Back in college, we had this class on the History of Art and Architecture. One of the stories that particularly interested me was of France’s Louis XIV, who hailed himself as “Le Roi Soleil” (The Sun King) and brought France into an international seat of power. Louis XIV was known to be a huge patron of the arts, and perhaps one of his greatest legacies is the Chateau de Versailles. What used to be the hunting lodge of his predecessor, Louis XIII, was transformed into a splendidly massive palace that would be the center of France’s monarchy for more than a hundred years. So when our tour brought us to Paris, I knew that we could not miss a visit to Versailles.
We were the only ones in our group to venture out of the main city, but our tour guide was nice enough to give us directions on how to go Versailles. The bus dropped us off at Musee d’Orsay, where we caught the RER C train to Versailles Rive de Gauche. The ride took over thirty minutes and though the train wasn’t particularly well-maintained, we did enjoy seeing views of suburban Paris. From the station, it was a short walk to the Palace. For anyone planning on visiting, I’d tell you to just follow the huge throng of tourists filing out of the station. You definitely won’t get lost.
Upon arriving in the estate, we were greeted by two long, loooong lines of people all anxious to go inside. The first line was for the tickets; the second, for entry. Since we hadn’t pre-purchased our tickets, we had to line up twice, eating up almost an hour of our time. Back in 2009, admission to the Palace cost €13.90, but now it’s at €15 — good enough, considering that three years have passed. The price of the ticket includes an audio guide, but does not include entry to the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate. If you get the Passport ticket, that’ll admit you to all the Palace tours; unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to fully enjoy it.
The first few galleries we saw detailed the history of Versailles and the Royal Family, then we went into the Grand Apartments. I must say, they spared no expense — from the gloriously painted ceilings, the marbled walls, parquet flooring and exquisitely gilded cornices and moldings. It was all so awe-inspiring, almost to the point of being overwhelming.
Then there was the Hall of Mirrors, the single room that the Palace is most known for. The abundance of gilt, mirror, crystal and ornamentation was incredible, and that room alone was the statement of Louis XIV’s power and wealth. I’d only seen this in photos projected in class and over the internet, so you can imagine how surreal it felt to actually be there and to walk along the hall that was once the site of gatherings of France’s most powerful nobles. Truly amazing.
After that, we went through the King’s and Queen’s Rooms, where I gawked at the many displays of elaborate Baroque furniture. That brought back to mind the renderings we were required to do in college. I also found a kick in spotting as many Sun King motifs as I could — Louis XIV sure wanted to leave his mark on the place!
We had to make our way back to the city, so we only spent about an hour and a half in the Palace, and only managed to catch several glimpses of the massive gardens. Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to go back and actually go through the entire estate. For now, I’ll satisfy myself with memories and a Nutella sandwich — which, incidentally, was what I had for breakfast that day. 😉