A few of my readers have asked me to share some of the highlights of my Paris vacation that I took for my 30th wedding anniversary last summer with my husband. I got so busy after the trip and writing about my travels takes more time than sharing what I wear.
If you plan to visit Paris in the future, I highly recommend you add a visit to Chateau de Versailles to your bucket list.
We visited Versailles as part of our Avalon Waterways Seine river cruise from Paris to Normandy. Versailles is 12 miles southwest of Paris and you can either make it a day trip or, like we did, a river boat cruise. We had about 40 members of our cruise join us on the guided tour of the exquisite chateau. Going with a large group also gives you quicker access to Versaille, which can have long lines,(think Disneyland). Our tour didn’t include a visit to the Trianon, nor did we see all the rooms in Versailles. Versailles is really an all day visit and perhaps hiring a private tour guide may have given us access to many things I would have liked to have seen. We saw quite a bit and this is a rather long blog that has been edited for 2 weeks because we took too many photos. This is a highlight of what we saw.
Chateau de Versailles originally was a hunting lodge in the village of Versailles for King Louis XIII but was extended and used by his son, Louis XIV,( also known as the Sun King), from 1682-1718 during his reign. Versailles was only a village at the time it was used as a hunting lodge. It was destroyed in 1673 to make way for the new town Louis XIV wished to create. Versailles was also the home to Louis XV and to Louis XVI. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette would be stripped of power, brought to Paris and ultimately beheaded.
Versailles became a museum in 1837 showcasing the history of France. Versailles survived the 2 world wars, but was becoming neglected for lack of money until John D. Rockefeller made an enormous donation after WWI towards the restoration of Versailles. Our guide told us that the Americans for many years have been the largest group of patrons donating money towards restoration projects for Versailles.
Since Louis XIV was known as the Sun King, you will see the sun symbol everywhere in gilded gold. It took 50 years of construction during his reign to expand the grounds. Louis XIV was a builder as well as a ruler. Versailles is baroque style architecture, which is very ornate and very extravagant in style.
In the back of this photo is the original hunting chateau. The wings on the sides were added by Louis XIV when he brought his entire government and court to live with him at Versailles in 1682. He made his palace an expression of power and authority, knowing that glory was conveyed not only by war but also by buildings.
This model below shows the true layout of Versailles and it is an incredible museum!
Versailles had separate compartments for the King and Queen connected by the Hall of Mirrors. Every single room had magnificent painted ceilings. As an interior designer, Versailles was a dream come true. Magnificent galleries, rooms, and gardens filled my senses and created wonderful memories for me. I was struck by all the beautiful art on the ceilings, the gold, and the marble throughout the palace. When you walk through the palace at Versailles, you’re bombarded with room after room of marble and gold and paintings: ceilings painted to place Louis in the company of the Greek gods, busts of him in a huge formal curly wig staring at you wherever you go, and gold gold gold, so you never lose sight of how wealthy the King of France was. Most of the furniture was sold or destroyed during the French Revolution. Can you imagine how these rooms may have looked during his reign?
We were limited on our visit to only the King’s Grand Apartments, since the Queen’s Grand Apartments were closed for renovations.
The Royal Chapel
“Construction of the Royal Chapel was completed in 1710 at the end of the reign of Louis XIV. It was the fifth – and final – chapel built in the Palace since the reign of Louis XIII. Every day the Court attended the King’s mass, which was usually held in the morning at 10. The sovereign sat in the royal tribune surrounded by his family. The ladies of the Court occupied the lateral tribunes, while the Officers and members of the public were seated in the nave.”
The art on the ceiling is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The Royal Chapel has 2 floor levels and these photos were taken from the top floor.
The King’s Grand Apartments
The Hall of Plenty
This room was used for in the evening for refreshments. Louis XIV version of a lounge styled wine room.
The Venus Room
“Like all the other rooms, this room was named after a planet, following a running theme linked to sun mythology which inspired the decoration in Versailles during the 1670s. In this room Venus is depicted on the ceiling as the goddess of love, associated with the planet in Ancient Greece. The decoration in the Venus room is the most Baroque of all the State Apartments.”
The Diana Room
In Ancient Greek mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the sister of Apollo, the sun god, and was also associated with the moon. The Diana Room was used as the Billiard Room to show off Louis XIV talent as a billiard player.
The Ceiling: “Diana presiding over the Hunting and Navigation”
It was used as a guard Room and then the ballroom, making its dedication to the god of war highly appropriate.
The Mercury Room
The Mercury Room was originally the royal bedchamber in the State Apartments and was referred to as the “bedroom”, although the bed was removed early on in winter to make room for games tables.
The ceiling painting depicts Mercury on his chariot being pulled by 2 roosters.
The Apollo Room
Designed as the Ceremonial Room, the Apollo Room was used as a throne room from 1682 onwards. For some strange reason, maybe because it was crowded, my husband only shot the portrait of Louis XIV. I found this image below on Pinterest.
The King’s Chamber
The king’s bedroom is located in the center of the palace, his bed is in the center of the room, as is the Sun is the center of the universe. Following me?
