Monday, March 9, 2020

A winter break in Versailles

I love visiting France so when Versailles was suggested for a short winter break, it seemed a good idea. Of course, the chateau and gardens are on everyone’s ‘to do’ list when visiting Paris but I was interested to find out what the rest of the town is like.  

We travelled on a Monday morning by Eurostar from St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, then took the metro to Gare Austerlitz where we caught a RER train to Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche.

The hotel I’d booked - L’hotel Angleterre - was at the budget end of places to stay and although the room was small it was clean, the staff were very welcoming and it was a great location being only a short five minute walk to the gates of the palace.

After settling in, we went for a walk around the palace gardens (The chateau is closed on a Monday) and had something to eat in La Flottille, by the Grand Canal.

I’d bought two-day passports (25euros per person in winter) to the Chateau online prior to travelling and we arrived early on the Tuesday and Wednesday where a small but not off-putting queue had already formed.

As well as going inside the chateau and seeing the exhibition being held there, we also did lots and lots of walking in the grounds and looking at trees. Wondering how everything had been constructed at that time in history. Pondering about the logistics, and cost, of all the construction.

Opposite the entrance of the palace grounds there is a museum housing the historic coaches (free entry) and further into the town, the king’s veggie patch, the ‘Potager du roi’ (6 euros per person). Of course, it wasn’t the best time to visit the vegetable garden as it was almost completely bare of produce with just a few hardy greens growing. Still, it was interesting to see the skeletons of the fruit trees lined up neatly in rows ready for their work later in the year.

The town is split into two halves by the palace and there are two self-guided walking trails you can follow to discover more about the history of the rest of the area. We picked up a map from the Tourist Office and searched out the history boards which have English as one of the featured languages. It was nice to explore the quiet parts of the town.

Returning home on the Friday, we took some time to walk around the Marais area of Paris, following a map in a guidebook I’d taken with me. Then a whistle-stop tour of the famous sights – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame, currently shielded by hoardings as the fire repairs get underway, before heading back to Gare du Nord for the Eurostar home.

It was a really nice trip, quite relaxing and not too expensive. Lots of inspiration from the palace grounds and all things French. Wrought iron, decoration, fabrics and over the top grandeur.

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