The Palace of Versailles and the surrounding gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and sit on the outskirts of Paris about 20+ kms from the centre. Getting there involves a relatively simple three step shuffle on the metro then the RER train system. Another day where we are again impressed at the comprehensive public transport system in Paris, and the ease at which you can get to places – and it only costs you less than 3 Euros. Dream on Len and the Auckland Rail Loop! Now, if only Auckland had a population of 12 million….. but I digress.
Versailles was the centre of political power in France in the mid 1600s when Louis XIV decided to somewhat enhance the buildings of the Palace that his father Louis XIII had started. The extent of this power, wealth and influence is clear to see in the majestic and sprawling mini-city that is the Palace of Versailles. Given that most of this opulent craftsmanship took just over one hundred years to assemble and create is also amazing – the impact of the revolution meant that late in the 1700s the royal family were forced back to Paris before being arrested and “disposed of” – and the Palace fell into some disrepair and scavenging of resources before being declared a national museum in 1797 – long before New Zealand was even being settled by the Europeans!
The Palace fits well with the rest of Paris – it is grand, spacious and majestic. Actually, mind-bogglingly opulent. Studying the paintings of the day shows just how different the lifestyle of the royal court must have been from the masses. But I guess that is the story of the revolution!
The surrounding gardens are just as impressive.
Of equal, if not greater, interest to our family was Marie-Antoinette’s Estate and Hamlet. This is a “peasant village” that Marie-Antoinette had commissioned so that she could ‘experience the simpler lifestyle of a commoner’, albeit with her own entourage and with servants to do the work! This hamlet looks like a Peter Jackson set, and certainly looked more attractive than living in the pomp and ceremony of the main palace.
Walking back to the main palace from the hamlet was quite a hike – especially as we could not (or rather, chose not to) go the direct route through the main gardens as this would have involved a further 60 Euro fee – so we took the less direct route through the edge of the gardens, down LOOONG tree lined avenues (yes, that avenue stretches as far as the eye can see!). ERgirl6’s legs decided to give out and her older brother gave her a piggy back some of the way.
As we walked back Mamabear voiced her thoughts – that just as the palace with its opulence and riches seems so out-of-this-world and unattainable, so our own home back in New Zealand would similarly appear unattainable to many in the world, who live in poverty and squalor. A sobering thought….
Tags: 2012, postcard: France