Saturday morning and the sun was out and our spirits were high. Our sore feet were going to be spared the long march to the Seine as instead we were going to the Palace of Versailles about 15 miles out of Paris.
The Metro across the river gave us a great view of the Eiffel Tower before we switched to the RER C train to take us out to the country. The journey takes about an hour and we get to see both the pretty Paris and the tower blocks that surround it.
Versailles Palace is just minutes away from the station and even from the main road, it’s huge size becomes apparent. Home to King Louis XIV, even it’s external magnificence with gilded roofs and fine statues makes it easy to see why the starving peasants decided to have their revolution.
As security was more interested in my bag than anything else, I got into the palace without buying a ticket or showing my valid Paris Pass. There were people from 10 countries in the queue around and about as we made our way inside.
I’ve been to some amazing houses in my time but Versailles is really near the top because of its lavish extravagance. Everywhere is gold, marble and fine furniture and statues. There are paintings there that would be in national galleries in most other countries with long wide corridors bedecked with art stretching hundreds of feet.
It isn’t often that I can’t give an adequate description of a palace but this is one of those times. You can see the bedroom of Marion Antoinette where she fled from those peasants that she advised should ease their hunger by eating cake. Room after room of dining halls, smoking rooms and sitting rooms but the thing that makes Versailles special to me is The Hall of Mirrors.
The Hall of Mirrors is most famous for being the room where the treaty of Versailles was signed that ended WW1. I went there 12 years ago and always wanted to return. It is an extremely long hallway covered with mirrors on one side and huge windows on the other. In between are intricately designed gold lamps, marble posts and large chandeliers hanging from a lavishly painted ceiling. It is one of my favourite rooms in the world and I hope to return there one day.
It took us several hours to see what we presume is everything and that was without an audio guide that can turn the house alone into an all day event. That’s just the start, there are a number of other smaller palaces in the vast gardens beyond.
We had our home made packed lunch outside and took pity on a pigeon with only one leg, giving him a whole biscuit while shooing away able bodied birds. That was our good deed for the day! There were black clouds on the horizon but as last time I didn’t get to see the garden at all, we went to explore. It was pouring down even before we got off the huge patio. Everyone else was running in and we were just starting out. We’re British, if we went inside every time it rained we wouldn’t get anything done. So down the hill to the huge ornamental lake we went and the rain turned into a free flowing storm, broad streams of water over took us down the path aswe walked and the hail meant it was impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. We got to the lake, soaked of course and with a strong wind blowing everything into our face we took refuge behind a garden statue.
A minute later and the freak storm subsided and minutes later the sun came out and there it stayed until nightfall. We would have got soaked of course even if we tried to get back inside as did everyone else but as we had seen the main Palace, we made our way back to the train station. Water was squeezing out of our shoes every time we took a step. That was some downpour! Strangely, we bought the same ticket that we used to get here from the machine but it wouldn’t open the barriers, we were told the ticket was only valid for inside Paris. It didn’t make sense but there was no use complaining as the 2 Americans I front of us spoke for all concerned by proclaiming it to be ‘rip-off’ as we had to buy more expensive tickets and not be offered any refund.
That evening after we got warmed up, we decided to have our sole meal out and a quick walk around Villiers which quickly felt like home resulted us in going to Cafe Des Dames. A 50’s bar decorated with posters of a Dames, convertible cars and period decor in a blend of French, British and American styles. The food and drink was good though I could have done without the really strong mustard but it was a nice way to end the day, watching the world go by and people chatting the night away!