Tuesday, September 9, 2014


We took the train out to see Versailles. I was feeling the way that I always do, which is maybe just wandering around a place is short changing our experience of a place. Kitty just wanted to see a palace with a Queen. So with this in mind, we jumped on a train and headed to Versailles to see what all the fuss was about.

Kitty managed to make a friend in front of the palace as we waited for Mark to acquire tickets. She has this incredible ability to put herself right out there with other kids, even when there is a language barrier.

I found it humorous that they had to open up the gates of Versailles to let the plumbers in. I suppose even the Palace of the Sun King was not immune to plumbing woes.

Here is a hint- do NOT try to buy your tickets in the ticket office in the palace complex. It will look as if it is a manageable queue but in reality, it snakes around and around and around. Just buy them from the little kiosk at the cross street before you get to the Palace. Same pricing, just no lines.

Touring the palace itself, I felt very sorry for anyone having to live there. Talk about heavy and oppressive. Overly ornate, dark marble everywhere (which would only be lit by candles!) and stuffy. The hall of mirrors was beautiful and I am glad I got to see it but when its over run with tourist groups who just stand there it loses some of the appeal. Why did I not take more photos of the most famous room in Europe? So that name- Hall of mirrors? Yeah, those mirrors catch the reflection of all those tourists. Never mind, What I really wanted to see were the gardens. The famous fountains and gardens of Versailles!!

We walked outside in anticipation of enjoying a spectacular view of the fountains and the grand canal beyond.

Are you freaking kidding me? Instead of seeing the amazing fountain display what we saw instead was a major reconstruction project. I could have stayed on my boat if I had wanted to see a major reconstruction project. There was no mention anywhere to let someone know before hand that hey, it might not be as impressive as you would have expected. Not a single one of the famed dancing waters of Versailles was operational. Not even ONE. Ugh. Never mind. The garden grounds themselves were beautiful if overly geometrically perfect. I think the prefect order and symmetry appealed to Mark. I thought it got a little boring- perfect wall of clipped hedges after perfect wall of clipped hedges.

The Grand Canal itself was lovely and next time I would just skip the palace and spend a day on the canal pottering around in the little rowboats, eating ice cream in the gardens and admiring the swans.

I appreciate the care and attention the gardening staff takes in keeping the gardens pristine. I also appreciate that even while working, the gardeners take care to indulge in the National past time of France- smoking. Health concerns aside, you have to admire the devotion of the French.

The gardens and house at Grand Trianon were much more appealing to me. A little less structured, a lot more light and movement. I can see why Marie Antoinette spent so much time here away from the overbearing ornateness of the Palace.

So am I glad we went? Well, yes. I just wish someone had given me a heads up on the construction and I wish I had known that the real pleasure to be had at Versailles is down in the gardens. If you HAVE to see the Palace then it might be worth the hassle but really, with kids it would have been best to just skip the Palace and spend the day in the gardens.

As for Kitty, she was REALLY annoyed that there was not a Queen anywhere to be seen. I still think she has not forgiven us for this. She spent the next few days letting us know about how Versailles had let her down. NO QUEENS ANYWHERE. She did however, put in an enthusiastic endorsement for eating ice cream in the gardens so I suppose she will eventually forgive us.

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