Thursday, January 3, 2013

Paris - Part Two

As we arrived in Antony on Thursday evening, it began to snow. Thankfully it didn't settle on the ground much past Friday morning, though. After we had breakfasted on coffee and fresh pastries, we decided to visit Versailles Palace, but it was terribly, bitterly cold in the wind and rain with snowy slush on the ground.

At 800 hectares in size there is a lot of garden to explore, but it was much too cold to spend any length of time looking around. We did, however, freeze ourselves to the bone for twenty minutes to explore the highest level of the garden.

The Château de Versailles was developed from a hunting lodge into a royal residence by French king Louis XIII in the early-to-mid 1600s. It was made into a fully-fledged palace by his successor, Louis XIV, who then officially established court there in 1682.

Under Louis XIV there were four main building campaigns, during which the gardens, suites, the Hall of Mirrors, an orangerie, and the royal chapel were constructed.

During the period of the French Revolution (1789-1799), King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette abandoned the Palace, and the government of the day ordered the remaining furnishings be sold at auction. Over the next few years, the Palace was used as an art and curios repository, and also took on patients from Les Invalides, a war veteran hospital based in Paris.

The emperor Napoléon chose not to live at the Palace, though he did reside in the Grand Trianon, which is in a far part of the extensive gardens. After the 1830 revolution, new monarch Louis-Philippe also preferred the Grand Trianon, though he oversaw the creation of a museum in the Palace, which was dedicated to "All the Glories of France". In the 1890s, a curator and conservator were appointed to the museum, and they ensured the conservation and restoration of the Palace.

Today, the Palace mainly serves as a tourist attraction, though it still holds political importance. For example, the Hall of Mirrors is used for receiving heads of state, and the Sénat and the Assemblée Nationale meet at the Palace to make changes to the French Constitution.
Adam in the Hall of Mirrors
The Grands Appartements are truly amazing, a real example of opulence and evidence of such different times. In the King's suite, the rooms were dedicated to the planets and their associated Roman deity. Under Louis XIV, the suite was mainly used for evening receptions and the rooms were set up with buffet tables, billiards and card tables, a ballroom, and a music room.

After spending the best part of four hours poking around the Palace and grounds, we made our way back to the train station and to Luuk and Amy's house for a very French meal of confit de canard, haricots verts, and New Zealand wine. What a day!

Château de Versailles has the weirdest statue I've seen in a long time...


  1. Nice! I shall have to visit while I'm over here! If your ever in Belgium let me know. I'm now based in Liege.

  2. Hi Chad, yes totally worth a visit (and cheaper than most English attractions, which is a bonus). Hope Belgium is going well :)

  3. Happy new year Michelle!!! You got luck with the crowds at the Chateau, it was PACKED when we went :)

  4. Thanks, Jen :) I guess it pays off to do touristy things when the weather is atrocious!