A long-time obsession of mine has been castles. They are one of my favourite attractions to go and visit. Even if they were completely empty I would be thrilled to walk through their halls. Another long-time favourite of mine has been Marie-Antoinette, so you can imagine my delight and awestruckness at finally being able to visit Versailles.
From the second I caught a glimpse of its golden gate to long after I had left all of its wonder and glory, I was practically hyperventilating from excitement. I believe my exact thoughts were, “Oh my God, oh my God, I could be walking exactly where Marie-Antoinette walked, oh my God, oh my God, I’m in her bedroom, oh my God, oh my God, it’s all so beautiful I could faint”, which I damn near did.
I began in the gardens, and even though I was there in March, they were still immaculate and wonderful. It was the most amazing thing to be standing in front of the palace at the top of the hill and to see the grounds expanding out in front of me, all the way down to the looking-glass lake. It was breathtaking, so much larger than I ever could have imagined. The grounds are so big that they have a little train to take you to the different places.
The second time I went to Versailles, on my return to France, I got a chance to explore more of the grounds, including Marie-Antoinette’s estate (the Hamlet, Petit Trianon, and gardens) and the Grand Trianon, and my hyperventilating from years before returned to me. My favourite was the Hamlet, which, I kid you not, looked like a tiny village straight out of a Disney movie. Walking through it I felt like I really could be Belle, singing Bonjour! to everyone I passed.
The Grand Trianon is a beautiful pink marble, and going through Marie Antoinette’s estate I was on the hunt for the rest of her famous portraits. I found all but one, which incidentally I found later in a museum in Vienna, but that’s another story for another day.
As wonderful as everything on the grounds is, there is a certain magic about taking your first step inside the palace at long last. Everywhere you look there is gold lavish beauty. Louis the Sun King is plastered all over the place, in statues and portraits. Even the air smells royal. You can go through the King’s Quarters, the Queen’s Quarters, sitting rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, but the most beautiful and exciting rooms for me were the Queen’s bedroom, styled as Marie-Antoinette would have had it, and the Hall of Mirrors. These rooms hold pure magic, a dream-like quality that you only realize is reality when you get jostled by some other tourist trying to push past you. The bedroom, with a pretty, delicate floral pattern dusting its every surface, and the Hall with floor to ceiling mirrors on one side, mirrored by the grand windows on the other side, making it seem as though the room goes on forever, balanced perfectly with the bright chandeliers lighting your way (I feel bad for the cleaners in charge of those mirrors). I can just picture the balls, with swirling gowns and flickering candlelight – what a world to live in! I will forever remember these rooms and Versailles with a sentimental fondness. I can’t wait to go back.