World of Versailles
About 40 minutes from Paris using the metro is a world of exquisite luxury and insane history that continues to draw people from all over the world.
Riding on the metro through the city gives short glimpses of life for a Persian. Outside the city center, where my friend Cady and I explored for the week, the train passed over crowded apartments. Packed together, the rouge and vaguely colored buildings are connected by thin wires covered with clothes. The urban city soon gives way to the suburban sprawl where the metro stop Versailles Château – Rive Gauche stands. It’s a short walk from the metro to the entrance gate to the unpaved road and I was easy for us two to overestimate how difficult it would be or how long it would take to reach the palace, so we arrived pretty early.
Cafés and small tourist shops lined one side of the street, most were still closed this early in the morning and they all seemed inconsequential especially compared to the house that was just down the road.
Even this early in the morning the line to get inside the château was growing exponentially so my friend and I elected to be a bit more clever, walk the gardens in the morning and go inside after. When the summer air rises to its less comfortable temperature.
Take a Turn Around the Garden
Away from the crowd, on the right side, there was a green gate. It was open, but there was no one around, no one to stop us. I nudged Cady on the shoulder and gestured to her to follow me. Acting almost like ninjas, but looking NOTHING like them we moved through the green gate toward the gardens behind the château.
After passing through a thin paved corridor the walls of garden hedges led down a wider gravel path toward a fountain, one of dozens. When the hedges open into a circle front of you, you face a roaring sea dragon serpent and several fish monsters and cupids holding their bows and arrow while riding attack swans. Riding off to a battle they will never reach. Every which way you walked would lead down another path, another hideaway. Like a labyrinth the trails twist and turn and spit you out into another hidden fountain or self-contained sculpture garden that works as a transport to the worlds of gods and monsters.
Being that it was a Tuesday, the garden itself (the hidden speakers) played beautiful music. Unfortunately that also meant the water of the fountains was turned off. This made the sculptures look more stagnant, and strained, frozen in whatever moment they were carved in. A heartbreaking example of this is the Enceladus Grove portrayed in this is the giant, Enceladus, a Titan buried underneath rocks. Stare at this figure for any extended period of time and it may be possible to hear his struggled screams as he attempts to climb out from his prison.
It’s easily possible to almost circumnavigate the full garden grounds without setting foot on the main pathway leading toward the back of the château. The path is so long that when one is standing at the far end the building itself is no longer visible. A halfway it starts to cloud into a fantasy.
More individuals stroll up and down the main path, known as the Water Perterre, and it does not limit to humans.
The large reflecting pools make for a perfect bath for a variety of avian life, all of which are extremely comfortable around the worldwide visitors.
The gardens continue around the side of the château, where the mystery of the large hedges disappeared and gave way to bucket planted palm trees. And around the upward bound corner steps lies the area known as the South Parterre with an extravagant design of perfectly maintained bucket and box planted bushes looking out toward an empty pool.
While taking in the sweet-smelling air and the soft, cooling breeze a tour group stopped at the base and I overheard some information that I found a bit ironic, if I was actually able to travel in time.
Paraphrased “While the gardens today have the sense of the flowers that are planted throughout, this wasn’t always the case. Actually, the whole garden and surrounding area smelled like shit back in the day. The pool behind you” (the one I mentioned before) “was used as the refuse pile from the house. And because the same water source was used as the water source for the fountains, feces were squirting out from every fountain.”
Understandably most everyone is the large group reacted with audible “grosses” and “yucks” and just general disgusted noises.
“Plus mixed with the lack of bathing and the exorbitant amount of perfume they wore instead, this place would not have been pleasant by our standards.”
Time traveling has always been a dream of mine, due to my incessant curiosity and nostalgia, but I think in this case I am fine passing on this odorous time in history, especially if the gruesome ending is taken into account. I would rather not be part of the group who had their heads lopped off by the guillotine.
While the garden used to be a swamp, untamed and natural with the conquest of the French nobility the land has drastically changed. Though it’s still full of nature, it’s not wild. It’s not quite a Garden of Eden; it’s too manicured.
Inside the Château
Meeting up with Cady on the château side of the Water Perterre we walked back to the front the house and entered through one of the side doors of the gilded gate. On a sunny day the golden gate shone like a star, just like the accents around the roof of the house. All the detail was amazing, and with the columns and various kinds of classical stonework there were times when I thought that I had walked into a Grecian fairy tale. An odd mixed architecture of the archaeological and the fanciful.
That influence did not stop when passing through the doors. Hallways and chapels and bedrooms were glistening with golden embellishment around the elaborate paintings that covered the walls and ceilings. Even the elaborately designed wallpaper sparkled in the light. It’s no wonder all of this was not sustainable, the houses shining décor could’ve, itself, sparked the flame of revolution.
One room that tops them all is the Hall of Mirrors, with all the tourists moving in waves it is possible to get a glimpse of the infinity around you. The inner wall is lined with mirrors the same size and shape of the windows on the opposite side, which open to the back of the house and its enormous garden. During the sunny day the crystal chandeliers, of which there are over a dozen hanging halfway down from the painted ceiling, are dispensable when it comes to light. With the natural light seeping from the tall windows and the mirrors reflecting it all back into the room it should be called the room of garden’s glow, but I suppose that is too much of a mouthful.
Once the portrait gallery had been walked into the classic art made some of its random hilarious jokes, for those who look more closely.
With the day winding to an end and the château closing soon most of the visitors had gone. Surprisingly walking throughout Versailles led me to a weary state, though I did not want to stop my exploring. It delved into a dreamlike state where the statues could come to life and live out their existence in this paradise that has been protected from the progression of time.
Beautiful pictures courtesy of the AMAZING CADY: follow her on Instagram HERE
If you want more information on Versailles itself, like tickets, maps, or its more in-depth history visit: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/.
For the metro/train schedule visit: http://parisbytrain.com/
and the map: http://parisbytrain.com/paris-metro/
Have you ever been to Versailles? What was your favorite part? Leave a comment below. 🙂