The Palace of Versailles is the stuff of legends. It was the center of Parisian political power in the late 17th Century and was also the home of the royal family until around 1789 (after the beginning of the French Revolution). It also symbolically represents the system of absolute monarchy.
I visited Versailles during my first trip to Paris a couple of summers ago. I first became familiar with the story of Louis XIV in high school. Before my trip, my only tangible association with Versailles was Marie Antionette and “Let them eat cake” and my frame of reference was largely based on movies; like Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film starring Kirsten Dunst. Deep I know.
While staying in Paris I figured that a trip to Versailles would be appropriate. So I made time to go and explore the palace grounds. During the two days that I visited, I realized that walking was not the most efficient way to see the MASSIVE estate (side note: Versailles is not a place that can be seen in 1 day, and two days wasn’t really enough time either). They did have golf carts that you can rent, which was not in my college student budget at the time, but would have been a nice ‘splurge’. If you, like me, opt to walk make sure your shoes are comfy!
My time there was very Eat Pray Love, so I spent most of my day wandering in the palace gardens deep in thought. I found the main palace a bit much and took more pleasure in the tranquility of Queens’ Palace (Petit Trianon).
The Palace of Versailles is a truly magnificent spectacle and I was so happy that I was able to visit and photograph it during my time in France. The two days I spent there acted as a refuge for me, but retrospectively I think about what it must have been like for the people of France to have a symbol of such great opulence in the foreground during a time when the majority of people were experiencing such strife and famine. It’s interesting that we think of Versailles as this symbol of grandiosity, but for the people of France who lived during the height of its notoriety, they probably found it to be the source of great frustrations.
Photography is beautiful in that way because it merely captures a glimpse in time. It tells the story of what we see during that moment in time and discards the ‘before and after’; so one photo can mean different things for different people depending on their point of reference…
I don’t know that I will every go back to Versailles. It was great the first time around but there is so much to see that I found it difficult to really enjoy every aspect of the palace. My suggestion for anyone traveling to France and planning on touring Versailles is to think about what aspects of the palace you really want to see, and then focus on that. When you try to see everything, the quality of the overall experience can easily be diminished. From a photography standpoint, I realize now that there are a lot of wide angles at Versaille so I think my pictures would have been improved if I had a wide framed lens but on en apprend tous les jours.
À plus tard!