While in Paris for a few days in May 2015, my two friends (Sydney and Kyla) and I planned to take a day trip to the Palace of Versailles for a good part of the day. We got there via train and I think I speak for all of us when I say that it was a unique experience and it was incredible visiting a palace that explains so much of France’s history with freedom and democracy. I view the Palace of Versailles as a symbol of the immensely ridiculous wealth that royals in France held solely because of their bloodline. (I just finished a reading for school in my history text, can you tell?) So getting to see something so historically important was pretty amazing.
The thing I didn’t realize about Versailles is that it’s actually a town. I thought Versailles was just the name of the palace. Should have done my research better. So when we got off the train, we had to walk for a little under 10 minutes until we got there. The town wasn’t super cute or anything like that; in fact, it was kind of plain and simple. Which is maybe the point. The Palace of Versailles is the only place people flock to in Versailles. Nothing else really matters and that makes sense when you examine the context of the palace. Louis the fourteenth is credited with turning it into a glorification of wealth and extravagance from 1661 to 1710 and it was a royal residence until the executions of Louis the sixteenth and Marie Antoinette in 1789. After the French Revolution, it sort of became the French people’s and was turned into an art museum. And now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and major tourist destination in France.
When we turned around the corner of a building in the town and walked across the main street, there it was at the end of the road. It kind of took me by surprise how immense it was in comparison to the landscape. As we approached, throngs of tourists and vendors were upon us. It was packed. We waited in line, showed out Paris Passes, went through security, and we were in.
The ceilings were tall, the murals gigantic, and everything was decorated lavishly. It was sort of like a museum, but a rather uninformative one. I found everything in the “museum section” (I don’t know what else to call it) to be in such a disorganized order. It didn’t seem to be chronological or anything. The first section that we entered was just rooms upon rooms of paintings of people who I had never heard of. Maybe I should have brushed up on my French history? I did recognize Marie Antoinette in a few of the paintings, but that’s about it. Overall, I could imagine these rooms once filled with extravagant furniture and decorated lavishly. It was pretty cool to think about. It was also so hard to take good pictures because there were people everywhere, but I tried regardless. Please excuse the awkward angles.
When we came upon the Hall of Mirrors, it was a frenzy. The crowd in there was unbelievable and it completely distracted from the architecture. I managed to take some pictures, but there were just too many people to get a good one. Google images has some quality pictures of the hall while empty if you’re curious.
The views from the windows were incredible. The gardens were just so immaculate and I loved how they formed all these cool swirls and geometric figures. It seemed like I was in a fairy tale, peering out a castle window:
Eventually we made it outside where we bought some overpriced wraps and chips from a food cart with a really long line and found a bench in the shade to sit out to get out of the sun. It was one of the most beautiful days of the trip so far.
We spent the afternoon strolling through the gardens before we headed back to Paris. The one thing that I thought was absolutely hilarious was the giant sculpture that they were putting up. At first it kind of ticked me off because it was preventing me from getting a picture from a good angle, but then I realized the humor in it. It distracts from all the surrounding wealth and just looks hideous in a place that is known for being so perfectly beautiful. I thought it was funny.
There were so many people picnicking on the grass by the lake. And Kyla and I had some delicious sorbet. Mine was raspberry and mango:
Suffice to say, the palace was definitely grand and vast. However, unlike Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, it was definitely not to my taste. It was just too overdone. It was too much. I felt like it was built just to display wealth and not for true architectural beauty and wonder. Nonetheless, I am glad I got the chance to visit. It was a ton of fun exploring the palace and gardens and even more fun laughing at all the crazy tourists snapping an obnoxious amount of photos in the Hall of Mirrors.
I would truly like to go back one day in the far future because our trip was a little bit rushed. I’ll have to do more research next time to plan out the day better and maximize the time. Also, is there a certain time where it isn’t sooo crowded?