Sunday, November 13, 2011

Visiting Versailles in Paris

During our visit in Paris, we took a day trip to Versailles and it was the highlight of our trip! There are a few points about planning a trip there though.

The Tips:
  • Take the RER C to Versailles-Rive-Gauche to arrive at Versailles at 8:30am. Get in line! The best piece of advice that I can give you is get in line so that you are the first ones in the Chateau. We did this and got through the entire Chateau before the rush came. It was the difference of walking through an (almost empty) room and one that is so crowded that it heats up in seconds. 
  • Make sure your camera battery is fully charged before going. You will find something that you like at Versailles, from the Chateau, the various gardens or the Trianons there is something for everyone. 
  • Bring water. This will make you search for a bathroom almost all of the time but you will be walking for at least 6 hours.
  • It is a long day. Seriously, it took us over 7 hours to see everything. By the end of the day, it was hard to believe that we had been there since 8am. It seemed like we had visited the Chateau days ago but it was only that morning. 
  • Food - it is your call. We ate at La Petite Venise restaurant and the food was amazing. It cost 33€ for two people which was pretty affordable so I can't say that it's a better idea to pack a lunch. You can if you want because then you can find a place to sit and eat in the gardens and experience them even more. 
  • Take the Versailles Train back to the Chateau. Once you are done for the day, you will be tired even if your feet are fine. The tickets for the train were 3€ per person and although the ride was bumpy, it was worth it. Remember, you still have to get back to where you are staying too.
The Chateau:

If you like are a history buff then you will love the opulent Chateau. We loved it but found it dwarfed by the grounds (more on that later). Nevertheless, the Chateau is awe-inspiring.

  • Go to the bathroom before you start the tour of the Chateau. As soon as you pass security, the bathrooms are down the hallway and stairs to the right. Seriously, go now even if you don't think that you have to or that you will have to within the hour. The next bathroom is a long way away.
  • Don't forget to look up. The paintings, furnishings and murals are astounding but the ceilings are truly something. Some have frescoes, some are gilded and some are covered in marble. 
  • Listen to Rick Steeves tour of the Chateau during your visit or before your visit. We did it before our visit so that when we were there it was much more interesting. You can find these podcasts on iTunes for free.

This was the highlight of our trip. Once we stepped out of the Chateau we were awestruck but the sheer size of the gardens.

  • Bring a map of the gardens. We printed one out from here so that we wouldn't get lost. They are seriously LARGE. 
  • Don't rush to the Trianons: walk through these gardens. The canal is gorgeous but there are tons of little picturesque spots in the gardens that you should see. For example, near the canal we stumbled on this spot:

This was Louis XV's escape from the zoo at Versailles and you can see why. It's not too big, not too small. It isn't overdone (well, for the time period). I couldn't get over how much rose-coloured marble was used to build the place though! At that time it would have cost a fortune! 

The gardens here were also very nice. The Trianons are the only places that you will find flowers in Versailles. The gardens were very well kept. 

  • Get a baked potato with toppings of your choice at La Parmentier de Versailles cart that is outside. These potatoes are baked in an oven that he has on-site and they are amazing. We had the Norweigan potato (Norvege) which had smoked salmon, dill, creme fraiche, sour cream, chopped fresh chives and a lemon wedge. Let me tell you something, it was the stuff that dreams were made of. The hot wine (vin chaud) is also very good if you are cold.
Petit Trianon:

This retreat was built for Madame Pompadour by Louis XV and was also used by Madame du Barry before Marie Antoinette completely took it over. This building itself isn't all that impressive but the gardens and the hamlet are. If you visit the Petit Trianon, it opens after 12 noon and expect for it to be full of tourists.  The bathrooms also REALLY suck here, there are only two stalls for ladies.

The Hamlet in the Petit Trianon:

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