The Size of Versailles

Thursday, October 17, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

European Adventure, Days 13 & 14

PARIS, France—We arrived in Paris Wednesday on an EasyJet flight from Venice.  A bit of a panic ensued just before we boarded when the gate agent told Jeanne and me we would need to put our (large and overstuffed) purses in our suitcases because EasyJet allows only one carry-on bag.  With seams splitting and various and sundry items hanging out the zipper closings, we managed to get the job done in time to board.

Rain greeted us upon our arrival at Orly airport, continuing as we rode the train into the central city and caught the Metro to the Montmarte neighborhood just below Sacre Coeur.  There we met the OneFineStay agent at the apartment we're renting for the week we're here.
Friendly Carrefour clerk
Near the apartment, we found a Carrefour supermarket, stocked up on groceries, and walked back to the apartment in pouring rain.
Rue Tardieu
As we settled into our new place and began planning some outings in Paris, we watched passersby in the rain outside our window.

And toasted arriving in the City of Light and being sheltered in the (dry) refuge of our apartment.

On Thursday we set out to visit the Palace of Versailles some 12 miles southwest of the city.  Unfortunately, we hit rush hour on the Paris Metro this morning.  Trains were packed, even the outbound RER train from Paris out to the village of Versailles.

The palace is in easy walking distance of the train station, and we were thankful for blue skies as we stood in line to purchase admission tickets.  Looking at its majesty, it was easy to picture the palace as the seat of political power in the kingdom of France from 1682 to 1789.

The entrance to this former base of monarchical power is graced with a replica of the original wrought iron and gold leaf gate which was torn down during the French Revolution in the late 18th century.

First built as a hunting lodge by King Louis XIII in 1624, Versailles was enlarged into a palace by his son Louis XIV.  Originally intended to be only an occasional residence for the king, the palace expanded in size and prominence, eventually serving as the epicenter of royal power.  As it continued to grow, Versailles became a showcase of France.  This required that all materials and decorations used in the palace had to be manufactured in France.

The most famous room in the palace is the Hall of Mirrors, a 230-ft. long gallery with 17 wide arcaded mirrors and two dozen chandeliers.  Constructed in the late 1600s, the room's decoration with mirrors was chosen as a symbol of opulence, as the glass was quite costly.
Versailles' Hall of Mirrors
The center of glass manufacturing in that day, Venice had a monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors. To stay true to the French showcase policy, the finance minister charged with construction persuaded some Venetian craftsmen to come to France and produce mirrors for the palace locally.  According to legend, the Venetian government sent agents to France to assassinate these artisans in order to preserve Venice's monopoly.
Orangerie of the Garden of Versailles  (photo from Wikipedia)
Such an opulent palace needed an appropriately lush garden, of course, and the Gardens of Versailles expanded and evolved along with the chateau.  After a stroll through just part of them, we returned to the train station to catch a ride back to our apartment.

Back in Pars after spending most of the day at Versailles, we found a great restaurant around the corner from our Montmartre apartment. Waiting for it to open, Ken & Jeanne called on the spirits of the many artists who've painted in this area.
Le Coryllis
Thanks to Trip Advisor, we had an excellent dinner a at Le Coryllis, a cozy little Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away from our Montmarte apartment.  After dinner we walked a couple hundred yards from our apartment to the funicular for Sacre Coeur and rode up to the church, resplendent in its nighttime lighting. All in all, a great first day in Paris...except for one little detail.
Sacre Coeur
Remember the earlier comment about how crowded the train was this morning? When we arrived at Versailles, Ken reached into his pants pocket for his phone and found nothing.  A pickpocket at the crowded RER station had taken the phone when his partner bumped into Ken to create a diversion.

Sacre bleu!
Tomorrow we'll stay in the city and visit some of its most iconic sights.