A Day at the Palace of Versailles

One of the entrances to The Palace of Versailles.
One of the entrances to The Palace of Versailles.

We stood in a winding line for two hours outside the gates. The line coiled around itself like a snake and every few minutes it would move ever-so-slightly. We questioned our sanity more than once, staring at nothing but our fellow line-standers for hours, and occasionally we wondered about the threatening black clouds that hovered closer and closer.

It became a race. Who would get to the Palace of Versailles first?  Our part of the line or the thunderstorm?

The golden gate at the front of the Palace of Versailles.
The golden gate at the front of the Palace of Versailles.
In the end, it was a tie.  Raindrops trickled as soon as we were within sight of the golden gates — we were so close! — and then, suddenly, a downpour like a shower. We reached for our umbrellas, wishing we’d worn Wellingtons, and then our time in line was over.
Unfortunately, our time being surrounded by crowds was not.

A Day at the Palace of Versailles

One of the entrances to The Palace of Versailles.
One of the entrances to The Palace of Versailles.

Inside the Palace

We were herded through the Palace of Versailles, one of the largest royal palaces in the world, like a crowd pushing to leave a football stadium. I wondered what King Louis XIV would think of his ornately decorated rooms now, once shunned from the public and now on display to thousands of strangers at this very second.

A statue and decorative lamp at the Palace of Versailles.
Every single space was ornately decorated beyond belief.

The palace is so large it encompasses several apartments (living quarters for the king and queen, among others), a chapel, an opera house (yes really!), a ballroom and 400 years of French history.

The Palace of Versailles.
The Palace is so large it’s impossible to get in one shot, even a panorama.

In the Gardens

There were so many people in the palace that its 67,000 square meters somehow managed to be reduced to the point of claustrophobia. But once we made it to the gardens, the endless gardens that finally gave me a visual definition for “as far as the eye can see,” I was able to breathe and take in the Palace.

Square trees and a fountain at the Palace of Versailles.
All the trees in the garden were trimmed into squares.
It was still too early in the year for the fountains to be fully on display (it was the first week of May) and we were in that transitional time between the early spring blossoms and the true spring flowers, so gardens were a painting of monochromatic green.
A large pot in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.
The storm clouds gave a nice backdrop to the gardens.

Thanks to the thunderstorm, who remained firmly pouting in the sky (although thankfully not raining), the green gardens were contrasted with dark clouds, giving the entire palace a dramatic aura.

Looking out into the garden of the Palace of Versailles.
The gardens of the Palace of Versailles cover 800 hectares of land.

I was just glad there was enough to space to spread out from all the other tourists.

The French gardens at the Palace of Versailles.
The French garden was my favorite.

At first all the space in the gardens was impressive, then it was romantic in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way, and then it became almost eerie as if we had been transported somewhere so far from Paris that we were in a wilderness in the middle of nowhere. Which was probably the point.

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.
The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.

At the time, our day at the Palace of Versailles was a bit of headache with a dash of amazement, filled with too many tourists and more hype than I expected.

But now that France is sadly so far behind me, I’m thankful we went there. If only for the photos, some of which are my favorite from my whole time in Paris.

Details & Tips

We bought our tickets for the Palace of Versailles tour online the day before and still waited in line for several hours to get in. Not to mention it was a headache getting to Versailles from Paris on the train. A better option would have been a relaxing guided tour with transportation and skip-the-line access.

Related :: 6 days of beauty in Paris and reflecting on Spain & France.

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