Opinion time! The gardens at Versailles are far more interesting and worth spending time in than the palace itself.
It’s a shame really that the gardens don’t get as much publicity as the palace (which yes does offer a rather obscene display of wealth) because a good portion of them are actually free to visit (excepting on certain days when they organize some musical events that are somehow coordinated with the fountains. Honestly, I’ve never been when one of those was on, so that’s the best description I could come up with). The exception to this are Marie Antoinette’s gardens and private hamlet near the Petit Trianon, but the 12eu entry fee – which also grants entrance to both the Petit and the Grand Trianon chateaus – just so you can experience one of the most fascinating displays of out of touch wealth set in a strikingly peaceful English-style garden.
I am talking of course, about Marie Antoinette’s little farm.
The inspiration behind this little farm getaway was drawn from the writings of certain Enlightenment thinkers – notably Rousseau – who advocated a return to nature, a simpler way of living, as the key to a happy pleasant, life. This in turn lead the aristocracy – who likely rarely interacted with peasants, if at all (hell, they did not, by law, eat the same bread) – to take a liking to the pastoral, hence things like this : a Disney-fication of an otherwise rather difficult life. On this farm, Marie Antoinette kept a house for herself as well as her companions (don’t be fooled by the humble exteriors, the insides of these buildings were decorated rather expensively, though perhaps without as much…obvious display of wealth), along with chickens, sheep, goats, and even a small working dairy. Really, what more could one ask for for a farm that would allow you to live the ideal peasant life without any of the hardships (or awful grain harvests)?
Nowadays, the farm is still a working farm, and actually supplies much of the vegetables for some of the restaurants in/near the Chateau (I believe Alain Ducasse’s place located in the Chateau itself, Ore, sources from there, though I could be wrong). You can also find their jams in any of the several gift shops.
And I mean, it is hard to deny how absolutely breathtaking the garden itself is, even while keeping in mind the absolute absurdity behind the creation of a large part of it.
I have a feeling my routine is going to start getting a bit more boring after this, now that I have my library card and whatnot. Perhaps I’ll just start posting daily pictures of the BNF.
For now, though, here is what I think might be one of the most amusing, if not my favorite, paintings in Versailles (this one located in the Galerie des Batailles) : tiny Napoleon holding a tiny spyglass.