Day 5: Château de Versailles

Versailles gardens

Best of Paris Itinerary: Today we’ll explore the elaborate palace that Louis XIV, XV, and XVI called home. We’ll make the 30-minute train trip to Versailles, where we’ll have a guided tour of the dazzling Hall of Mirrors and other sumptuous rooms of the palace. You’ll then have free time to wander through the expansive gardens and visit the farm animals at Marie Antoinette’s hamlet—or zip back to Paris early via one of the frequent trains. Train: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.


Thursday, May 5: Ascension Day
Our Versailles day trip coincided with the beginning of a 4-day holiday weekend to celebrate Ascension Day, and gorgeous spring weather – so it was a very popular destination. We took the RER train from Paris in the morning, and Arnaud led our group through a less-crowded back entrance into the palace. There we met Catherine, our tour guide for the day and a long-time friend of Arnaud. She led an interesting tour of the immense 18th-century palace, with guilded apartments and Hall of Mirrors. I recalled that some friends were visiting here in January, and the palace was closed due to a strike; they were able to view the Hall of Mirrors without any other people – that must have been incredible!

Our tour ended outside with an amazing view of the gardens, greenhouses, and the Grand Canal down below. After a forgettable touristy lunch, we strolled the gardens to view the marble statues, then took the Petit Train to view more of the property, which included the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s estate. There were long lines of people waiting to get back to the palace via the petit train, so we kept our seats and just went along for the ride. The impressive fountains were turned on in the late afternoon, and there was classical music playing in the gardens – a nice touch.

Tips: Arrive at Versailles early in the day, and go see Marie-Antoinette’s digs. Arrange to rent a bike and pedal around the property, and enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the lovely open green spaces.

We took the RER train back to Paris in the late afternoon, then popped into the laundromat across the street. After a few tries, and patient instructions from Arnaud at the front desk of the hotel, I managed to do a load of laundry while Mom took a nap. Our efforts were rewarded with a batch of clean clothes and another fabulous dinner at Café Constant on the corner.

“Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.”

– Honoré de Balzac

Click on thumbnails to view images with captions