For our third day in France, we ventured outside Paris to a destination a mere 35 minutes away: VERSAILLES! This was my fourth time visiting Versailles, but it was still one of my favorite days of the trip and I saw several sites I hadn’t seen before. We took the RER train and then walked about fifteen minutes through the cute town of Versailles to reach the chateau. After waiting on a long line, we bought “passport” tickets, which gave us access to all of the buildings on the property for 18 Euros.
We started at the main chateau. The king and queen’s private apartments are only accessible by guided tour, but the passport ticket allowed us to walk through numerous staterooms and the king and queen’s magnificent bedrooms. We opted against the guided tour because we wanted to visit other properties on the estate.
After touring the chateau, we had a nondescript lunch in the cafeteria and then bought tickets for the trolley to tour the rest of the estate. It would have been nice to walk from building to building and enjoy the gardens, but the weather was rainy and cold at that point.
Our first stop was the Grand Trianon, which is a smaller chateau on the estate that was built by Louis XIV for his mistress. This was one of my favorite stops, since there was a fashion exhibit in the space, co-sponsored by Versailles and the Musée Galliera (a fashion museum in Paris). Throughout the beautifully decorated palace, mannequins wearing clothes by avant garde designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen were juxtaposed next to the 18th century wears that inspired them. Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside, so I couldn’t capture the cool exhibit.
After the Grand Trianon, we took the trolley to the Petit Trianon, which is another chateau on the property. Louis XV built the Petit Trianon for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Louis XVI later gave the Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette, who went there to escape the “pressures” of court life. The house was less ornate than the main chateau, but closer to how I would personally want to decorate my home. We were excited to see an outpost of Angelina’s tea house and ordered two cups of the famous hot chocolate (there were also outposts of Laduree and Angelina’s at the main chateau, which I don’t remember seeing on past visits). By that point it had stopped raining so we enjoyed the hot chocolate on the terrace outside. It was a nice pick-me-up, but was a little too pudding-like to get my vote for best French hot chocolate.
Following Angelina’s, we walked through the gardens adjacent to the Petit Trianon and reached the Hameau de la Reine (Queen’s Hamlet). Despite having been to Versailles multiple times, I had never been to the Hameau before because it only opened to the public in the early 2000s and it’s a bit of a walk from the main chateau. The Hameau is now my favorite part of the estate! The Hameau consists of twelve farmhouses that were built for Marie Antoinette, who enjoyed dressing up and pretending to be a farmer in her leisure time (though a real farmer’s family maintained the working farm at that time). Today the Hameau is an animal refuge and petting zoo. It’s also the most bucolic and serene place I’ve ever seen! The only thing that disappointed me was that the buildings weren’t open to the public.
The last trolley stop was the canal, but we didn’t get off because we were tired and it was late. When we arrived back in Paris, we selected Bistrot Victoires for dinner, aptly described in my Time Out guide as a traditional French brasserie with budget prices. I ordered steak tartar, which came with the traditional accompaniment of French fries. I don’t order fries a lot for health reasons, but they were delicious!
After dinner we went for a nightcap at the Café de la Paix, which is a historic café (c. 1862) located across from the famous Palais Garnier Opera House. I ordered kir, a traditional French aperitif consisting of crème de cassis(blackcurrant liqueur) and white wine. The prices at Café de la Paix were dear, but well worth it for the opulent atmosphere (and one drink never broke the bank!).
Please check back on Friday for day 4 of my Paris series, in which I visit my favorite neighborhood, the Marais!