(Chateau de Versailles)
I first visited the Palace of Versailles in the winter of 2006 and most recently, in the summer of this year. On both occasions, two words came to mind when I stepped into the Chateau de Versailles. Excessive opulence.
Being the most famous symbol of a French king’s absolute seat of power, the Palace of Versailles has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. But this famous piece of royal property was not always a palace. It was first built as a hunting lodge made of brick and stone by King Louis XIII in 1623 and was later expanded and improved by the next King Louis XIV to become a royal palace and royal residence, followed by two more kings of the same name, King Louis XV and King Louis XVI and their royal courts. The Palace sits on a 721,000 square feet property with over 700 rooms to speak of.
There was a curious and rather funny, but apparently very serious tidbit of information that I learned from our French tour guide. He said that the king’s presence is likened to the powerful symbol of the sun, determining when the day starts and when the day is over for the people when it finally sets in the horizon through a court event called Lever du Roi (Rising of the King). This event is characterized by the rising of the king when the sun comes out from the sky at the break of dawn and starts his routine of waking up, dressing up, taking his breakfast, while the members of his royal court watch him do this routine in the sidelines. This signals to them that their day has also started.
Inside, you will see the King’s Grand Apartment. It is huge and consists of seven rooms designed and dedicated to the seven Greek and Roman mythology gods and goddesses like, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Apollo, etc. Each room has a specific purpose like the buffet room, dancing room or games room. Starting in 1684, the king moved out and lived elsewhere in an area overlooking the Marble Courtyard because these apartments were already used for entertaining royal visitors and audience with the king.
(The King’s Apartment)
Another popular room is the Queen’s Apartment. Almost a mirror image of the king’s apartment but consisting of only four huge rooms occupied by each queen that married into power. Another funny anecdote was that a queen’s bedroom needs to be a really large one for a specific purpose. Whenever a queen is pregnant and is about to give birth, it is imperative that she delivers her baby in a large bed-chamber big enough to accommodate an audience to make sure there is no doubt on the heir’s legitimacy to the throne. It is said that in the queen’s chamber alone, 19 children in total of royal bloodline has been given birth there.
This is also where Queen Marie Antoinette stayed and lived out her public life while she was in Versailles.
(The Queen’s Apartment)
The Hall of Mirrors consists of The War Drawing Room and the Peace Drawing Room occupying an extended, magnificent area (73 meters long x 10.50 meters wide x 12.30 meters high) that overlooks the palatial gardens. Paintings that depict the life of Louis XIV during his reign starting from 1661-1678 are grandly displayed on the vaulted ceiling.
I learned that every day, the king would pass The Hall of Mirrors to attend masses in the chapel and during occasions to visit the queen in her chambers. Also, The Hall of Mirrors is used for a variety of royal events like royal weddings and presentations, as well as large receptions.
One can only take so much cultural and historical information. I felt like I needed a break and looked for a cafe for some food and libations. There was an Angelina Coffee & Tea in the upper floor and they had this gorgeous strawberry tartlette that attracted my eye, perfect with tea. It revived my tired spirits and energized me. It was just what I needed to walk the extra mile to walk around the gorgeous palace ground and gardens out back.
(Strawberry Tartlette from Angelina Coffee and Tea located in the upper floors.)
As we went back to the Hall of Mirrors to finish our exploration, this was the view overlooking the gorgeous palace gardens.
Then it was time to go explore the gorgeous palace gardens that seemed to be calling my name from outside.
This was about 3pm in the afternoon so it was no surprise that people were squinting in the photos and hiding under umbrellas. During this visit though, I noticed that there were many areas in the garden being closed to be fixed and landscaped.
After melting under the heat of the sun, I ran for cover again and went back to the palace to purchase a box of Laduree Macarons from their boutique located inside the Chateau. I went a long way to taste and enjoy this little morsel of colorful desserts that I was not leaving without purchasing a box of it. And it was extra special that I was buying these treats from the historical Chateau de Versailles. A double treat indeed!
If you want to have a taste of this melt-in-your-mouth macarons I have been talking about, they opened a Laduree Boutique in Manila recently. Go and check the place out at Rockwell, G/F 8 Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Makati City.