During our stay in Paris, we did a day trip to Versailles to visit the royal château. Back when it was built, Versailles was a country village, now it’s basically a suburb of Paris. To get there, we took the RER (Réseau Express Régional), an extension of the Metro which services the Parisian suburbs. Getting there on our own provided yet another opportunity for me to try to speak some broken French as we had to purchase special tickets at the ticket window. I walked up to the window and spoke the words I had rehearsed – “Chateau Versailles” (Shah-Tow Vher-Sigh)…”Aller Rétour” (Alleh-Ray-Tour)…”Deux” (deuh)…”Merci” (mair see). Surprisingly, the lady perfectly understood that I was asking for two round trip tickets to Versailles – success! We paid and were on our way.
The Château de Versailles was built in the mid-17th century during the reign of Louis XIV. It was the kingdom’s political capital and the seat of the royal court from 1682 until the French Revolution began in 1789. It’s no wonder the people of France revolted over the frivolous spending of the monarchy. I have never seen such over-the-top opulence. As described by the Lonely Planet “Louis XIV ordered 700 rooms, 2153 windows, 352 chimneys and 28 acres of roof for the 580m long main palace. It housed the entire court of 6000 (plus 5000 servants). The finest talent of the day installed some 6300 paintings, 2000 sculptures and statues, 15,000 engravings and 5000 furnishings and objets d’art.” You have to see it to believe it.
As if the palace alone were not extravagant enough, it sits on 2,000+ acres of perfectly manicured gardens with fountains and ponds, wooded forests, and man-made canals. Nearly every room of the palace has immaculate views of the surrounding gardens.
After touring the palace, we walked around the gardens. It would have been better experienced in warm summer weather with the fountains going, but it was impressive even in winter.
From the gardens, we walked to the Grand Trianon and the Petite Trianon – two châteaux built for the royal family on the outskirts of the palace grounds. Both smaller than the main palace, but equally opulent.
After touring the main palace, the Grand Trianon, the Petite Trianon, and walking the extravagant grounds, we’d had our fill of opulence. We left Versailles and headed back to Paris.