Versailles Shines Even on a Rainy Day

When you are from Minnesota packing for a special summer trip to Italy, you obsess that the Roman July heat and humidity will put a damper on your travel plans, as you still have not packed away your fleece yet.  With the outrageous baggage fees charged by airlines, packing light is essential, and those suitcases need some wiggle room to accommodate the anticipated souvenirs and street market purchases.  Although we scheduled a quick three days in Paris at the front end of the trip, I had spent most of my planning (and packing strategy) energy on the balance of our two-week travels, all much further south in Italy.  Usually being the over-planner, I threw caution to the wind and said, “what are the chances of needing a jacket in Italy, given that their coolest evening temps are still a nice northern Minnesota summer day!”  I regretted that decision for our day trip to Versailles.

Walking toward the gates of Versailles
Walking toward the gates of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a convenient train ride from Paris.  The history of the Palace is fascinating.  The decor and grounds of the Palace reflect the colorful life of King Louis XIV and tragic life of Queen Marie Antoinette, as well as the significant historical events contemporaneously occurring outside of Versailles.

The mid-July day dawned gray and gloomy  . . . and wet.  We had two umbrellas with us and made two street vendors happy by purchasing two more as we walked toward the massive palace.  We had purchased the Paris Museum Pass, which saved us wait time at many attractions.  Not so at Versailles.  We stood in the long, winding line outside of the Palace, with the other cold, wet, miserable tourists, just for the privilege of seeing the interior.

The Royal Chapel at Versailles
The Royal Chapel at Versailles

Once inside, the images were magnificent!  Over-the-top decadence, furnishings and art fit for the Louvre’s finest galleries.  And enough rude tourists to make a person say, “never again” (at least not during the high season)!  I would observe with glee when a security person “caught” a tourist trying to cut through a room and disregard the marked path of the tour, in an attempt to jump ahead of the slow-moving hordes of people.  I admit to being quite crabby in between the stunning images of each room.  And, if I was crabby about feeling like a cheap sardine in an overpacked can, I cannot begin to put into words how my husband felt by the time we escaped.

Looking at the gardens from the interior of the Palace of Versailles
Looking at the gardens from the interior of the Palace

We caught glimpses of the famous gardens on the massive estate as we walked from room to room.

The Hall of Mirrors ~ Palace of Versailles
The Hall of Mirrors

At the end of our self-guided tour, the Hall of Mirrors (where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, confirming the end of WWI) was as breathtaking as depicted in all of the guidebooks, and provided some consolation for otherwise feeling like cattle being funneled through narrow chutes on their way to the stockyards.

The view of the Grand Canal from the Palace of Versailles
The view of the Grand Canal from the Palace

While I enjoyed seeing firsthand the indescribable luxuries of Versailles’ interior, what I really had been looking forward to touring were the gardens.  After we escaped the crowds, and walked to view the Fountain of Latona looking toward the Grand Canal, my hopes of renting bikes and idyllically biking around the Gardens of Versailles with my husband and two teens wilted like my garden flowers after the first hard frost.  The enthusiasm of my traveling companions was waning the longer we stood outside and tried walking to some of the closest gardens, jumping puddles, feeling chilled, with mutiny building among the troops.

Wet day at Versailles
Galoshes would have been more appropriate footwear

My toes were not yet numb, but we all admittedly were underdressed for the weather (incredibly out of character for we Minnesotans who are used to packing for three-season weather almost every weekend).  And the rain, rain, rain kept coming down, down, down.

Minnesota nice was gone, and I believe the following words (or something close) came out of my mouth at one point: “Fine, if you don’t want to see the gardens, you can go stand under that alcove until I am done.  I didn’t travel all the way to Versailles to stand at the edge of the estate and take a picture.”  I am sure it was said in the nicest of tones, though, which resulted in a dour trio dragging their feet behind me as we trooped onward.

And then I saw the golf carts — motorized, timed golf carts for which you paid an exorbitant rental charge (particularly given the Euro-U.S. Dollar exchange rate that summer) to toodle about the gardens.  SOLD (or at least rented for a couple of hours)!  That cart appeared to me as good as a limousine at that point, with a canopy overhead and feet off of the wet ground.

