Sunday we took a day trip out of Paris to the Palace of Versailles. Château de Versailles is located about 20 km. southwest of Paris, and started as a hunting cottage for Louis XIII. His son, Louis XIV, the Sun King, transformed it into a lavish palace. In 1682 it became the seat of the Royal Court and the French government. Louis XV and Louis XVI enlarged both the palace and the gardens.
For a shorter walk, our guidebooks suggested we take the RER train to Versailles—Rive Gauche. The train was filled. After about 30 to 40 minutes, we arrived at Versailles—Chantiers. The train stopped. It was not continuing to Rive Gauche. Everyone eventually got off, some of us confused since the signs said this was the Rive Gauche train. Instead, we were directed to walk straight, through the town and toward the Château. The walk took about fifteen minutes.
As it had on previous days, our Paris Museum Pass helped bypass the long line for tickets. Just as we passed through security I heard a plop on the floor ahead, looked down, and saw a man’s wallet. I picked it up and saw a Texas driver’s license. My husband yelled “Texas!” to the crowds ahead, thinking the Texan would turn around. No one responded so he gave the wallet to Security. In the crowded tourist spots of Paris, we saw many warning signs about pickpockets. Hopefully, the owner didn’t assume his pocket had been picked, and was able to claim his wallet.
The palace courtyard was vast, windy, and cold. We followed the crowds into the royal halls. English audio tours allowed us to key in to each of the Salons, learning a bit more about the palace, and those who had lived there. The Hall of Mirrors was especially stunning. Just after the Queen’s bedchamber, where Marie Antoinette had given birth to her children, a ceiling restoration was in progress.
It’s difficult for me to describe my feelings as we walked the halls of Versailles. The lavishness is beyond belief. Rich, sumptuous. Seeing it helped me better understand the horrors that came in the French Revolution. The story of the palace preservation for history is equally remarkable.
After the self-guided tour we stopped into a crowded cafeteria to grab a sandwich and salad. We ate then stepped back into the courtyard with a plan to tour the gardens. A bitter wind swept in.
There was to be a fountain exhibition at 5:30 PM, one of the last of the season, but it was only early afternoon. On a warmer day we would have enjoyed seeing the lighted fountains, and the domain of Marie Antoinette. But so much remained to see in Paris and only one day remained. We strolled back through town toward the train.