“No wonder they had a revolution!”
When we walked in the Hall of Mirrors, that is what my mother said. That was after we had walked up the cobblestones, through the golden gates, into the “Salle a this” and the “Salle a that.” As if all of that grandeur and all of the other rooms were not reason enough to exclaim about the excessiveness of the Sun King, the Hall of Mirrors was the last straw. And that is really only about mid-way through the tour.
With Jennifer, Amy and Jamie, I told them what my mother had said and they agreed wholeheartedly. We went Easter Sunday and the fountains were scheduled to play. (They use the word, “play” to describe when the fountains are on or running. I guess you can call it the fountains running, but playing is far more appropriate when jets of water spew out above the trees.) We moved as quickly as one can through a packed palace and then started to make our way out into the garden when gushes of water started bursting forth from fountains in the parterres immediately next to the palace. We had maps of where the water would be on, but it was a little confusing because all of the fountains do not play at one time. Fountains are given certain times to play and you have to kind of make a plan of what fountains to see when and be ready to dart hither and yon to get to the ones you really want to see. They are truly a completely extraordinary sight. A wonder in fact.
The schedule for when the fountains play is available on the Versailles site. Devote an entire day to see Versailles. The palace tour is a must and one cannot imagine the vastness of the grounds, the size of the fountains and gardens, nor the distance to the Grand Trianon, the Petite Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet and all of the sites worth visiting in her private gardens. There is a tram that circles the grounds – but you have to get to a point where it collects tourists. A couple of restaurants serve just past the Apollo fountain and will be welcoming – the typical baguette sandwiches are perfect and you can watch rowers in the basin and joggers – the park is for locals too.
Difficulty: The cobblestones are tough going just to get into the palace – my mother held on and used her cane. After walking through the palace, she could not have gone into the gardens. We walked around next to the palace but did not descend. Jennifer, Jamie, Amy and I were exhausted after a day of walking to see it all – and three of us took the tram back from the Petite Trianon.
How to do it:
1) From a tour operator, buy a round trip bus ticket to the palace and the entry ticket for palace and gardens all at the same time. Take the earliest one you can – earlier means fewer people. If you can walk, and want to, take a whole day. Any garden lover cannot go to Versailles without seeing the gardens of Versailles and of the Grand and Petit Trianon.
2) Take the RER to Versailles – try to get on an express so it stops less frequently. Walk to the palace. I bought tickets to the palace and the gardens with the fountains playing from the Versailles tourist center online and we collected our tickets from the tourist center which was on the way from the RER station to the palace.