Versailles-Day Trip From Paris

Our morning started out fairly early to get out to Versailles, which is just about a 30 minute train ride outside of Paris.  I never really knew what Versailles was before moving here, so for those of you like me, it’s a massive palace and grounds that was home to Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette up until the French Revolution forced them out.  When you arrive at the train station you just start following the hoards of people speed walking.  You round the corner and then you’re greeted with your first glimpse of the palace and it’s sprawling line.  It looked like the crowds you would see in front of Disneyland.

A statue of Louis XIV greets you upon arrival.
First views of the palace.

So we thought that because we had so smartly purchased and printed out our tickets that we would get to walk right in.  Haha, nope.  This giant line is for security.  Apparently when Rick Steves says be there at 9:00 when it opens, he means 9:00 sharp, not get off the train at 9:15 and leisurely stroll over to the palace.  Oops, lesson learned.

Huge snaking line you have to stand in, the little gray structure in the back left is the gate to get in.
Patiently waiting.

Finally up to the beautiful golden palace gate.

We decided to go ahead and do the palace tour first to get it out of the way.  It was a little bit of a nightmare because of how crowded it was.  In some rooms you could barely move, not my fave.  The palace itself was beautiful, extremely ornate, and huge!  It blows my mind that people actually lived here.

King’s bed in the King’s room.
Bad shot through the crowds of the queen’s bed in a separate bedroom.
The size and grandeur of the rooms was impressive.
Hall of Mirrors.
Catching a glimpse of the gardens.

We made it out of the madhouse and into the gardens.  The gardens are enormous.  There is so much to see, that it’s hard to see it all.  In the small lake behind us you can rent rowboats.  You can also rent bikes to ride between the main gardens and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, the Grand Trianon (mini palace), and Petit Trianon.

There are fountains all over the gardens.  They only run at certain times of day, but when they do there’s also classical music playing to really give you a royal feeling.

One of many fountains on the property.
Swans in the fountain.

So we rented bikes, and rode over to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet.  Bikes was a great idea because it cut out a ton of walking, and gave us much more time to see the different areas.  So, “what’s a hamlet?” you might ask.  Apparently to keep herself entertained, Marie Antoinette had a farm and a few English cottages built on part of the property.  She would dress up as a peasant and go to the hamlet to get away from her life in the French court.  It had a fully functioning farm and vegetable gardens.  Pretty interesting that she wanted this built and that she would come to it to basically pretend she was someone else.

Goats in the shade.
Bravely feeding a donkey.
I’m considering petting the donkey, but scared he will bite me at the same time.
Cows on the farm.
The main cottage.
Pretty roses growing near the cottage.
Fish fighting for food, and the duck who just sits right on top of them.

We also rode over to the Grand Trianon, which as I said before was like a mini-palace with it’s own gardens.  It is so hard to put into words just how big the whole area is.  After exploring those areas, we rode back to the main gardens to check out the fountains and music in action.

At 5:00 the gates close, and everyone has to leave.  We were STARVING by this time.  My hubby had looked up a restaurant nearby that had great reviews, so we started walking over there.  By this time we were tired and hungry, not a good combo.  When we made it to the place, it was closed and I thought my mom might cry.  So we wandered until we found a nice little square with lots of restaurants, and we happily stuffed our faces with pasta and gelato.  This was just a little break for us, because we were headed back to the gardens for the night show.  In the summer on the weekends, the gardens are lit up, and each fountain has something special happening in it, and the  night ends with fireworks over the lake.  The experience was amazing, we loved it!  I would say it’s a must if you have the opportunity.

Even more beautiful at sunset.

Sun setting over the gardens.
There was a “fire show” choreographed to music on the main lawn.

Pictures can’t tell the full story, but you can see some of what was happening at the different fountains in the gardens.

Green lasers projected onto the mist from the fountains.
Color and music coordinated fountains, like at the Bellagio in Vegas.
This one was like a circle of waterfalls that were all lit up.
And some fireworks to end the night!

This was a jam-packed and exhausting day, but definitely one of my favorite things we’ve done in Europe so far.  If you go to Paris, you have to make the trip out to see Versailles.  It’s really beautiful and has plenty to see to keep you entertained all day long.