On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Today we get a look at some of the lesser-known parts of Versailles, thanks to Auntie Anne. Sometimes getting away from the crowds can make all the difference! We’ll see Auntie Anne again this week in Paris After Dark.
The tour company my travel buddy and I use gives you your last full day at one location so you can explore to your heart’s content. In France, we had an entire day at Versailles. We started with a tour of the main palace, but it was so crowded that frankly, it was unpleasant. Yes, I saw the Hall of Mirrors and the high points, but much preferred wandering around some of the “lesser” parts of Versailles. These are the places I’ve included in this OTR.
Crowds lining up to enter Versailles. We had the first tour of the day – this was before opening.
The Orangery Parterre. During the reign of Louis XIV it was adorned with several sculptures which are now kept in the Louvre. It consists of four grass sections and a circular pool. In summer there are 1055 containers with orange trees, palm trees, oleander, pomegranate trees and Eugenia bushes that are kept inside the building during winter.
My favorite place at Versailles was the Grand Trianon. It was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1670 so he could get away from the arduous pomp of life in the court and pursue his affair with Madame de Montespan. The building was heavily influenced by Italian architecture and is made up of a single story flanked by a courtyard on one side and gardens on the other. There are two wings connected by this peristyle.
The Trianon’s original furnishings were lost during the Revolution. With a few exceptions, the palace now appears as it would have during the First Empire period. Napoleon had the Trianon fully refurnished and occasionally spent time here with the Empress Marie-Louise. This was formerly the bedroom of Louis XIV. The bed stood in Napoleon’s bedroom in the Tuileries Palace.
The gardens on the way to the Petit Trianon.
Completed in 1768, the new residence on the Trianon estate was known as the Petit Trianon to distinguish it from the Grand Trianon. It was here, in April 1774, that Louis XV experienced the first symptoms of the pox which would lead to his death a few days later, bringing the young Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette to the throne. Louis XVI gave the Petit Trianon and its estate as a gift to his young bride, who rapidly made it her own and set about redecorating the exteriors.
Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom at the Petit Trianon.
The hamlet was a real farm, fully managed by a farmer appointed by the Queen, with its vineyards, fields, orchards and vegetable gardens producing fruit and vegetables consumed at the royal table. Marie-Antoinette escaped the responsibilities and structure of court life to her private estate. She enjoyed dressing as a young shepherdess or milkmaid and acting like a peasant, while surrounded by the comforts of a royal lifestyle. The queen was accused by many of being frivolous, and found herself a target of innuendos, jealousy and gossip throughout her reign. Although for Marie Antoinette, the hamlet was an escape from the regulated life of the Court at Versailles, in the eyes of French people, the queen seemed to be merely amusing herself. This unintentional mockery of the economically depressed French peasants helped build the resentment towards the monarchy among the French people that eventually led to the French Revolution.