It is a very easy day trip from Paris to Versailles. We took the train - I will spare you the rant on the convenience of mass transit in Europe. We hopped off the train and walked for about
10 minutes to the Palace of Versailles. It is impressive! There was also a prodigiously impressive line in the courtyard (off season, raining, weekday and yet quite a line.) I had purchased tickets for a classic tour with skip the line privileges so we went up to the front. The woman in charge looked at our tickets and said we had to wait in the line. We didn't argue with her but were quite confused. Instead we looked carefully at our tickets where it stated - quite clearly in both English and French - Do NOT go to the palace. Go to the tour office across from the train station. Oops! Backtracking. . . and a good thing too. Our teenager was very unhappy at this point - he doesn't like tours and the line had made a very negative impression on him. As we passed some shops he announced that he was starving. ( I swear we had fed him just 2 hours before!) We then made a compromise - a very large compromise for me - and stopped at McDonald's. I know, I know, so very wrong, but 10 minutes and a double cheeseburger later we had a happy teen and were waiting with our tour group and guide. As promised we waited only a few minutes and bypassed the line.
It's hard to know what to say about the palace of Versailles. It's gorgeous and huge, definitely opulent and over the top. I wanted my son to see it because I feel it explains the very different life that the court lived - they lived in their own bubble and many had no clue how the rest of the world lived. I think it gives you a better understanding of the French Revolution. There is great beauty but there was also decadence.
We enjoyed the tour but all agreed that the best part was exploring the grounds afterward. The gardens are extensive and it was spring! The fountains were not on which was unfortunate but there was still plenty to explore and enjoy.
Directly behind the palace is a beautiful geometric French garden. There are lots of hedges and bushes trimmed in fun shapes. My husband said they looked like poodles. It was very interesting though - they are the exact same type of bush that we have in our front yard. I've always thought they were boring but perhaps they have undiscovered potential.
Behind the French garden are 16 groves arranged in a 4 by 4 grid. They are separated by paths, trees and very high hedges and some of the paths are diagonal and others are not. It's a great place to explore - a little confusing- but that made it more fun. I felt there were courtiers or musketeers just around the corners. I couldn't resist the dandelion! There is also the Grand Canal and you can rent boats - that was very tempting but it was getting late.
This was originally the Water Theatre but in 2009 the French held an international competition for a new design. The landscaper Louis Benech and artist Jean-Michel Othoniel won the competition and this is their design. It's lots of fun and it's
wonderful to combine new and old. Quite tired, but happy, we caught the train back to Paris.