Day 15 was Versailles! A busy day at Versailles. Luckily, we had special tickets and skipped the queue!
We started the day with a visit of the Palace.
Our guide explained that the palace initially served as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII and was later further developed by Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. The palace was home of Louis XVI’s wife, the beautiful Marie-Antoinette known for her lavish lifestyle.
We visited the King and the Queen’s apartments, the Royal Chapel and the world famous Galeries des Glaces.
The Treaty of Versailles- formally marking the end of the First World War- was actually signed in the Galeries des Glaces. During the French Monarchy, the Galeries was used as a reception hall and a place where nobility could get a chance to see the King.
Throughout the tour, we learned many things about the life of the French royals at the time. For example, did you know that:
- The French monarchy was always under public scrutiny from early morning to bed time. There was little privacy.
- Nobles had to spend half of the year at Versailles to prove allegiance to the King.
- The wealth of the interior design was purposely displayed to show the King’s power.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the Gardens of Versailles and the many fountains. Below are some interesting facts:
- The gardens are huge. Walking from the palace to the end of the gardens could take up 4 hours.
- Looking from the main fountains, the chapel is the tallest structure. This was to remind people at the time that God was watching them and blessed the Kingdom of France.
- The landscape is purposely domesticated. The lakes are man-made. Most trees are carefully sculpted. The lawns are manicured. By so doing, Louis XIV wanted to show his power and the fact that he could overcome nature.
In the Gardens, we were able to admire several art works of British artist Anish Kapoor. Every summer, Versailles displays artwork of well known artists to boost frequentation. We really enjoyed the mirror and the whirlpool vortex. Both adds an unexpected vulnerability in the very controlled landscape of Versailles.
Last but not least, we found out that Versailles entrance tickets and the privatisation of some of its garden areas actually can’t cover its maintainance cost. As a result, Versailles records a deficit every year and is subsidized by the French government. Yet, Versailles indirectly contributes significantly to the French tourism industry, told us the guide.