Fantastic French Vacation – Part8 Chateau Versailles

Ceiling of the chapel

Chateau Versailles from Paris is a 40 minute ride on RER C line followed by 5 minute walk from Versailles’ Rive Gauche train station. Once out of the train station, we were directed to Avenue de Paris. Avenue de Paris is a broad road, four car lane in the middle plus sidewalks of the same size; the magnificent building complexes flanking the avenue tuned out to be the stables of Chateau Versailles. With such impressive buildings for stables, what to expect of the palace ahead?

Beyond the stables were Avenue Rockefeller and Place d’Armes, which is an open space where a bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV stands in the center front. Behind the statue is a modern structure, of two groups of tall curves forming circles with open ends, and to its right a sea of parked tour buses and to the left parked cars. Across Place d’Armes, an elegant gate, the main gate, marks the entry to Courtyard of Honor, where an army of tourist queuing to enter the palace. Across the courtyard, more details of the palace emerged. Separating Courtyard of Honor and Royal Courtyard is the ornate Royal Golden Gate, with every inch of its pieces gilded and so shiny it seemed to be dripping gold.

Chateau Versailles is the acme of grandeur, opulence, architectural and artistic beauty. From the chapel to the apartments, to Mirrored Hall, to Marie Antoinette’s suite, to Coronation Room, the entire palace is lavishly and ornately decorated, each in unique theme. The chapel was the first room on the tour; so beautiful, I was completely lost in its mesmerizing details, multicolor marble floor, gilded organs and altar, fluted columns, delicately embellished pillars and arches and overwhelmingly gorgeous paintings on the ceiling. If it wasn’t the crowds jostling and pushing me along, I could stare at it forever. And I was, too, jealous of the group of kids who were allowed to go inside while the rest of us could only gawk from the doorway. Next came Hercules’ room and Venus’ room, each riveted me. Then came Apollo’s room and War room, both took my breath away, too. Gold, marble, invaluable antiques, life size portraits and brilliant paintings everywhere, and when I thought I had seen it all, Mirrored Hall emerged. Its inner wall is line with mirrors, floor to ceiling; on its opposing side are windows looking out to the garden. Imagine the festivities when a grand ball was held in this glittering grand hall. And we were yet to view the King’s and Marie Antoinette’s rooms. As ornate and opulent as every other, King’s room is unexpectedly the only one that has a white ceiling; Marie Antoinette’s room is an opulently gilded spring garden, sublimely feminine. Incredible! And naturally, the palace is not complete without a garden of the same caliber. Waiting outside is Versailles’ expansive, vast and beautiful garden.

Interestingly, as I marveled at Versailles’s vastness, beauty and extravagance, I found myself ponder over the ill fate of its former masters’, Louise XVI and Marie Antoinette.

It is to mankind’s great benefit that treasures like Chateau Versailles have been restored and preserved. Since the late modern period, the world has witnessed numerous feats, engineering, scientific, medical, technological, architectural and artistic, but none rivals Chateau Versailles and its kind. And, it is not likely that there will be one, or is it?

Place d’Armes

Ceiling of the chapel

Gilded and marbled door

A gilded corner

Marie Antoinette and her children are interestingly embedded into this painting of Jesus

A 14th century Chinese statue of Bodhisattva Guanyin

Upper half of Mirrored Hall

Marie Antoinette’s bed

A small fraction of the garden

This completes my posts on Fantastic French Vacation and so it does the wonderful experience.

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