16 September 2012

Off with their Heads !

Today we made the trip to the Palace of Versailles and managed to successfully navigate the Metro and bus to reach our destination.

Past the Louis XIV sculpture and through the glorious Sun King gates ...

Our guide for the Private Apartments tour was the best I have had and really brought the Palace and its inhabitants alive for us.

We were shown behind the scenes and the more intimate spaces of this vast Palace with its 700 rooms spread over 63,000 square metres. Versailles took 36,000 men over 40 years to complete!
It is quite exciting to imagine the Kings and Queens of France living here with all the intrigue and drama of the court playing out, as we walked on the lovely parquetry floors and smooth marble stairs.

Louis XV commissioned this roll top desk in 1753. It took nine years to complete, firstly, by the Royal master cabinet maker, Oeben and when he died, his successor, Riesener.  It has secret drawers that could only be opened with one key which the King always kept with him.
During the French Revolution it was saved by being moved to the Louvre, but now sits back in the same room at Versailles. 
Our guide commented that it was one of the most important pieces of furniture in all of France !

 Louis XV was most interested in the sciences, particularly astronomy. The Clock Room houses this most remarkable clock which took 48 years to complete in 1754. It shows the time, day of the week, the year, the moon's quarter and even allows for leap years! It is still totally accurate and is considered a masterpiece of engineering by Passement, clock making by Dauthiau and gilt bronze work by Caffieri.

We even got to see the right Royal loos !  Not sure about the velvet seat though ...

 We were so fortunate to be shown the Opera House which is still in use today. Completed in time for the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, it has a mechanism which can raise the floor to stage level which turns it into a ball room. Lit by 3,000 candles it impressed all who saw it - and still does!

The simply superb Royal Chapel designed by the Royal architect, Mansart.

 Off through the 90 hectares of royal gardens which were planned and laid out by the French landscape architect, Andre Le Notre for King Louis XIV - and what a wonder they are.

Down to the Grand and Petit Trianons where we saw a pretty exhibition showcasing forty portraits of the women who left their mark on French history.

Marie Antoinette featured strongly of course.

This girl had taken her Marie Antoinette obsession to a whole new level and was very proud of the fact that this water colour tattoo is still a work in progress!

 The Empress Josephine Bonaparte before Napoleon ditched her and married another ...

 It is easy to see why Versailles Royalty enjoyed escaping to this domain to have fun in a smaller and more relaxed environment.

Sarah imagining what it would be like cooking at this stove!

 Marie Antoinette's Hameau ( Hamlet) is so picturesque and well worth the very long walk to the edge of the grounds to find it.

 This pumpkin photo is for Michael !!

There are vegetable gardens and a little farm with animals and birds.

 We loved our day at Versailles, but were so foot sore by this stage the kind keepers of the Hamlet offered to drive us part of the way back to the Palace which we gratefully accepted.

Another memorable experience for us both ...

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