The moment you step foot onto the cobblestones leading up to the gates of the Palace of Versailles it is like you’re travelling back into an era where royals once roamed. A time where King Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, Louis- Philippe, and many others would spend their days in the gardens and grand rooms. You get captivated walking through all the rooms and gardens and you truly immerse yourself during that time period with all the details and artwork. I did not plan on spending the entire day walking through the Palace but I was so in awe with all the architecture and history that I ended up stayed until closing.
James Thurber describes Versailles in his essay, The “First Time I Saw Paris”, to be well known for their famous fountains. When I visited Versailles, it was the middle of winter and the fountains were frozen and turned off. However, it did not take away the beauty and I was still able to enjoy it. There were fountains everywhere you turned from the back of the main palace, the Grand Trianon, and the Petit Trianon. Each fountain was designed differently. They were elaborate with details and had this sense of elegance to them. There were fountains of dragons, fish, bears, warriors, saints, and the list goes on. Each fountain was just as amazing as the last one. I could only imagine the fountains being twice as beautiful during the spring when they are actually turned on for visitors to enjoy. There is a reason Thurber described them as famous and seeing the grand scale details on them, I begin to understand why they are famous. Pictures don’t do these fountains justice. It’s a “you have to be there to believe it” moment.
Another aspect of Versailles that is worth seeing in person is the Hall of Mirrors. Thurber goes into a rant about how difficult it was to getting to the Hall of Mirrors. He mentions how devices were used to get inside and how not a lot people were able to get access to the room and only few had passes. It was unbelievably different when I went to the Hall of Mirrors. The whole room was open to the public and people were welcome to come in and take photos. There wasn’t even a museum staff overlooking the hall like the other rooms did. The Hall of Mirrors is amazing. It really is just a room surrounded by mirrors and several elegant chandeliers handing from the high ceiling. The lit up room gleamed through the chandeliers and reflecting off the mirrors that genuinely makes the room sparkle. It truly was a sight and another one that is difficult to capture all its beauty into one single photograph.
The Hall of Mirrors wasn’t the only rant Thurber had. Thurber goes in depth about the Americans thirst for souvenirs at the time. He mentions how he witnessed Americans prying things loose from relics and artwork. His depiction on souvenir hunting back then is not too far off today. Although, security would be on you in a heartbeat the moment you are close to touching anything I can still point out the craziness people have finding the right souvenir during my visit. I walked by the gift shop when I was making my way to the gardens and I noticed crowds of people exploring through the boutique rummaging to find something to bring back home. I saw people with baskets full of items and two long checkout lines. Although it is not as extreme as Thurber’s time, it is still a crazy scene to bring back something to remember such a beautiful time of history.
Personally, I don’t need a crazy souvenir to remember my time spent getting lost in the miles long gardens or the great pink halls of the Grand Trianon. Just being there and being enticed by all the architecture really kidnapped all my time and it is something I’ll remember. If you really let yourself get lost you might end up seeing the Temple of Love in the middle of the gardens that was seen from Marie Anionette’s apartment window.