And so the trip begins…!
I recently got the chance to visit Versailles with The Paris Guy, something I have been wanting to do for a very long time. Why ? Because although I’ve been living here for 8 years, I have never managed to see the inside of the castle. Every time I have tried to visit it’s been too busy! But that’s when The Paris Guy came to my rescue.
The guide met us at the RER C at 9.45am and accompanied us all the way to the castle from Paris. I think that the guide accompanying you is an excellent advantage for tourists who easily lose their way. The price of your transportation is also in the price of the tour, so no need to worry about your tickets!
But what about the queue?
Touring with The Paris Guy also means you get to skip the line, which even at 11am was already long! We walked around the side of the châteaux and entered immediately. Before I knew it I was looking at the beautiful gates of Versailles!
The guide’s suggestion to start with the gardens surprised me, but after we started walking around I understood why. I have never, in my 8 years of living here, seen the gardens so empty! It was a dream come true to feel like I had my own private viewing of Versailles’ stunning gardens. It made the tour all the more special.
The tickets for the gardens are actually valid all day long so you can go back into the gardens even after the tour is over. You will definitely need more time if you want to see the vast gardens of Versailles.
The Latona Fountain
The guide told us a fascinating story about the fountain as we stood and admired it from the garden steps. We learned that the fountain is dedicated to the legend of Latona. She was the mistress of Jupiter and had two children with him, Diana and Apollo.
Exhausted and parched, she decided to stop at a a pond. However, when she went to drink from it the peasants objected and refused to let her quench her thirst. They ordered Latona to leave and, to make sure she could not drink, they rushed into the pond and churned up the water with their arms so that the water was filthy.
Enraged, Latona forgot her thirst, raised her hands to the sky and cried out: “May you live forever in the slime of your pond!” Her curse took effect immediately and the metamorphosis began. The peasants were transformed into frogs, and had to live forever in the pond, fulfilling the curse of Latona.
The half-human, half-frogs that you see in the fountain (below) are the peasants that Latona cursed!
Inside the Châteaux de Versailles
We learned a lot from our guide about the inside of the castle. In the Salon d’Hercule, which literally translates as Hercules’ Room, she told us about the huge ceiling painting painted by François Lemoyne. Lemoyne worked on the ceiling from 1733 until its completion in 1736. Sadly, Lemoyne committed suicide just 6 months later, an event that many believe was linked to exhaustion and his frustration at his inability to attain artistic perfection.
The other painting in the salon is The Feast in the House by painter Veronese and it’s enormous. The painting measures 70m squared and takes up the entire wall on the left side of the room. The painter actually produced two paintings of this size, which were both originally in the salon at Versailles. However, the second painting, entitled Rebecca at the Well, now has its home in the Louvre museum where it is the largest painting in the museum. Funnily enough, even with its large size, it remains overshadowed by the small but powerful Mona Lisa who sits opposite this painting.
In another room, our guide told us the story of the statue of Louis XIV (shown in the photo below). She pointed out that the statue is a complete contradiction. Can you guess why? If you’re not sure, you’ll just have to take the tour and find out!
We also visited the Grand Chapel, the King’s Chamber and the Queen’s chamber and ended our tour with the most magical room of all, the hall of mirrors.
The Hall of Mirrors
Of course, I had seen pictures of the Hall of Mirrors, but no one can prepare you for its spectacular beauty. It literally took my breath away. We learned about the history of this stunning room and the complicated nature of its construction.
When Louis XIV wanted to construct the hall, mirrors were extremely expensive and Venice held the monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors. Colbert, the designer, wanted to continue to ensure that all items at Versailles had been made in France. He decided to entice several workers from Venice to come and fabricate the mirrors. According to legend, the government of the Venetian Republic sent agents to France to poison the workers whom Colbert had brought to France.
Click here to read my other post about The Paris Guy and find out about the other tours they have on offer.