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Summer in Versailles

On Saturday all of Paris had the same idea.

Everyone was going to check into Trianon Palace and spend the weekend strolling the grounds of Versailles.

I know this because when we checked in on Sunday to do the very same thing, we bumped into every Parisian we’d ever known on their way out.

Versailles may only be a short Uber ride away from the French capital… but it feels like a whole other world.

Let me show you around…

The hotel is plonked literally right at the gates of the old palace.

We arrived, checked into our rooms, had a little snoop around, and raced out to explore.

The palace itself is breathtakingly huge.

I love that while perfectly manicured, the gardens are bursting with wild flowers and a mishmash of colours.

The use of water everywhere you turn in the gardens makes the whole place seem even more dreamlike and other worldly. The pools reflect the vast expanse of sky above & make you feel as though you could be floating in the clouds.

The walkways are littered with sculptures, old & new.

Music rings out from the hedges and as you stroll you’re serenaded by the great classical composers. It’s not a sort of “elevator music” tinkling in the background, but a great booming noise that you feel right down into your toes.

It’s hard not to get sucked in and imagine yourself at a ball sipping champagne and dancing on the lawns with Marie Antoinette & Louis himself. PJ & I may have waltzed a little… After settling down with a spot of lunch, we walked the tree lined road to Marie’s house.

Through the gates…

And up to the mini palace that she called home maison.

The sandstone house (Petit Tiranon) and her gardens (which we’ll get to later) were built as a haven for Marie-Antoinette to escape the intense life at court. The outside may look simple, but it’s what’s inside that counts. And as you can imagine, the inside of Marie’s house is pretty spectacular.

The french windows lead to what is known as a “French Garden” (not just because it’s in France, smarty pants. Because of the way it’s laid out). Louis XV created the symmetrical, neat gardens with the help of architect Gabriel.

The trees create delicious pockets of shade and an escape from the searing heat out in the open.

We kept to the dappled light and made our way through the grounds to The Queen’s Hamlet.

In 1783 Marie-Antoinette ordered the construction of her hamlet. A make believe Norman village for her to escape to, when life at the palace got to be too much.

There were 11 houses. Some were reserved for use of peasants and other for the queen and her guests. The hamlet boasted billiard rooms, boudoirs and even a refreshments dairy where you could grab a snack. It was her own private world and invitations were rarely shared. Thankfully, we’re all invited now! Join me for a snoop?

Each house has its own vegetable patch, bulging with cabbages, herbs, artichokes and cauliflowers.

They surround a pretty pond, fed by a little river.

Toss a few crumbs in & you’ll be answered with the sound of smacking lips and splashing tails.

As you walk back towards the palace you’ll find The English Garden.

Quite the opposite of Louis’ strict geometric botanical gardens, English “natural” gardens became fashionable for those wanting a taste of the wild.

Walk the gravel path and you’ll arrive at the temple of love.

Built entirely of marble by Richard Mique in 1778, the queen could see it from her bedroom and it proudly housed the French masterpiece by Bouchardon, Cupid cutting his bow from the Club of Hercules.

The original Cupid now lives in Le Louvre, but this cheeky chap still isn’t afraid to moon you.

Having imposed on the queen’s gardens for long enough, we headed to the petit Angelina for pastries.

And snoozed them off by the great lake.

Before the clouds rolled in and we headed back to the hotel for a swim.

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Versailles is well worth a visit next time you’re in Paris. The sheer scale of the place is like nothing I’ve experienced before. It offers a window into a world which is long gone and will never return. Every Saturday from 20 July to 14 September 2013 the palace puts on a spectacular fireworks show. Why not book for then ? Grab a room at Trianon if you can, it’s so brilliantly close you don’t have to think about getting home or back into town.

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