The Versailles Venture - Part III
Our little adventure in the gardens of Versailles continued to the east side of the massive estate - over 8 hectares of land to discover! We had been walking through a shadowy, cool grove when we arrived at our first stop - the Grand Trianon.
Clad in the most gorgeous pink marble, which shone in the winter sun, the palace is simple but very elegant and refined. Numerous exhibitions are often set up here - we enjoyed an exhibition of Japanese chrysanthemums in the gorgeous little foyer.
A little way away, tucked within intricate landscapes, is the Petit Trianon. Built to relieve Louis XIV from the 'boredom' that was Versailles, the little palace is a splendid example of Greek style. A prevailing sense of perfection and order rule over this little paradise, which later became an escape route for Marie Antoinette, who despised court formalities.
But the real star of the show here is Marie Antoinette's tiny hamlet.
Desperately seeking better refuge from her royal life, Marie Antoinette was given this part of the estate to play with, which she turned into an authentic rustic hamlet, complete with a farm, dovecote, barn, dairy and mill, all fully functional and producing goods for the Palace. Set around a lake, the little hamlet was Marie Antoinette and her ladies' domain, together with the peasants who ran the daily goings on of the farm.
The style of the hamlet couldn't be more different than the rest of the gardens and palaces. Once you step in the area, you feel transported to another country and another age; a simpler age where satisfaction was found in the small things in life. Something, perhaps, which the last Queen of France desperately wanted but could not get.
The white Marlborough tower dominates the lake, in which swans glide peacefully as children feed them bread. Just behind it, the farm awaits.
Discovering that the farm is still kept running today came as a real surprise. Quaint little vegetable patches grow behind every house, and there are animals living on the estate! Whilst some swiftly hopped away at the sight of us, others were all too willing to get a cuddle or two...
A blissful feeling of peace overcomes you in this little hamlet. Whilst many would think a Queen crazy for escaping from riches and luxuries, after visiting her retreat I'd say she does have a point. The Queen's hamlet in Versailles is the image of happiness and tranquility.
With the sun slowly sinking, we made our way back to the main palace (quite a walk, I can assure you!), but we couldn't resist the call of the autumn colours all around us, as the trees whispered between themselves in the cool breeze.
We couldn't have had a better day in Versailles. My advice is to plan in advance and if possible, go during the low season. Be prepared for long walks in the beautiful gardens, and keep an eye on that weather forecast!
And as always, go with a clear mind. Forget the pictures you've seen or the things you've heard; Versailles is a place begging to be discovered in the most personal way, and that can only depend on you.