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