Versailles: Sensory Overload

As soon as I left the Château de Versailles in Versailles, France, I wanted to watch Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. As one of the movies that had been filmed at the estate, I wanted to bring the opulence alive again. Had I really seen a bed frame sprouting ostrich feathers? How many glittering chandeliers were in this joint? And don’t forget the plush divans and brocade curtains and gilded cherubs and…

Giuseppe Penone Versailles

Even the trees wear gold at Versailles!

(Giuseppe Penone’s Albero Folgorato, a temporary exhibit at the estate)

I shot picture after picture to help me hold on to the memories, but I was clutching at straws. Each room unfolded another red carpet of mind-boggling wealth, and any previous information was simply pushed to the side.

Versailles is an amusement park built on sensory overload, but not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t just what I saw that had me reeling; it was also what I was imagining. There were details that were conspicuously absent and it was up to me to fill them in. What must Versailles have smelled like–foreign perfume from the far east? How would wild game have been presented on that silver serving platter? How must it have tasted?

While trying to compute all of this history, awe, and speculation, you’re being jostled by a gazillion tourists. They are crushing your feet to obediently follow of their tour guide, or throwing their elbow into your line of vision to take a photo with a tablet half the width of the room (and remember, this is VERSAILLES we’re talkin’ about, those people weren’t frugal with space). Want some photos of all this glittery goodness?

Entering a main door after we survived the ticket line

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Obligatory photos in the Hall of Mirrors

Photo taken with a camera, not a tablet. Elbows still may have been thrown…

Rooms fit for royalty at Versailles

Rooms fit for royalty

 Royal bedrooms at Versailles

This table just screams “Let’s play cards!”

Versailles Treaty, Versailles

This sunny room is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed

 Versailles gardens, Versailles

Heading to the gardens–note the temporary lack of tourists

Marie Antoinette at Versailles

One of the little (well, relatively speaking) houses that Marie Antoinette used for fun

Versailles Palace

Handrail detail

My mind couldn’t hold all the details, and I didn’t want to read the raw facts. Instead of cracking open a historic tome, I simply wanted to watch the prettiness float by again. That’s where watching Marie Antoinette came in. And that same incredulous feeling I get from watching all the finery in the movie? I also get it here, just by reviewing the photos.

Versailles is indeed an amusement park, creating an amazingly surreal experience that will be marveled at long after you’ve left the tourist hordes behind.

Versailles

Have you ever been to Versailles? What were your impressions, and how have they changed over time?

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10 Comments

  1. Gorgeous photos! I’ve always wanted to go. And I LOVE Marie Antoinette. I can only imagine the visual stimulation you get from being there in person!

    • Cassandra

      Thank you, Michi! Later in the trip we also saw the prison cell was she was held captive before her trial–nada que ver. If you love Marie Antoinette, you’ve got to check out Versailles!

  2. Omigosh Versailles: the crowds…the tour groups…the IPADS. But I digress. Like you, I really liked the Trianon palace & grounds far to the north, as they were much quieter and bit prettier. Still kicking myself for overlooking Marie’s cottage…

    • Cassandra

      You summed it up right there! I’m planning another post about the gardens–they were gorgeous!

  3. These photo are SO gorgeous! And I agree — whenever I see Versailles I always want to watch Marie Antoinette.

  4. Been to Versailles twice, left unimpressed both times. Once when I was quite young (around 10 or so) and once when I was in college. I remember not liking Louis XIV when I studied him in history class and I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I hated Versailles the first time around because of my dislike of him! At a time when virtually all of France was starving, he couldn’t find anything better to do than build a gigantic opulent palace because he thought the world revolved around him!

    The second time, I tried to put aside my dislike and enjoy it for what it was. Didn’t work! Most of the palace is surprisingly devoid of furniture (except for the bedrooms of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI) and is mostly full of portraits which I found rather dull. The one thing I do like about the place is the gardens. Next time I go to Versailles, I am skipping the palace entirely and visiting Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet which I have never been to.

    • Cassandra

      Ahh, the sun king. You are not alone in hating him!

      It’s such a shame that you weren’t able to see Marie-Antoinette’s Domaine last time! That area, along with the gardens, was our favorite part of visiting Versailles.

  5. What great photos! I loved Versailles when I went, but I went in December in a rainstorm on a strike day, so I only got to see about 50% of the palace and the gardens were obviously not up to their full potential. I would love to go back sometime and take in all the beauty like your pictures display!

    • Cassandra

      Thanks! How unfortunate that the gardens were not very easy to visit the time that you went–hopefully you will have an excuse to go back someday soon 🙂

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