On my last day in France, I figured there was no better way to end my Parisian spree than wandering all 800 hectares of the most beautiful palace in France, Château de Versailles.
My morning began on a stressful note. I set 0ff to the St Michel railway station bright and early to catch the RER C line to Versailles, but upon arrival at the station I was met with locked doors. The RER C line was closed for the day due to emergency maintenance! Trying to figure out my next move, I found a taxi and it was going to cost me 35 euros one way, which was probably way too much, but I agreed in a fluster. The taxi driver was a nice man and it was a comfortable journey until the next problème arose. We arrived at the palace, but the driver didn’t have any change for my 50 euro note. He assured me that if I paid him 50 euro now, he would pick me up and return me to Paris later on. He handed me his business card and I reluctantly paid him, feeling pretty certain that I would never see his face again.
This was my third trip to Versailles, so I was slightly less interested in the main palace this time around. After battling ridiculous crowds inside for an hour, I made my way to Le Petit Trianon, the private estate once the domain of Marie Antoinette. She may have been a frivolous & negligent queen, but I have always been fascinated by the splendour and luxury of her royal life at Versailles. I spent the most lovely day wandering around the grounds and exploring the idyllic hamlet she commissioned purely for her own pleasure.
Marie Antoinette’s estate does not open until noon (how very Marie Antoinette), so I had time to wander the gardens first. I had pre-booked my ticket online, but the line to get inside the palace still took over an hour. I found the experience of the palace rather claustrophobic and uncomfortable, but managed to elbow my way out of there alive.
The gardens were a tranquil oasis and the soft melodies of the musical fountains show were floating through the air as I wandered aimlessly towards Le Petit Trianon. On specific days between April and October classical music accompanies the flow of the fountains. The gardens were the perfect locale to recompose my nerves after the chaos of the palace. I was blessed with a glorious sunny day with a bright blue cloudless sky. I then bought a baguette the size of my head, some Ladureé macarons and set off to find a picturesque spot for a picnic lunch.
I purchased a Versailles Passport ticket, which gave me access to the whole estate – the grand Chateau de Versailles, the Grand and Petit Trianon Estates, as well as the gardens and musical fountain show, and the coach gallery. It cost around €25 for this ticket. If you are a first time visitor, you are not likely to fit everything into one day and might be better off buying the standard palace ticket. On my first visit to Versailles, I spent the whole day inside the palace.
On previous trips, there never seemed to be enough time to see the Trianon Estates, which are located quite a distance from the main palace. It took me about 20 minutes to walk from the main chateau through the gardens. The complex is made up of the the Grand Trianon Palace, the Petit Trianon Palace, the Queen’s English Hamlet, and a variety of ornamental gardens. Le Petit Trianon became Marie Antoinette’s sanctuary from court life.
Le Petit Trianon was originally built by King Louis XV in the 1760’s to accommodate his long term mistresses, Madame de Pompadour, then following her death, Madame du Barry. When King Louis XVI ascended the throne, Le Petit Trianon was gifted to his 19 year old bride, Marie Antoinette, for her exclusive use, which she quickly tailored to her tastes. Even today there remains an air of her presence everywhere you look. Despite her infamy and lack of desire to lead the country, she lived her life precisely as she wished, seeking out the pleasures that Le Petit Trianon provided.
Marie Antoinette’s private apartments are situated amongst the beauty of nature. In early May, the lilacs were in full bloom, their pretty perfume filling the air and luring bees to their sweetness. The highlight of my day was Marie Antoinette’s little hamlet farm, which was inhabited with baby goats, lambs, cows, chickens, and even a white peacock.
Le Petit Trianon was a tranquil oasis and I could definitely see why Marie Antoinette preferred the quiet country charms of her own private estate over the pandemonium of court life, yet her estate was also the perfect venue for opulent parties with her fashionable Parisian friends – from the lavish salons, private theatre, and spacious grounds. There is even a temple dedicated to the Goddess of Love for goodness sake!
All good things inevitably come to an end. Marie Antoinette was not able to enjoy the pleasures of Le Petit Trianon for long. As we know, Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the revolution and she was executed by the guillotine in 1793 at the tender age of 37.
Marie Antoinette left her mark as a symbol of excess and indulgence, mostly renowned for her untimely death and her luxurious tastes. There is a long held rumour that Marie Antoinette is said to have proclaimed let them eat cake after being told that the peasants were starving due to a bread shortage. While this quote has long been refuted, after wandering Le Petit Trianon for a couple of hours it became quite apparent that Marie Antoinette did live her life detached from the real world.
At the end of the day, I fumbled through my bag for the taxi drivers card and decided to see if I had been scammed out of 50 euro. Lo and behold, a thick french accent picked up the phone and ten minutes later he was at the front gate waiting for me with a bottle of cold water. My faith in humanity was restored! Being a Queen seemed like a lot of bother and I was happy to return to my apartment for a long sleep and leftover macarons for dinner.
The Palace of Versailles
The Palace: Open 9am to 6.30pm
The Estate of Trianon: Open 12pm to 6.30pm
The Gardens: Open 8am to 8.30pm
The Royal Stables: Open 12.30pm to 6.30pm
Would you like another adventure? I know you do!