Our morning began with a trip on the RER, a train similar to commuter trains in the US. We were surprised to see that they were double-decker trains; no one had told us that. Maybe you knew, but we didn't and we got a little giddy.
This particular RER (the C line) ends at le Chateau de Versailles. Chateau has always conjured up images of small charming homes in the mountains, surrounded by snow capped peaks and sheep with big bells around their necks. No more.
The entrance gates give you a sense of what THIS chateau is all about. I think everyone knows that Versailles is a perfect example of opulence run amok, but you can't really get a sense of it until you're standing in front of the huge golden gates. If I had been starving and watching the king prance about behind all this, I would have rushed the gates, too.
We opted not to get the audio tour and simply marvel at the artistry that went into creating Versailles. Here are a few pictures to give you a flavor of the palace. I can't identify every room, but does that matter? I hope not because it was the craftsmanship and care that we were most interested in, not the crazy things Louis wanted to do in the rooms.
Hopefully you can see all the details that this long shots simply can't convey.
If memory serves, the artist responsible for this ceiling went mad and killed himself.
Despite being filled with a crowd of hundreds, the Hall of Mirrors still humbles and awes.
The Hall of Battles lined with paintings of conquest and invasion was gorgeous, clearly designed to show the "glory" of battle than any of the pain of the foot soldier.
It was good to be able to clear our heads in the gardens. Now these are huge too, but I must more be indulgent of large gardens than huge gilded homes because I thought they were lovely.
The fountains don't run every day, but we were lucky enough to see the fountains in their glory. The piped in classic music sounds cheesy, but it really was a nice touch.
Tired feet and hungry bellies kept us from exploring the entire outdoor space; we simply had to stop and picnic. Still, we enjoyed the tall hedges and sculpture, and all three of us were particularly taken with the contemporary additions to the gardens, most notably the tree sculptures. Here's just one sample.
On the way back to Paris we decided to get off a few stops early and check out the Eiffel Tower. It's hard now to imagine the controversy over it, since even the supporting iron struts are lovely.
We ended our day with dinner at a local brasserie, then came back to the hotel and put our feet up.
-- P.S. Lest you get the wrong idea, we all thought the 1+ hour wait for Versailles was worth it. Please don't take my remarks as anything other than a reaction to the opulence. It helps put the French Revolution into context, that's for sure.