F Versailles- la première partie et deuxième partie - jeepneyjinggoy

Versailles- la première partie et deuxième partie

 View of the Palace of Versailles from the garden

2004 was the first visit to Chateau de Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1979. It was the few days into spring but the crisp, cold air of winter was still blowing. I went by myself, took the 20-kilometer ride on a train to the southwest of Paris, entered the famous place along with a few other tourists. It was not as crowded then as it is today.

A 20-kilometer ride on a train to the southwest of Paris

For hours I walked what seemed to be a hundred kilometers on wooden floors, marble and gravel (in leather lace-up driving shoes, a big and costly mistake but who was I to know?) of the once hunting lodge turned royal chateau in a country village known as Versailles. The place eventually became the center of political power in France when Louis XIV built a grander building, moved in from Paris and made the place his official residence until the French Revolution, when the royal family was forced to return to the capital.

The palace courtyard.

The Domain of Versailles is huge! Spending a few hours or half a day (which tours usually offer) is a mistake. How about an entire day?

An art installation at the main entrance hall of the palace where all tours kick off

Take your sweet time admiring the bits and pieces of the palace and its ornately-appointed apartments in velvet and gold— the Coronation Room, royal chambers of the king and queen, the Hall of Mirrors and salons dedicated to the then known planets and their associated titular Roman deity, Diana, Venus, Mars, Apollo, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter;…

 This chapel was the last major building project of Louis XIV, one of the finest examples of French Baroque architecture & ecclesiastical decoration.

Galerie des Glaces aka the Hall of Mirrors, built in 1690, is perhaps the most celebrated room in the château of Versailles.

“The crowning of Empress Josephine by Napoleon in Notre Dame of Paris” painting in the palace’s Coronation Room, and below left, The battle of Aboukir, and on right,  the Army swearing allegiance to Napoleon after the distribution of imperial eagles standards at the Champ de Mars in Paris.

The grand appartement du roi. The salon d'Apollon originally was designed as the king's bedchamber, but served as a throne room.

 At the grand appartement de la reine.

A tapestry at the Queen's Nobles Room (above) & a portrait of Marie Antoinette & her three children (below) where she holds her official audiences.

…the impressive Classic French-designed Jardins du château de Versailles with its grand canal and numerous fountains adorned with sculptures, beds of flowers, arboretum and forest, all of which is spread over about some 800 hectares of land;….

A view of the vast Jardins du château de Versailles

…. and the other buildings within the property—the Grand Trianon, the retreat for the King and his chief mistress, and as a place where the King and invited guests could take light meals away from the strict etiquette of the Court; and the smaller chateau within the park, which Marie Antoniette refers to as her “scared place”, the Petit Trianon, ergo no one but herself can enter it.

I did see all those and had the pictures to prove. Well, not until my nephew accidentally deleted the files while transferring it to a storage bank with no hopes of retrieving them. “You can go back and take pictures again, Tito. You still have a few days left here in Paris,” he apologetically said. Next time perhaps. The memories (with the help of the internet) will always be with me.

The gates of Versailles with the sun as Louis XIV's chosen symbol meaning Sun King

“Next time” finally happened a decade after. In the company of a good friend whom I grew up with and his family, I returned to the Chateau de Versailles. It’s busier (much more) than the previous visit. Tourists by the hundreds were milling about the grounds all day. This is, after all, one of the most popular day tour attractions when in Paris (although it would be good to spend a couple of nights exploring this part of the France).

"Next time" finally happened. Revisiting Versailles.

This time, there was a tour guide in to show us the points of interest and a more detailed history of the palace and its residents. It was more interactive than the headset device tours, and better. However, the tour was limited within the walls of the palace and the free time allotted was a few minutes at the garden—to view only as exploration of it will take hours to cover. This gives my friends a reason to come back.

Returning to the Palace of Versailles with friends I call family this time

More than a museum and one of France’s foremost tourist attractions, the palace still serves political functions. Among them is if you are a head of state, you will be regaled in the Hall of Mirrors.

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Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on September 11, 2014.