Start with dad’s simple hunting lodge and let your imagination run wild, and, when the renovations are funded from the state’s coffers, you have Versailles. That’s just what Louis x1v, the grandstanding king,  did in 1668 when he created the largest palace in Europe. The building could house the entire court of 6000 plus servants. Architects Le Vau and Mansart designed the buildings, Le Brun did the beautiful interiors and Le Nôtre created the formal gardens. The palace of Versailles is set on 900 hectares of parks, woods and gardens with fountains,  ponds and statues. It was to remain the nations capital until 1789 when revolutionaries dragged Louis xv1 and Marie-Antoinette back to Paris and the guillotine.

When you visit the palace the tour is of the State Apartments, including the Kings Chamber. This was the kings bedroom and there was, to us, a strange tradition of the court attending HM’s rising and retiring. (teeth cleaning, bath?) Likewise with the Queen’s Apartment. She seemed to have little privacy. All three queens used this room. Marie-Antoinette’s children were all born in the bedchamber and the court attended the births. All the rooms are sumptuously and ostentatiously decorated. Ceiling have magnificent paintings. The 73 metre long Hall of Mirrors is the pièce de résistance. 17 ceiling to floor mirrors face 17 windows opening onto the gardens. It is lit with huge chandeliers.

Now for a Grumpy Old Woman moment.  The man with the video camera held near to his eye: This is for you! Why walk from room to room with the camera held at eye level? There were gorgeous celings to admire, interesting facts to read, paintings and furniture to admire. He moved fairly quickly but never did the camera leave his eye. I know this because he tripped over me twice before I objected. He did move the camera from his eye then but only to mumble before continuing on his videoing way around the palace and no doubt tripping over other people. What is the point? Buy ‘Versailles, the CD’. I’m sure there is one.

It is easy to get to Versailles by metro and train  from Paris. You just have to be able to read the metro/RER map. That’s a map even I can read. Spend a whole day there. The grounds are lovely and there is boating on the lake, bikes to hire and shady places to sit and have a picnic.


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