Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Versailles

Nick and I were lucky enough to have great weather the day we visited Versailles. I think that if the weather is wet and dreary, there's not really any point in going because being able to enjoy the gardens is really the highlight of the visit. We didn't really have any plans other than getting on the train in Paris and heading over there, but I think by happy coincidence we ended up stumbling into the best itinerary.

Get there at around 10:30 in the morning and get the 18€ "Passport" from one of the ticket machines. At this time, all the tours will be packing into the main palace and the golf cart rental stalls will be open but not busy. Rent a golf cart ("electric car") from the stall in the Water Parterre area and follow the prescribed route to Petit Trianon, admiring the Apollo Fountain and the vast tree groves along the way. Don't worry about the amount of rental time you are incurring because, after all, you are on vacation and the fun you'll have is totally worth it (especially compared to riding the lame tram).

Pull over beside the field of grazing sheep in the hamlet for a photo op. Then make sure you get over to Petit Trianon right before it opens at 12. Hardly any visitors will be there at this point so you can enjoy exploring Marie Antoinette's little retreat in relative peace (and use the loo without waiting in a huge queue).

Get back in the golf cart and follow the route to the Grand Trianon. Since we were there during the off season, there wasn't really much to see botanically so this was just a quick stop for us.

Follow the route back and return the golf cart, then find a place to get some take-away food. There are a few places between the main entrance and the Grand Canal that have sandwiches, pastries, or ice cream for sale. (You can also get some picnic-y foods before you enter; we'd picked up a handful of petit macarons in the morning before the train ride.) Have lunch on the steps overlooking the grounds. (Unfortunately the majority of the statues in the garden were covered in bags when we were there; this was the only downer of the visit.)

After lunch, pack up your dessert and head over to the Grand Canal. By this time, the rowboat rental stall will be open. Rent a rowboat and make your way to the middle of the canal where you can eat your dessert among the swans and watch little doggies playing in the grass alongside. Just remember that the farther you drift out, the farther you have to row to get back.

By the time you've returned your boat, the bulk of the tour groups will have dissipated and the main palace will be much much less crowded. Finish up your visit there and you'll be nice and close to the main gates, where you can exit and be on your way.

Here is a helpful website detailing the rentals available at Versailles.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

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