Sunday, July 9, 2017

Invigorating and Vexing Versailles Visit!

Getting outside of Paris to Versailles proved to be a transportation quagmire for us.

What should have been a two-connection train trip of maybe an hour took us more than three hours, hence "vexing" in the title of this post.
But it was all worth the trouble to see this beautiful palace and the lovely landscaped gardens around it.

The day was picture perfect for capturing dynamic photos like these.

These three images were enhanced through a phone app called Snapseed.  The HDR effect really makes the colors pop and dramatically brings out the puffy clouds prevalent on this day.
I took this photo of us, tongue in cheek.  We were getting frustrated finding the correct transfer train to take us to Versailles.

At the hotel where we bought our Versailles tickets, we were given some incorrect train information.  The train line we were told to take was shut down on Sunday, June 25.

Then on the way, we were given more incorrect information.
Eventually, we did get to the golden gates of Versailles.  But it was late in the afternoon, so we felt a bit rushed, and didn't get to see everything we wanted to see.
We would complain to the hotel guest relations person, and she saw that our ticket cost was taken off our hotel bill.
From the train station at Versailles, there's a walk of about a mile to get to the palace, where visitors are greeted by this large statue of the man who would make this elegant palace home.
In 1682, France's King Louis XIV moved his royal court from The Louvre to the Palace of Versailles.

Louis would become king at just four years old!  This after the death of his father, King Louis XIII.
Louis XIV become known as the Sun King.  He would rule France for an incredible 73 years.

His long reign, according to this Versailles website, "is often referred to as 'Le Grand Siecle' (the Great Century), forever associated with the image of an absolute monarch and a strong, centralised state."
The size of Versailles is almost overwhelming.
The palace, one of the world's largest, is more than 720,000 square feet.

The line to get in was daunting as well.  But it did move fairly quickly, and we got through it within 45 minutes.
The total size of the grounds, which include some of the most beautiful, multi-tiered gardens imaginable, is more than 2,000 acres.  The gardens encompass 230 acres.
Opulence would be our word of the week.  And that word describes the Versailles' golden gate.  On the palace's map it's called the Honour Gate.
Opulence is defined as great wealth or luxuriousness.  That fits the bill here at Louis XIV's 17th century palace.
Justin takes a photo as we made our way in the long line toward the entrance.
Finally we made it inside Versailles!  Gold is the prevalent color, opulently accenting the massive buildings.
Visitors to Versailles can see many of its beautiful and spacious courtyards, bedrooms, apartments and gallery of the history of the palace.
That final gallery is one we missed, unfortunately.
Sculptures adorn the inside of the palace, as well as the grounds outside.
The rooms's that word again...opulent- from top to bottom.
Paintings, tables, wallpaper, busts, light stands- the decorating of each space is so lush and detailed.
Features of many rooms also include large paintings on the walls and ceiling frescos.
This ceiling art piece is so soft yet stunning.
Rich and royal are permeating themes of this interior design.  Lots of paintings and sculptures of Louis XIV too.
This is one of many images of France's "Sun King" who still holds the record for the world's longest royal reign- more than 70 years!
The royal beds and bedrooms are amazing to see in person!
The bedroom of King Louis XIV is a popular attraction.  It's officially called The King's Bed Chamber.

According to this Versailles site, the palace has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,125 chimneys and 67 staircases.

Not only did the immediate royal family live here, but also many other members of the French nobility. All official government offices were here as well.
Napoleon Bonaparte is honored with this large statue. When he was in power in the early 1800s, he did not live in the main palace, but a second smaller palace or chateau on the premises called Grand Trianon.

Louis XIV had Grand Trianon built near Versailles as a getaway home and "to get away from the arduous pomp of the court and to pursue to his affair with his 'influential' mistress Madame de Montespan."
The Hall of Mirrors is considered the most famous room at Versailles.
The hall is just an incredible piece of art with luscious, elegant chandeliers, frescos, mirrors and windows.
The Hall of Mirrors central feature is considered its "seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows that overlook the gardens" (Wikipedia).

We definitely picked up some home decorating ideas after seeing Versailles- ha!
The views can also be spectacular looking out of palace windows.
The vast gardens of Versailles can be enjoyed from window views like this.
But outside looks better when actually outside.

Hours can be spent roaming the hundreds of acres of property, much of it carefully and finely landscaped and tiered gardens.
The sides of the Versailles palace offer much to be studied and admired.
The puffy clouds and blue sky they interacted with made my photography even better.
There are so many ways to capture the building and the beautiful gardens.
Such craftsmanship and artistry here- big and small!
Statuary like this, so many different figures and portrayals, offer bounties of photo ops that I could not resist.
 The sky, the clouds, the palace, the water, the nymph figures collectively help me compose some nice images like these.
America's oldest landscaped gardens, dating to 1741, near Charleston at historic Middleton Place were patterned after the tiered gardens and sculpture-filled landscape here at Versailles.

There are 50 (yes 50!) fountains on the site. This one is called Leto's Fountain.
This large fountain is surrounded by frogs and turtles and a larger bizarre creature that is half man/half frog.  Frogman?
Leto's Fountain, according to this Versailles site, was inspired by "The Metamorphoses" by Ovide. It illustrates the story of Leto, the mother of Apollo and Diana, protecting her children from the insults of the peasants of Lycia and pleading with Jupiter to avenge her.
The god obliges by turning the inhabitants of Lycia into frogs and lizards.

This fountain was first created in 1668 with additions coming in later decades.
The preciseness of Versailles' grounds is, well, perfect.  The hedges, for example, are perfectly trimmed with straight lines at the top and sides.
Another, of many, Versailles distinctions, is that it is considered the largest open air sculpture museum in the world.
According to this website, there are 386 statues and sculptures in and around the gardens.  They are made of bronze, marble and lead.
I'm not sure who is depicted here, but I like the star on her head.
We did not get to see everything we would have liked at Versailles, due to our late afternoon arrival caused by the transportation confusion mentioned earlier in this post.
But we still saw a lot inside the amazing palace and outside walking the vast and lovely grounds.
To visit such a special place with our sons and Joseph's Brazilian girlfriend Tamy made for an extra special experience!
We have many special memories and photos from Versailles.
Before returning by train to Paris we enjoyed dinner at this Versailles restaurant called Helio's Pub, which was very good.
We got to see the town of Versailles as we walked to and from the train station.
It seems a pleasant place, which has certainly had its share of history through the ages.
I was tickled, in Versailles, to see a street named for Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin and a small American delegation traveled to France in 1778 and met with King Louis XVI.  They endeared themselves to the king and French diplomats to the point they "were hero-worshipped in Paris and Versailles," according to this Versailles site.
The French support Franklin and his comrades earned would be crucial to the American defeat of the British in the war for independence!
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