton of lines. Don’t act surprised by this.
Now, I’m not trying to be negative. I actually didn’t expect it to be any better than it was, and if I would’ve known all this would happen, I still would’ve gone once for the experience. The palace was beautiful, especially the hall of mirrors which made me feel like I was in the movie “Anastasia.” The mirrors, which were very valuable back then, reflect the windows on the opposite wall in a hallway lined with chandeliers and a painted ceiling.
(The Hall of Mirrors)
It was incredible to see the king’s wealth and imagine the royals strolling through the paths in the garden – no wonder the peasants rebelled in the revolution against the wealthy monarchy. I feel jaded to impressive homes now. Even Marie Antoinette’s corner estate seemed “small” to me, until I realized that it’s probably bigger than any house I’ve been in before this trip, with like 10 bedrooms.
Oh, and to top off the trip, the metro station was closed on the way back so we all (us and a swarm of tourists) had to walk over a mile to the next station after our already-long day of walking. I am so sweaty and hot and tired – just in time for our class tomorrow morning. Teo was right about Versailles, but I’m still glad I went. Such a luxury-packed weekend.