We got up early this morning to make the most of our visit to Versailles Palace, left the campsite on our bikes just before 9 and got there by 9.10 am. There was already a queue waiting to go in, everyone with tickets (our fully inclusive was €25 each), but this went very quickly and we were in by 9.25 am, having been through the security scanners and holding our free audio guide sets (to be returned at the end of the visit before going out into the gardens).
Nothing really prepares you for the sheer magnificence, extravagance and luxury of this Royal Palace and it’s very hard to resist the temptation of taking pictures of everything you see. I took over 260, including the gardens and fountains, but managed to cut them down to just over 200!
The enjoyment of the visit was dampened slightly by the large number of visitors and, as it often happens in this kind of touristic attraction, one had to be patient to have a good look at the exhibits and take photos. Still, I am not complaining and I thoroughly enjoyed myself gawping at the décor, paintings, chandeliers, statues, etc that make this place so unique and so fit for the Sun King that was Louis XIV, who had this jewel built to reflect his power, glory and splendour at the height of his reign. It might have all but ruined the country at the time, but I think they have probably got it back by now, as it apparently attracts 5.3 million visitors per year. No wonder it felt crowded!
There is nothing much I can say about it that hasn’t been written already, only that this is a must-see for anyone in the vicinity of Paris, as it certainly is an unforgettable experience. I can only imagine what it must have been like when the royal court lived there for more than a century from 1682 to 1789, when the French revolution took place and Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were dragged out of the palace to be executed by guillotine in Paris.
I think that the visit to the gardens and the ‘Musical Fountains’ was even more spectacular than the palace itself, as we were lucky enough to come on a Tuesday, when they play music by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean Baptiste Lully to accompany the changing of water patterns produced by the fountains. Even though it was raining, we still loved the ‘dancing fountains’, especially the ‘Mirror Fountain’, commissioned by Louis XIV in 1702, and the best thing of all is that we were the only people there due to the rain! Absolutely Magnificent! Once again, I got carried away with the camera trying to capture all the different water displays (not an easy task, I hasten to add).
I was also take by other fountains, like Apollo’s Chariot, the Three Fountains Grove (covered in seashells) and the Dragon Fountain – listed on the gardens’ guide leaflet as D, 21 and 22 respectively – even tough the last two were not in operation at the time of our visit, but at least we were able to admire the sculptures forming the fountains.
Well, all these powerful monarchs might be dead now, but they have certainly left something magnificent behind for all of us to enjoy. Chapeau!