Golf cart touring of Versailles' gardens
The view from the cart

We certainly did not have the tour of the gardens I had envisioned before embarking on our journey, but we saw more of the estate than we would have otherwise on that cold, dreary day.

One of the ponds of the Water Parterre at Versailles
One of the ponds of the Water Parterre

The majestic scale of Versailles cannot be fully appreciated without venturing out onto the grounds of the estate.  The flowers stood out in colorful contrast to the otherwise gray day.  I can only imagine how beautiful the scene is on a calm, sunny day (which means we must return again some day to experience biking through the gardens, or taking a boat out on the Canal).

Versailles' flower gardens
The only spot of color on a very gray day

We briefly took the cart out as far as Marie Antoinette’s estate, just to view it from the exterior (we were all borderline hypothermic by this point), and to grab a quick lunch of sandwiches and macaroons at Angelina Terrace near the Petit Trianon.   I recall starting to shiver from the damp cold as we sat outside eating our sandwiches on the terrace, which is probably quite lovely on a nice day.  [Note:  After we returned to Paris, I promptly went shopping for a cardigan sweater for our last evening in that grand city!]

Golf cart tour of the outer estate of Versailles
Wandering the outer paths at Versailles

The sun tried to peek through the clouds as we wrapped up our golf cart tour of the outer estate.  We learned that despite coming from the main Palace, which requires a ticket for entrance, you must be able to relocate and show your ticket stub to the security guard when returning to the main estate grounds from the Chateaux de Trianon.  My husband is lucky he is not still wandering about the outer gardens.  The security guard took pity on us, and apparently decided that if mom and two teens had ticket stubs, then dad must just be careless rather than dishonest.

Before I close, here are a few more images from this historic property:

The Royal Avenue at Versailles  Fountain at Versailles

Hercules Drawing Room ~ Palace of Versailles   Ceiling in the Hercules Drawing Room ~ Palace of Versailles

The antechamber of the Grand Couvert ~ Palace of Versailles    The War Drawing Room ~ Palace of Versailles

Near the Chateux de Trianon ~ Versailles    Fountain at Versailles

Sculpted bushes and statuary at Versailles  Lovely gardens at Versailles

Ciao! (or perhaps “au revoir” this time!) ~ Kat

19 responses to “Versailles Shines Even on a Rainy Day”

  1. Kat, my husband and I went to Versailles just about one year ago. The day was so lovely that we decided to stroll through the gardens the entire time. During our next visit, I would like to see the elaborate interiors too. Thank you for helping me recall some wonderful memories of our time there.


    • Your visit to Versailles sounds like ours to Mt. Vernon — we enjoyed exploring the grounds so much that we never made it to the interior! I can understand how easily it would be to spend your entire visit in the gardens on a nice day. ~ Kat


  2. Beautiful pictures!! I didn’t get a chance to visit Versailles when I was in France because our schedule was too tight but I would love to visit next time I’m there! Thanks for the post 🙂


    • It is definitely worth making time for the next time you return to France. The opulence is so over the top, it is amazing to imagine what life was like actually living there day to day. ~ Kat


      • I can’t wait to go. Hopefully the weather will be a little more forgiving when we go.

        I can’t even begin to imagine what it’d be like to live there. I think they boot me out very quickly since I’m so accident prone and everything looks so beautifully fragile. Haha


    • And the alternatives certainly never materialize if you pack for every weather possibility! ~ Kat


    • It must be the go-to photo op spot for us rain-soaked tourists! Hope you found bright spots during your tour of the Palace and grounds, as well. Thanks for stopping by. ~ Kat


      • I have the unfortunate luck when I go to Europe and see and important site that it is either raining or in scaffolding or both! I get really creative with my photos. 🙂


    • Pedmar, it is your town! I looked at your photos of Versailles and wish we had more time to explore the town itself rather than just the Palace grounds — it looks like a lovely city. We will need to return some day. ~ Kat


      • Exactly, that is what I tell folks Versailles its history all over, lot more than the palace, but….a lot tourist guides out there…


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