Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published January 5th 2013
'Let them Eat Cake': Marie Antoinette's opulence revealed
If there is one day trip you really ought to do from Paris, it is a visit to Versailles, the incredibly layered, baroque palace of France's deposed royals, which is located an easy 40 minute train trip from the centre of Paris.
Getting there is easy, just get the RER (overland) C lines from any number of central Paris stations. Make sure you ask for a return (retour) ticket to Versaille from the ticket box at the metro station, as it is not covered in the normal Zone 1&2 metro tickets. You'll know you are on the right train, as the double decker carriages are lined with beautiful images from the palace gardens.
If you can, buy your Versaille entrance tickets in advance – you can do this online, or on arrival at Versaille town centre through any of the tourist agencies which are in front of the train station. It means you can bypass the potentially huge ticket lines in Versaille and go through the express 'A' entrance. Make sure you check out the potential for free or reduced entries as well.
By all means pay extra to go on a guided tour, but we found that the basic entry, which includes a free audio guide in your language of choice, really gives you everything you need. We did pay extra to go and visit Marie Antoinette's house and farm village, and it's definitely worth it, but make sure you have enough time to do this side trip as it is about a 30 minute walk through the Palace's magnificent gardens from the main entrance. If time is short, you can get a 'petit train' down there and back for an extra 12 Euros.
Alternatively, you can do what we did and hire a golf buggy for 30 Euros per hour and have a heap of fun driving there yourself along a set route. If you opt for this, take your drivers licence and keep in mind that if you stop and get off to look at the gardens or house or eat at the café along the way, you will quickly exceed your one hour charge.
Catching a buggy to Marie Antoinette's House, Palace of Versailles
Versaille itself is nothing short of spectacular – both in scale and decoration. The lengthy and magnificent Hall of Mirrors is famous for good reason. The King's Bedchamber is where Louis XVIth actually held court from his bed, and there was a bizarre nightly ritual of all the aristocrats sitting and watching the King and Queen eat private supper at their table in their sumptuous adjoining supper room.
The palace is progressively being restored to its original glory, after it was sacked by the people in the French Revolution, and its contents and furniture dispersed. As key pieces are rediscovered and purchased, rooms are being restored around them. The original baroque gilt gates at the front of the palace were restored in 2011, after having been torn down in the Revolution. You can also walk down the Queen's staircase – which is where Marie Antoinette fled from the Palace as the rioters entered her chambers. Versaille really is a place full of history and intrigue, quite apart from its beauty, and not to be rushed nor missed.