Versailles Chateau in 30 Minutes or Less

Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” There is no historical documentation that she ever said this. Still there is plenty of info about her extravagances–estranged husband (and boyfriend) and I are curious to see her lovely digs at Versailles so we are going on an excursion. Upon the advice of our reliable tour guide (Rick Steves’ Paris book), we plan to arrive at the palace around 1:00 p.m., walk through the gardens first, tour the Trianon (Marie’s little chateau) and arrive at the Chateau at the end of the day to avoid crowds.

The trip is only an hour from Paris, so we enjoy a leisurely morning with a petite dejeuner at a salon du the, then walk to the nearest RER Train stop at the Museum Orsay for Versailles. Saturday mornings in Paris are quiet, people don’t go out until later in the day, things move slower. The path along the Seine is relatively deserted of tourists and the bouquinistes are setting up as we walk by. We reach the RER only to find it closed for renovation. Pas de probleme, we look at the map to find the next open stop at Invalides—a fifteen minute walk.

We buy two round-trip tickets and take our seats on the train and a few minutes later the train leaves the station. It is a pleasant ride, not too crowded, and two men play the accordion in the vestibule. Fourty-five minutes later we are walking to the Chateau.

We pass the long ticket line because we had purchased a museum pass that included admission to the Chateau (a tip from Rick and well worth the cost). We arrive at the gate to the gardens and there is no line. Lovely classical music plays on hidden speakers (they must be Bose!), tres, tres civilized. Later in the day there will be a fountain display when they blast water from the many fountains.

A modern Versailles with modern noble visitors

A modern Versailles with modern noble visitors

One word describes Versailles: magnificent! No wonder every king was jealous of Versailles. The estate is enormous; standing at the Chateau and looking toward the gardens, for as far as you can see is a land where every blade of grass has been planned, designed, and manicured. Lakes, fountains, topiary gardens, mazes, it’s gorgeous. Louis XIV showed everyone that he was in command with his design of the gardens which he presided over until his final days. It is a 30-minute walk from the Chateau to Marie Antoinette’s little chateau in the country so people walk, drive golf carts or ride bikes. We choose bikes. (Marie went by carriage, of course.)

At the Trianon

At the Trianon

A ride I will never forget! We pedal along a tree-lined cobblestone road to the Trianon area—the domaine of Marie Antoinette-smaller abodes that were built for the royal family to escape the public eye at the Chateau. (There could be 5000 nobles there at any one time—talk about waiting in line to use the restrooms!) Here Marie Antoinette pretended to live like a peasant, frolicking in the gardens and living happily amidst her friends. “She thought this was living like a peasant!” e-husband marveled as we strolled through the polished hallways.

Marie Antoinette's bedroom at Trianon

Marie Antoinette

A drawing is labeled “Marie Antoinette” but clearly this is not the real Marie Antoinette. She doesn’t look a thing like Kirsten Dunst who played Marie Antoinette in Sophie Coppolla’s film. The chateau is splendid and sweet—the colors are girlie colors fuchsia, yellow, and pink.

We ride along the lake back to the bike shop, return the bikes and eat lunch at a garden café to fortify ourselves before attacking the chateau. We enter the chateau and find ourselves wedged inside with wall to wall people—we cannot turn around to get out and the crowd is moving us forward. The heat is stifling—most doors and windows are closed. I probably don’ t need to remind you what happened at the Louvre. We inch along room to room and then when there is a small break in the crowd e-husband breaks free of the crowd and makes a run for it and I gladly follow. I look at my watch 4:22. Hit the fast forward button on your DVD player now. ..

…Voila we are entering end of the tour, the Hall of Mirrors. Mirrors were a great luxury when the chateau was built and no one had seen the size and number of mirrors lining this hall before. These noble people loved to look at themselves in the mirror and by lining the walls with mirrors, everyone had a turn! The king and queen sat in canopied thrones at one end of the hall while they entertained ambassadors, nobles and vain guests. The room is breathtaking with 24 gilded chandeliers down the middle.

The Ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors

The Ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors

E-husband stops at the doorway surveying the room ahead. “Mirrors only on one side of the room!“ he says, obviously disappointed. “I would have done it differently.”

 

We are standing outside in minutes—I look at my watch; it is 4:48. We do the Chateau tour in 26 minutes. Rick Steves recommends leaving 90 minutesfor the Chateau tour, but we figure we simply have the ability to tour magnificent museums very efficiently. We are talking about writing a book: Touring the great museums of France in 30 minutes or less.

The Fountain spectactle

The Fountain spectactle

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