When I first announced I was beginning my trip in Paris, 80% of the responses were essentially “You cannot leave without visiting Versailles!” But of course Versailles was already on my list, though unlike most I cared less about the chateau, which I’ve personally always thought looked a bit too ornate, and more about the magnificent gardens.
As it was my first time in France, I thought booking a couple of tours for my solo day-trips to avoid ending up on a random train to the French countryside, not that I would’ve really minded. I met up with the rest of the tour group at around 8:30 AM at a cute café in the 15th arrondissement, where I grabbed a croissant and a water bottle since we’d be spending at least two hours exploring exploring the gardens in upper 90 degree weather.
Can I just say that while I hate taking the train to work every day back home, I find commuter trains around Europe to be super relaxing. The ride from Paris to Versailles was definitely no more than 30-40 minutes and before I knew it we were strolling up and around the Chateau of Versailles to the Gardens of Versailles. There are two things that call to me when I travel: bookstore and gardens, due in part to my large Alice in Wonderland obsession.
Our tour guide was super knowledgable while we walked through the gardens, explaining to us the historic significance of certain areas, greek mythology behind many of the ornate fountains and how Louis XIV wanted the largest, most intricate garden of all his friends; kind of like neighbors trying to have the greatest BBQ during football season.
One of my favorite fountains was designed around the greek story of Leto.
In case you’re unfamiliar with greek mythology, he’s a little backstory: Leto was one of Zeus’s, yes that Zeus, favorite lovers. Eventually, Leto became pregnant, however by this point Zeus just about to marry Hera. Even though Leto became pregnant before the marriage, Hera was still very jealous and began to cause numerous problems for Leto, eventually have her kicked out of Olympus. Leto was than forced to wander earth where, no matter how much she tried, could not find anyone who would allow her to stay with them out of their fear of offending Hera. Hera also did a few other pety things such as sending a dragon to chase Hera, a situation that Zeus saved her from by sending the North Wind to push her out to sea, but anyway; eventually, after trying every else, Leto convinced the rocky island of Delos, where nobody else wanted to stay, to house her. Eventually she goes into labor, and a bunch of goddesses fly on in to help her. After nine days of labor, she births Artemis. Still fleeing Hera’s wrath, she runs to Lycia. When she gets there she’s thirsty and begs the peasants for water for her and her son, which they refuse. So upset by their refusal to help her and her baby, Leto decides that if they won’t let her drink the water than they shall live in it and turns them all into frogs and other amphibians.
I know, and I thought high school drama was bad.
If you look closely at the various tiers of the fountain, you can see that they go from people, to people changing, and finally on the last level, they are full-blown frogs.
After a two hour tour of the gardens, we were supposed to be given our tickets for the chateau, which we could roam at our leisure, and our ticket for the train home. However, while we got to bypass the three hour long lines that the rest of those visiting Versailles were on, the palace actually lost our tickets to enter for about 35-40 minutes, an eternity when it’s 97 degrees. And yes, I did get the world’s worst sunburn on my back, which eventually led to the world’s most awkward tan line..but I digress.
I’d compare walking through the palace to sitting in morning commuter traffic. On one hand, you’re moving so slowly you have time to look around, yet on the other hand, the 27 people on each side of you make it hard to see everything that you’d like to see. But still the palace was marvelous, and I was glad I had the experience to see it. Naturally, everyone went crazy once we made it to the Hall of Mirrors, but my favorite picture came from a completely empty spot I stumbled upon while making my way to the exit.
But I mean, in all honesty, the Hall of Mirrors is something special, especially the ceilings.
After attempting to wait on the line at Angelina, within the chateau, as I was ravenous, I ended up quitting and walking to the Starbucks about a block from the train station.
FYI, Starbucks in the U.S. will never compare. It was rare to pass a Starbucks in Europe that didn’t have full-sized cheesecakes and decadent desserts in the window display.
After dying of heat on the way back to Paris, before hopping aboard a bus to with no air-conditioning to my apartment, I ran straight to my studio and straight into the shower where I think I may have stayed for about 45 minutes, just cooling down.
I also collapsed for a few, but by this point it was around 4:30 PM and I don’t believe in wasting perfectly good sightseeing time. Even though it was an hour and a half until closing, I decided to make the short walk to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a museum I had wanted to see. And no, it had nothing to do with the new Barbie exhibit, but that part was equally as fun to see.
If you’re interested in the evolution of fashion, or fashion in general or even the fashion and design of Barbie, this museum might be right up your alley. I didn’t get to see as mnay museums as I would’ve liked to in Paris, and I’ll 100% add more to my agenda next time I’m back, but this gem was a great addition to my trip; I even spent the last twenty minutes in the gift shop. Highly recommended.
Little added tidbit about Louis XVI
Our tour guide told us that Louis XVI loved showing off his calves in portraits. Why? Because he was actually a very talented ballet dancer, something which was popular amongst the rich and royal. Back then, if you had very muscular calves, people knew you were well-off as you most likely danced. However, if you had muscular arms, you were most likely poor and worked in the fields, doing manual labor. This seems like a simple fun fact, but in reality it makes walking through the chateau slightly humorous, when you realize Louis XVI poses the way one of your girlfriends would when she wants a good Instagram photo.
And if you won’t make it to Versailles for a while, try Googling “Louis XVI calves”.
Read about the rest of our Paris escapade:
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