We woke up to ominous looking rain clouds, but undaunted, we made our way to the Chateau de Versailles. Unfortunately (or stupidly, if you please) we ended up on the wrong train, realised it about half way into the journey, and had to backtrack quite a bit, before eventually ending up in Versailles (in our defence, this was the only time we got lost in one week of using public transport).
The Chateau de Versailles is infamous for its extremely long queues, so we bought tickets at an agency right opposite the railway station. The Passport (at €18) allows entry into the Palace, the Trianon Palaces, Marie-Antoinette’s estates, and all the gardens and is worth buying if you have the whole day for Versailles. But since we reached only at lunch time, we bought the ticket that allows entry only into the palace and gardens (at €15). I happily paid an extra €1.50 to the agency to escape the lines at the chateau and felt quite pleased with my own cleverness – of course, when we reached the chateau, there were absolutely no lines, and guess who wasn’t so pleased with herself then?
Anyway. Despite the threatening clouds of the morning, it was a really pleasant day, and the town was bedecked in fall colours, so we bought some baguettes and made a picnic lunch of it in one of the parks near the palace before heading inside.
The palace is absolutely incredible! It’s so massive and ornate that it takes some time for all that grandeur to sink in. The decor isn’t exactly to my taste – gold leaf, gilt, glass, mirrors, satin, velvet – but it doesn’t fail to impress. The high ceilings, enormous paintings, large chandeliers and various sculptures all add to the over the top grandeur of the place. It’s no surprise that the revolution happened – imagine the royalty living in this insane luxury while the population starved!
The ticket comes with a free audio guide. It wasn’t really a great audio guide – the description focused on the paintings and the sculptures – but I would really have liked to learn more about life in the palace, of which little mention was made in the audio guide.
There wasn’t as much crowd as I feared but there were an incredible number of Japanese tour groups. Consequently, I spent all my time inside the palace focused on ensuring that I either stayed ahead of the tour groups and hung back behind them. Considering the sheer number of tour groups there, that was pretty much an impossible task, so I must admit I was happy when the tour of the palace ended and we could finally head out into the gardens.
The gardens are supposed to be the highlight of the Chateau de Versailles – and they’re really vast so you can rent a bicycle or a golf cart to tour them or take the tram. Nike and I were discussing whether we could afford to rent the bicycles, when it suddenly started raining, making our discussion redundant. We waited for almost an hour but the rain showed no sign of letting up. We eventually gave up on the idea of touring the gardens, and decided to make a dash for the train station (it was going to be a long dash!). Just as we were running out of the palace gates, we found umbrellas being sold on the street, and gratefully bought one and rushed off to the station.
On the train back to Paris, we decided to get down at the Champ de Mars station to get some pictures of the Eiffel Tower before heading home. It was pouring by the time we got down so we dashed into a little cafe and waited out the rain with hot chocolate and lemon cheesecake. There’s nothing I love more than being ensconced in a warm place with a hot chocolate when it’s raining madly outside – and if this is in Paris, all the better!
We eventually sauntered over to the Eiffel Tower once the rain let up – and to our utter amazement, there was nobody there. Yes, we just walked straight up to the counter to buy our tickets and go up the lift. Not a SINGLE PERSON was ahead of us. If you’ve been to Paris, if you’ve seen the lines snaking many kilometres, you will understand why this is so incredible.
We spent well over an hour at the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s incredibly stunning – Paris in all it’s lit up splendour, spread around the feet of the tower – it’s a sight that makes my heart catch in my throat. Its just magical up there. I don’t have the words to describe how I felt so I leave you with this picture.