Field Notes: An Early Morning at Versailles

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.

versailles-esplanade3

versailles-roof

versailles-esplanade

versailles-statue

versailles-gate

versailles-sun-god

versailles-clock

versailles-tourists

versaille-fence

versailles-gilded-fence

versailles-fence-macro

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.

versailles-organ

versailles-corridor

versailles-shadow

versailles-hall-of-mirrors2

versailles-hall-of-mirrors

versailles-gilded

versaille-window

versailles-window2

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.

versailles-gardens-better

versaille-gardens

versailles-fountain

versailles-trees

versailles-hedges2

versailles-hedges

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.

petit-archways

petit-shadows

petit-doorway

petit-hall

petit-chandelier

petit-trianon2

petit-flowers

petit-trianon

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One thought

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s