I knew very little about the Paris of Versailles before it was suggested that I should visit it with Sandemans Tours. Then I called my Nana and told her I was off to see the gardens and I knew I’d made the right choice, she was raving about them!
And it takes a lot to excite an 80 year old lady…
Beauty at The Palace of Versailles
Whether you would call the building above the Palace of Versailles, or the Château de Versailles, chances are you’re going to be pretty impressed with it. As our group began walking up to the front gates, the same question could be heard mumbling from everyone’s lips…“is that real gold?”
Alberto, our awesome guide, was out of hearing range but obviously expecting this question he turned to us and told us that anything that looks gold in Versailles, actually is. And there are a lot of things that look gold in Versailles!
In fact, in 2007 when renovating the front gate that was destroyed in the revolution, it was decided that gold would be used to keep the authenticity, and the French government spent €9million on it!
Above is one of the Four Seasons fountains. Representing summer (if I remember rightly!) not only is that gold you see right there, but also one fountain of the fifty that are placed in the gardens and contribute to the never-ending water problems at Versailles!
As an example, Neptune’s fountain, the largest, has 99 individual water spouts contributing to the fountain as a whole! As each fountain is also made up of a varying number of individual spouts, it is clear why the Palace of Versailles can use as much water in a day as the whole of Paris!
Today, the fountains do not run all day every day, but only at specific times, for the same reason that there just isn’t enough water to supply the gardens. In the time of Louis XIV this was a huge problem, as the fountains were such an integral part of the dream the King had of his Château. Despite numerous attempts to increase water supply to the gardens, via pumps, canals, and manufactured lakes, there simply was never enough!
Instead quite a funny system was designed according to the King’s usual walking routes around the gardens, whereby when it was aware the King was coming, fountaineers would switch on the fountain until he had passed by, at which point it would be switched off again and the next would be activated in the same manner.
One of the most fascinating parts of the tour, a definite benefit of taking one over just walking around and appreciating the views, was hearing about the mythological stories behind many of the fountains.
The Château was the dream of King Louis XIV of France, a proud man who was heavily influenced by Greek Mythology, so much so that he thought of himself as alike to the sun god, Apollo. Apollo, the illegitimate child of Zeus, had been targeted since even before birth by Zeus’ wife Hera, and after hearing of his birth Hera sent a dragon to find and kill both Apollo, and his mother Leto. The scene depicted in the fountain below is of Apollo, still a young child, defeating the dragon.
As my visit was during the low season, we were incredibly lucky to be able to see the beauty of the gardens without it being too crowded. The Château is one of the top tourist spots in Paris with thousands passing over the estate every year, so it’s great to go in winter and observe it in a more calm atmosphere.
Of course, in some ways the timing of my trip was a shame, as a couple of the fountains were closed off to preserve them, and other statues were covered for the same effect. I also think it would be beautiful to see the estate in the bright colours of spring! However, the frost gave it a magical tone…
Bowel Movements at the Palace of Versailles
When you consider the Palace of Versailles, and you read descriptions of the luxury and opulence within the estate like my own above, chances are you’re confused as to why on earth the title of this article would have anything to do with bowel movements.
Well it appears that despite Louis VIX’s goal of creating the most majestic Château ever, himself and the nobles he invited to stay with him didn’t quite carry majesty within themselves. In fact, they continued to act within this beautiful setting much the same way as the rest of the world did in the seventeenth century and therefore before the popularity of sewer systems and toilets.
Defecation on the floors of the palace, human waste thrown from the windows on to the leather umbrellas of those walking below, and pug urine used as face cleanser, were apparently all a part of the life at Versailles.
Imagine with that the fact that not only did hundreds of nobles live here, but also hundreds if not thousands of regular French men and women working in service to the Château, whether that be in service to the nobles or to undertake construction, engineering, and gardening. That is a whole lot of human wastage on a daily basis….all lying around the floors of an otherwise extravagantly opulent palace!
So when you get the chance to visit, count yourself lucky to be able to admire the views and architecture around you without having to watch where you step!
But finally, back to the beauty! The tour finished behind the Château, with us overlooking a huge portion of the gardens. Alberto called it ‘The Great Perspective’. And it really was…
Tips For Visiting the Palace of Versailles
- If you are hoping to avoid the ticket price, the Château is free every first Sunday of the month from November to March!
- In busy seasons the queues for Versaille can reach up to an hour, but whilst still long, the ticket holders queue is always going to be shorter than the queue for those buying on site so I would definitely recommend booking online before you get there.
- For the majority of the time, the gardens are free, so if you’re not too worried about entering the Château itself, just head straight through and enjoy the fountains!
- Make Versailles a day trip. The estate is absolutely HUGE and if you want to enter the Château and explore the gardens you will need a whole day. Any visit would be spoilt by having to rush back to town for a tour elsewhere so don’t try to fit too much around the day.
- The Château and the estate of Marie Antoinette is closed every Monday, however you can still see the open gardens.
The tour costs €30, or €28 for students, but Sandemans also host a free walking tour which leaves twice a day every day at 11am and 1pm from Place St Michel.
Lots of love!
Lots of love,
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