Louis XIV believed his life should be open for all to see, if they were invited to the palace. Even when he woke up in the morning was an event for his people. There was the “Small Awakening” followed by the “Grand Awakening” where everyone could watch the King arise in the morning. Our guide said everyone could even watch him eat, if they were the lucky ones.
From the King’s private apartments you enter into the War Salon which then leads you to the Hall of Mirrors.
Below: The Hall of Mirrors
“The Hall of Mirrors, the most famous room in the Palace, was built to replace a large terrace designed by the architect Louis Le Vau, which opened onto the garden. The terrace originally stood between the King’s Apartments to the north and the Queen’s to the south, but was awkward and above all exposed to bad weather, and it was not long before the decision was made to demolish it. It was also here that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919, ending the First World War.”
Mirrors were considered an opulent and extravagant purchase during Louis XIV reign. There are 17 arches adorned with 357 mirrors. Louis XIV wanted to show France manufacturing could compete with the Italian monopoly of mirror manufacturing.
The Queen’s Chamber
We didn’t see the Queen’s grand apartments because they were undergoing renovations when we visited. The whole wing was closed off and we exited to the gardens after our tour ended at the Hall of Mirrors.
The Queen’s bedroom was where she slept, sometimes the king slept with her, and she also had a similar morning ritual that the King went through.
Our guide had told us about the queen giving birth in public, which until I researched the queen’s apartments for this blog post, is not what I thought it was.
” It was also here that the queen gave birth, in public, to the Princes and Princesses of the Realm. The word “public”, however, is misleading, since in reality very few people were admitted to the bedchamber while the queen was giving birth. Only doctors, ladies in waiting, the governess of the Princes and Princesses of the Realm, the Princesses of the royal family and a few members of the church were allowed to enter. The rest of the Court waited in the other rooms in the Apartment, whose doors were all symbolically left open. The queen was placed on a labour bed brought in specially, and was hidden behind a screen or canvas tent. After giving birth she was placed back in her own bed while the whole court filed through to present their compliments.”
Versailles has the most stunning gardens I have ever seen. We couldn’t get over how magnificent the gardens were! We walked everywhere marveling at the layout of the massive garden, the fountains, the statutes, and the secret spots hidden off the winding paths that were beyond the Royal Way.
You first catch glimpses of the gardens when you peek out through the open windows of the Hall of Mirrors.
The rectangular pools outside the window are the Water Parterre. These two large rectangular pools reflect the sun’s rays and light up the outside wall. You don’t even begin to see the vastness of the gardens from the windows.
Then you walk outside and begin to explore the enormous and magnificently designed gardens of Versailles. The gardens covers 1976 acres, has 50 fountains, 221 sculptures, and it took 40 years to complete. The gardens were being designed along the time Versailles was being expanded. I love the brilliance of the landscape design: the gardens are laid out east to west to follow the sun.
Below is the South Parterre (the flower garden) which is next to the Orangery. This is where we came outside after the palace tour.
Below: This is the Orangery which sits below the palace. You cannot enter the Orangery without a guide, so this was an area we did not visit with our guide. There are 105 steps to walk down to get to the parterre. It is best viewed from above the Orangery on the terrace. Here you will see the display of orange, lemon, pomegranate, and palm trees. Many of the trees are over 200 years old. The trees are kept inside the Orangery during the winter.
There were lots of police on the grounds when we were there in July. Security was very tight in Paris during our trip. We felt very safe everywhere because it was the week before Bastille day when Trump was invited by Macron to visit Paris. The mounted police and their horses were as popular as the statues on the grounds.
“To maintain the design, the garden needed to be replanted approximately once every 100 years. Louis XVI did so at the beginning of his reign, and the undertaking was next carried out during the reign of Napoleon III. Following damage caused by a series of storms in the late 20th century, including one in December 1999, which was the most devastating, the garden has been fully replanted and now boasts a fresh, youthful appearance similar to how it would have looked to Louis XIV.”
This area is called the Grand Perspective or Royal Way. The statues in place today are mouldings of the originals, which are currently on display in the Louvre. At the end you can see the Grand Canal which is about a mile long. People can enjoy the afternoon on the little boats in this area of the gardens.
“Latona’s fountain was inspired by The Metamorphoses by Ovide. It illustrates the story of Latona, the mother of Apollo and Diana, protecting her children from the insults of the peasants of Lycia and pleading with Jupiter to avenge her. The god obliges by turning the inhabitants of Lycia into frogs and lizards.”
Fountains either depicted hunting scenes or greek mythology throughout the gardens. Behind me was a hunting fountain depicting a dog capturing a deer.
The sculptures and main fountains were Apollonian theme. Louis XIV fashioned himself after Apollo, the Sun god. Hence, Louis XIV was the Sun King.
If you walk down to the end of the Royal Way you will come upon Apollo’s Fountain. It features Apollo bursting forth from the water on his chariot.
Are you still with me? I know this is a long blog, but I wanted to share with you my wonderful day at the Chateau de Versailles. There is so much to explore and if you ever get the chance to visit Versailles, you will come away with wonderful memories.
Thank you for stopping by today my friends!
Let me know if you’re planning a trip to Paris or have visited Versailles in the past.
I would love to know what memories you took away from your visit.
I hope you’re living your best life now and that age is just a number to you too! I would love to hear from you!