Our first trip to Versailles was a lesson in so many things – the opulence and concept of ridiculous lavishness in the 17th century; how influenced a king was by Greek mythology; how many miles I could actually walk in one day; the lack of public bathrooms in a giant palace that sees hundreds of thousands of visitors a year; and how long tourists will wait in line to enter a museum (learned this a lot during our first trip. Answer: approx. 2+ hours for Versailles, the Louvre, Sainte Chapelle and the Catacombs. My poor feet.)
We also found out the amazing gardens of Versailles are not open in the winter. So it was on Ron’s list of things to do (actually his bucket list) when we returned to Paris in May. I am really glad he was adamant. Our first full day in Paris and at the top of the list was to view gardens and more importantly be there during the musical fountains show. For a schedule of times click here.
When I woke up Saturday I kind of wanted to be in lounge mode. One sideways glance with a half-raised eyebrow from Ron and I was strapping on my tennis shoes. Today was our window. Tomorrow we had Eiffel Tower tickets and Tuesday we were going to Disney Paris for my birthday. If we didn’t go today we were going to miss out on the musical fountains, and that WAS NOT an option. Versailles will host 72 musical fountain shows in 2017 and damn skippy Ron and Stacy are seeing one of them!
The train ride to Versailles is peaceful. It goes by quickly and it allows you to view the suburbs of Paris. When we got there we stopped at Starbucks to get a drink and to use the bathroom (remember the lessons learned on first visit!)
Then we proceeded to walk all the way around the palace to enter the gardens from the side entrance to avoid paying. I think that was a mile and half at least (Ron says at least two), and it was going to save us roughly $9 each. We found out on the last visit that you could enter from the sides of gardens on the last trip and people rode their bikes and even drove their cars onto the grounds.
It seemed like we walked past a lot of closed entrances so I was relieved when we finally got to an entrance that would let us in (I was starting to wonder if we were going to have to turn around. Ron would be PISSED!) I could hear the music and the water splashing and I was getting giddy with excitement.
But when we walked toward the music we were met with a moat, complete with spikes. Blast! So we continued to walk around to the main path. We entered near the canals and then I saw security and a little booth set up where there wasn’t one last time we were there. Drats! Had to pay. But there was no one in line. Not one person. So I would like to believe that we walked all that way to avoid standing in line. There better have been a line this time at the front of the palace. (!@&!)
We walked to Apollo’s Fountain and just took in the view up the great lawn towards the palace. We also took a selfie.
Then we moved about the different gardens, which are actually referred to as groves. There are 15 distinct groves. And since I am talking about numbers, lets get right down to it shall we:
- Versailles “park” sprawls 2100 acres.
- There are 190 acres of formal French gardens.
- They boast 700 topiaries.
- 155 statues
- 235 vases
- 300,000 flowers are planted each year
- 55 pools and fountains, and 600 water features with a closed circuit water consumption of 1,188,774 gallons per hour (can you imagine paying that bill?!)
Here are a few of my favorite features (I wish I had Ron’s photos to share with you, but I guess we will have to do a Ron blog later when I show him how to do this!)
Of course, after we watched “A Little Chaos” in which we learned that the Ballroom was actually designed by Sabine de Barra (a female) we were excited to get see it. The Ballroom was designed between 1680 and 1685 and is the ONLY GROVE to have survived in its original condition until today. That is amazing!! Here are some pictures:
Of course we discussed the film and our excitement over seeing the Ballroom with a Parisian friend of ours, and he looked rather perplexed. Huh? What? I have never heard of a female designing the gardens of Versailles, he said. So he took to Google (exactly like I do whenever I hear an odd story or something that needs to be verified) and, well, Sabine is fictional. Damn you Hollywood!! Based (mostly) on a true story, or inspired by true events … whatever!! All of the groves were designed by Andre Le Notre and he never fell in love with the brilliant garden designer Kate Winslet I guess.
Ron couldn’t wait to find the Colonnade Grove. He had spied this on the first visit to Versailles when I was desperately looking for a public bathroom. It turned out on that visit that the bathrooms on the map I had were only open when the gardens were open, so when I got there they were padlocked. Needless to say, I watered some of the plants of Versailles back in 2015 and Ron discovered the Colonnade Grove.
I know he got a lot of great pics of this grove, but I am sharing just the main sculpture.
One of the craziest grove’s is Apollo’s Bath. I mean crazy in a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping kind of way.
Since I have to wrap up this blog, I want to leave you with a couple more shots. The Dragon Fountain and below it the sculpture in the Triumphal Arch Grove.
We had to kick it into fifth gear to walk over to Neptune’s Fountain for the final water show of the day. It started at 5:20 p.m. and we had been at Versailles for about six hours and walked 10 miles (per my Fitbit.)
All in all, the day was grand. It was royal to be sure. When we got back to the apartment for the night we were beat. At least I was beat. I told Ron I was tired, and he said he was fine. But then I got to planning the next day’s strategy. Ron was pretty quiet. So I went to check on him.
I guess he was tired after all. Tomorrow we put more miles on our feet, go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and explore the Statue of Liberty. Please follow our blog and check out our adventures! Until tomorrow!