Versailles was ENORMOUS. I was there for over 8 hours. The palace itself, domain of King Louis XIV, was opulent, decadent, and extravagant, all heavy gilt, rich fabrics and long galleries. On one hand I was marvelling at the effect and the richness; basically, what he hoped every visitor would do, but on the other hand it was horrific how much money had been spent when the country was so poor. It was a relief to get outside into the gardens; definitely a highlight for me. They too must have required an army of gardeners, as there seemed to be about 5 fountains (water and fountains symbolise richness and abundance in Provence, where there's no natural water reserve to supply the fountains), and hectares and hectares of perfectly manicured avenues of perfectly matching trees, sculptures, massive lakes, and perfect paths. It was awe-inspiring, especially as we don't really have an equivilant in New Zealand.
Marie Antoinette had her own palace at the other end of the park, a 20 minute walk from the main palace. (She had to marry Louis when she was 14, he 15, and it didn't really work out that perfectly...hence separate palaces.) Marie Antoinette had semi-rebelled in a way, in that she had had her palace built with light airy rooms, and gardens in a freer, more English rambling garden style, with twisty windy paths, overgrown wildflowers, mazes, an entire replica English village with mill and farm for her workers, a grotto, a dovecote and rambling brookes. I spent a wonderful couple of hours in the late afternoon exploring its beautiful little corners, realising what a sheltered idyllic lifestyle she must have had, and marvelling at it. Anyway, it was a really special place, and amazing that they've been able to keep it as a public monument.
The hall of mirrors at Versailles... which was being restored at the time, a pity.
Oppressive opulence... the bedchamber each queen had to publicly give birth in (to prove it was actually a legitimate heir)
The beautiful manicured gardens out the back of the palace.
My view while I ate lunch
Fountains! And a lake that looks really close optically, but takes 45 minutes to get to the end...
Marie Antoinette's pretty palace had a beautiful living room
I like beautiful quiet palatial rooms like this...
Terrible one of me, but a pretty part of the garden...
So many beautiful avenues like this... the garden designer was a maestro.
The lake and a fountain, dusk.