It is ungodly early. The four of us are wordlessly rustling about our apartment in Saint-Germain, getting ready. Ideally, we can catch the 7:05 RER C to Versailles, and be in the first group of tourists through the gilded gates.
I had arrived on the train from London late the night before, when they asked me if I would be opposed to making an early trek out to Versailles. I’m no stranger to early mornings, especially when traveling; often, I am up and on the road to somewhere by 6am. But something about waking up early while on holiday in Paris just seems sacrilegious. At any rate, we are turning into the stairwell to the Saint-Michel station platform just as the morning light touches the Notre Dame.
Once on the train, conversation perks up a bit. We make casual observations about the Paris suburbs whizzing by outside the window, and confer on plans for the next 3 days.
From our stop it is a leisurely 5-minute stroll to the palace gates. The golden glow of the rising sun has begun to wash over everything, and it’s shaping up to be an altogether lovely day.
As we approach the Place d’Armes we are afforded a rare glimpse of the palace, bathed in morning light, with not a soul in the courtyard. No lines, no busses, no tourists with their cameras and phones and iPads. All is quiet. Yes, getting here early was a good idea. We mill about and take a few photos, admiring the general splendor, until we are prompted to get in the entrance line by the caravan of tour busses that has just pulled into the parking lot. The day has officially started at Chateau Versailles.
In a blink, the grounds are swarming with people. We are ushered through the doors and begin making our way from opulent room to opulent room, each as ornate and luxurious as the last. Lavishness, magnificence, grandeur… all words one would use to describe the sprawling palace apartments. Invariably. Everything soon starts to melt together into one big declaration of pomp and pageantry. I begin to feel as though once you’ve seen one room, you’ve seem them all. And also, that it’s rather no wonder Louis XVI and his Austrian queen lost their heads. Such a manifestation was surely a slap in the face to the starving people of 18th century France, to say the very least.
The gardens provide a welcome reprieve from the ostentatiousness of the palace, though they are just as elaborate in their own right. Our guidebook tells us that the Petit Trianon is only a 15 minute walk through the grounds, so we decide to go it on foot, rather than ride the tiny tram.
Roughly 45 minutes later, we finally arrive at the entrance to the Petit Trianon. Marie Antionette’s private quarters are homely in comparison, yet somehow much more appealing. We amble through the grounds and over to the nearby Grand Trianon, coming to a general consensus that this part of Versailles is much more interesting than the main residence. We also unanimously agree that we will ride the tram back.