We leave the City of Love early, bounded westward and head toward the famous palace of Versailles.
The Palace of Versailles was created under direction of King Louis XIV, the Sun King. This narcissistic, self-loving (there’s a hall dedicated to mirrors) man created a pleasure-dome that took more than 40 years to complete. Self-proclaimed sun king, Louis XIV saw himself as a human incarnation of the god Apollo, and thus Apollo motifs are widely depicted inside the palace and outside in the gardens. Versailles is also home to masterpieces from The Greats, like Bernini and Le Brun. Over the years, Versailles played host to several different monarchs and figures of state, and went through a tumultuous history of having been torn apart, sold, put back together, etc. After the Louis’ came the French Revolution followed by Napoleon, the Bourbons, and it was officially made a museum of French history and artifacts under the reign of Louis Phillipe in the mid 1800s.
Viv and I spent hours studying the paintings and portraits and sculptures adorning the palace, but we couldn’t help but notice the glorious sunshine illuminating the Versailles Garden, and so took a look outside. The first thing you see when you walk into the garden is the numerous fountains. In the distance by the Grand Canal, the Apollo Fountain rises out of the water – Apollo and his chariot pulled by horses symbolizes the rising sun. Nearer to the palace and pictured here, the Latona Fountain depicts the mother of Apollo and Diana, Latona holding her children. Myth goes that Jupiter’s wife, Juno, persecuted Latona for the affair, and as no one wanted to face the wrath of Juno, Latona was left to wander the world without help. This fountain illustrates a scene where Latona goes to drink at a pond, but peasants loyal to Juno stir the water to make it cloudy and non-potable. Latona punishes the peasants and turns them into frogs.
Beyond the Grand Canal lay the Grand & Petite Trianons and the Queen’s Hamlet. Though walking the distance is definitely doable (and highly commendable), Viv and I chose to bike through the palace gardens to visit the lesser palaces of Versailles. There is also the option to rent a golf cart, but at 30€ for 30 mins, so not worth it. Besides, a bike ride just sounded so much more fun!
On the Versailles grounds are several dining options for the hungry sight-seer that cater to a wide variety of appetites and budgets. We chose to eat at La Flotille, directly across from the Grand Canal and sat outside to catch the radiant sunshine. The food was seriously overpriced, but I rather enjoyed my creamy seafood dish of crab meat (hefty portion too), shrimp and scallop. I don’t think Viv liked her cold fish salad, but at least we ended well with our pineapple carpaccio and tropical fruit granita.
All’s well that ends well. We took the RER train back to Paris and rested early for another day.