Wednesday, 29 August 2007


I have a friend visiting me at the moment and so this last weekend we went out to Versailles. It is a chateau on the outskirts of Paris which was built by King Louis 13th as a hunting lodge before being substantially enlarged by Louis 14th. Marie Antoinette and Louis 16th lived here before the French revolution. We unfortunately got there a little late in the day, about lunch time, and so the line to get in was huge! It took us about an hour and 15 minutes of waiting in the sun out in the courtyard until we made it through the doors. Once we were inside it then took us about 30 seconds to buy the ticket and be given our audio guide. The problem was that even for the massive line outside there were only 3 people selling tickets, though there were another 3 unopened booths.

For some reason I had this impression that Versailles was really expensive, but for 13.50 euro we got entry to 5 different sections and an audio guide for each section as well. I was pretty impressed with that, as these audio guides are usually 5 euro each. Versailles was pretty impressive inside and they had certainly gone to a lot of trouble with the furnishings, particularly in the main apartments, the King and Queen's state apartments and the Chapel. I had heard that after the revolution the peasants had completely stripped Versailles of anything of value, even taking the gilding on the walls. You could see that in some of the rooms what you thought was marble skirting board was in fact just wood painted to look like marble. Apparently there is also a real drive to trace all the furniture that used to be in Versailles and bring it back.

The gardens are also meant to be fantastic, I visited them the first time I was in Paris, about 10 years ago now, and we didn't have time to see them this trip, plus we were too completely Versaillesed-out. I may go back just to look at the gardens though and Maire Antoinette's private palace. But now for some photos!

The French royal family were pretty ugly, either that or they really should have fired their court painter.

This is in fact the future king of France, and yes he is wearing a dress. It is also embellished with fur. He looks better than the ladies do! All the statues and paintings of the men always had them in really feminine poses and I guess, looking at this, that it was just natural for them to pose that way.

The 73m long hall of mirrors, the 17m high arches, each filled with 21 mirrors, are opposite the 17m high windows looking out over the gardens. This gives a total of 357 mirrors in this hall. In the 17th century when this gallery was built mirrors were one of the most expensive thing you could own. So in building it Louis 14th wanted to display France's wealth and power. It was still pretty impressive, even now when mirrors are a dime a dozen.

The massive line to get into Versailles, we all had to wait around in this courtyard with heaps of bees buzzing around the place and the sun beating down.

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