When traveling, I invariably fall back on my own adage of ‘leaving something to come back for’ – usually not by design but by simply running out of time to see and do everything I’d like to. For Paris, the top of this list time and again has been Versailles – not this time!
Mum and I went back to Gare Saint Lazare late this morning and hopped on a train with far less fuss than yesterday. When we arrived at Versailles a short 30 minutes later, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually worked out where the palace was in relation to the station, nor how we’d traverse that distance. I had assumed, like yesterday, that the droves of tourists would point the way but I suspect they all went from the other train station.
Luckily I had my kindle which kindly told me that it was just short of 2 kilometres away but no advice on which way to walk. Solution – taxi (I love being with Mum, I’d never usually be so carefree with taxi’s preferring to struggle needlessly). We stepped out of the taxi and there it was, it all it’s magnificent glory – Versailles!
Luckily I did have the foresight to prebook tickets so we side stepped the endless queue and waltzed right in, picked up our audio guides and headed off on our tour of the palace. Opulent, decadent, immense – none of these words go anywhere near describing the most sumptuous palace I have ever seen with the possible exception of The Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia. Much like the WInter Palace, it’s impossible to comprehend the obscene wealth and privilege of the inhabitants of the palace while right outside the doors, people were starving to death. No doubt they found them revolting… which is exactly what they did in both instances leading to loss of many a royal life and head.
WIthout a doubt, the jewel in the palaces crown is the stunning hall of mirrors which was built as a passage way for people visiting the King but which later played a far more significant role in history as the site for the signing of the peace Treaty of Versailles which officially put an end to the first world war. I’ve wanted to visit this hall since first learning about it in history at school. I wasn’t disappointed but having seen it, we were eager to get out of there, away from the crowds and out into the garden.
Eventually we made our way through the maze of elaborate rooms and into the garden. It made Monet’s garden look like a window-box!!! The excruciatingly manicured grounds spread out further than the eye could see, somewhere over the hill and far away was Marie Antoinette’s personal playground that we both wanted to see but didn’t know if we had the hearts or legs for it. But then we saw something that changed everything… golf buggies!
Without further adieu, we jumped in one and sped off at about 10km/hour! Oh yeah, we really ripped up the joint with pedal to the metal. It was good practice for me to be driving on the right-hand side, good navigation practice for mum and proof positive that we made the right decision to pay the extra to get a GPS for the car we’ve hired for a few days time!
We eventually putted our way to the far reaches that made up Marie Antoinette’s own little world of insanity. It was unlikely I was ever going to be a Marie Antoinette fan with my political persuasions and Sofia Coppola’s movie, Marie Antoinette, did little to ingratiate her any further (mind you, the film made me despise Sofia Coppola more than her eponymous heroine who she clearly identifies with as a poor little rich girl so extraordinarily privileged that no one can possibly afford to understand her and thinks that everyone should feel sorry for! Maybe she should take Antoinette’s advice and eat cake – it might help take that sour expression off her face!). However, I must admit that the bizarre little hamlet is cute as all get out! See attached pictures.
Running late to return our buggy, we floored it back to the start at break-neck speed (assuming the neck was already broken and required very little actual speed for the final snap). We took a few last photos and this time followed the masses back to the closer train station for a return to Paris.
We got off on the left bank for an evening befitting the grandeur of the day only to find the St Germaine bistro that had been highly recommended to us was also recommended to a long, winding queue of people. A good sign, yes, but we’d had enough of queues and crowds so headed across the road to try our luck at another restaurant, Les Editeurs. Decked out like an old library we were delighted with everything from the meal, the wine and our hilarious waiter.
Mum’s meal highlight was steak tartare (raw minced meat) but for me it was desert – a gooey chocolate gateau which hit the spot after heeding Marie Antoinette’s ill advised words “Let them eat cake!”. I did and I was happy.
The opulence of the palace was awe inspiring – to think that when it was built when Paris was starving. None the less, it is still a beautiful, beautiful place.
The gardens are beautiful in a different way to Monet’s, they are more formal and very spectacular with all the different statues, lakes and fountains and the canal with the boats was absolutely stunning. But the best part of all was Naomi and I in the golf buggy with no golf clubs.
What made me smile today: The waiter at the restaurant where we had dinner wiht his funny french accent and humour. Love to all.