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Le Château de Versailles

Le Château de Versailles
I will never forget the first time I saw Versailles. I was simultaneously awed and overwhelmed by its grandeur. It began in 1631 as a royal hunting lodge but King Louis XIV - in his quest for distance from the people of Paris - turned it into the palace we know today. 
The Chapel at the Château
He was initially advised against using this land as it was predominately a swamp. True to his absolutist form, he ignored his architects and advisors and commanded otherwise. In 1682, the Sun King forced the aristocracy to live at Versailles for part of the year, many complained about the swamp's stench. In an attempt to combat the foul odor, giant urns were distributed over the grounds and filled with flower petals and orange peels (from Versailles' gardens and orangerie). 
Potpourri Urns (photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
View of Le Château de Versailles from the Gardens (photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
Inside, you can rent an audio guide (which I highly recommend - it is really the only way you can learn anything outside of a private tour). 
The King's Bedchamber (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The Queen's Bedchamber (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
 While touring the inside here are some fun facts to consider...The Château has:
  • 52,210 square meters of floors
  • 2,153 windows
  • 700 rooms
  • 67 staircases
  • 5,000 items of furniture & objects d'art
  • 6,000 paintings
  • 12 miles of enclosing walls
  • 26 acres of roof
The Château itself is stunning, but it is ridiculously crowded. Throngs of tourists push and shove their way about. By the time I reach the Queen's Bedchamber (pictured above) I am pretty well done with the inside. I'm not a crowd person, so I prefer to spend my time at Versailles outdoors in the gardens.

The Gardens - the boxed trees are Orange Trees
(Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
On Sundays during the summer, you can see the fountains in action. Louis XIV loved fountains, as evidenced by the fact that an estimated one-third of the building budget was dedicated to its water supply system.
When they were initially installed, the water pressure was so low that they could not run all the fountains at once. When the king and queen would promenade through the garden, a gardener of sorts would turn on the closest fountain. After the royal posse would pass, the poor gardener would turn off the most recently viewed fountain and scurry off to the next one to turn it on for king and court. And when you consider that Versailles has 50 fountains with 620 fountain nozzles, that was no small feat!  
The Apollo Fountain - Versailles (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The gardens span an impressive 2,000 acres and contain:
  • 200,000 trees that, if put in a row, would stretch out for 80 miles
  • 210,000 flowers planted per year
  • 150 varieties of apple & peach trees in the Vegetable Garden
I love the gardens at Versailles, but would just as soon spend all day at Marie-Antoinette's Hamlet. She had this Norman "peasant" village built between 1783-1787 as an escape from the pressures of court life. This quaint village is so picturesque and peaceful, I completely understand why M-A spent some of her happiest moments here.
Le Moulin - Marie Antoinette's Hamlet (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
Le Moulin - (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
(Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The Queen's House (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The Footbridge (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
(Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
Window at the Farmhouse (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)

The Well at the Farm (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
That's Some Pig! (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala) 
One of the many old trees on the grounds (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
The farm and vegetable gardens supplied the palace kitchen during M-A's time, and are still fully functioning today.
The vegetable garden near the Boudoir (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
(Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala) 
Practical Information:
  • If you want to see Versailles, Frommer's has some good planning tips to consider, including transportation information
  • I would recommend purchasing tickets before you leave the states - if you just show up at Versailles, you could wait in line for hours. 
  • Note that there are separate tickets required for the Château, the Gardens, the Trianons, and Marie-Antoinette's Hamlet. You can purchase them separately, but I don't recommend it. Instead, I would suggest buying the all-inclusive "Passeport" - either way, you can buy tickets online HERE

  • Fountain during Les Grandes Eaux
    (Photo by Jennifer Boyer-Switala)
  • If you go in the summer months, try to go on a Sunday to see the Grandes Eaux Musicales - The fountains are only turned on summer Sundays during designated times - and they are spectacular! In addition, they play Baroque music throughout the will feel like a true royal!
Fun Facts Compiled From:
National Geographic Channel

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