Last month, Mark and I rode the TGV train to Paris to celebrate our three year anniversary! We decided to take a tour of the Versailles Palace and Gardens on Saturday since neither of us had been there before. We arrived in Paris late Friday evening and woke up early to catch the RER regional train to Versailles, located just outside of Paris.
A little bit of planning ahead is required for a trip to the Palace. It is recommended to buy tickets ahead of time to save yourself the wait in line at the ticket office. (It can be an hours long wait in the summer/high season!) We had our tickets in hand and breezed through the security line with no wait...lucky for us, it was not peak tourist season yet.
The palace was originally the royal family's hunting lodge. Louis XIV expanded it into the palace and gardens that are on the premises today. I recommend purchasing "Le Passeport," the all-inclusive ticket if you are interested in seeing everything on the grounds (also inncludes the audio-guide).
The tour begins at the Royal Chapel and then leads you through the "salons" or staterooms. These rooms belonging to the King and Queen are lavishily decorated in gold and have beautiful frescoes on the ceiling, each relating to the theme of the room.
After passing through the state rooms and the king's bedchamber, you reach The Hall of Mirrors, one of the "must-see" spots in the palace. This impressive hallway was used as a passageway on a daily basis for the public who visited the king. The stunning ceiling, painted from one end to the other, also holds massive chandliers that hang down sporadically as you walk down the hall. The other side of this floor houses the Queen's staterooms and bedchamber.
Once you complete your tour of the palace, head outside to the gardens. Acres and acres of gardens are at your feet to explore! We were there at the end of winter so nothing was in bloom yet. We look forward to going back in the summer when the flowers appear and the fountains are on. There are also two other smaller properties to see towards the back of the gardens. The Grand and Petite Trianons, places of escape for the king and queen when they did wanted some privacy away from the mail house and the royal court. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants in the garden, which is a good break between walking around the palace and the gardens!
After the palace tour we took the train back into the city, where I dragged Mark back to the Eiffel Tower! There's something magical about the monument. No matter how many times we go to Paris (this was our 3rd trip), I'm always drawn to it! Then we went on a very loooonnnng walk back to our hotel! It's always fun to walk through new neighborhoods and see the heart of the city.
On Sunday, we did more walking!..through the Latin Quarter and Saint Germaine-des-Pres. Thanks to one of Rick's Steves Left Bank walks from his France guidebook (also on his website), we went on a search for Shakespeare and Co., a famous English bookstore near the Notre Dame. where Ernest Hemingway and others used to hang out! I recommend checking it out if you are in the mood for roaming after hitting some of Paris's more touristy spots. We checked out a few famous churches: St. Michele, St. Severin and Sainte Chapelle and then grabbed some lunch in the Latin Quarter.
The end of our stroll took us park outside of the Louvre, enjoying the warmth of the sun and a little bit of people watching before heading back to collect our things from the hotel.
Our 3-year anniversary trip was trés inoubliable! Here's to many more unforgettable memories to come....