When I first saw the statue of Louis XIV commanding his horse, I felt intimidated. Even with all of the tourists and the decades that have passed, the sense of power emitting from this statue remains palpable. Clearly, the first image one sees before entering Versailles still has the effect Louis XIV always wanted.
This week, my two sisters and mother are visiting Paris from Chicago. This is my sisters’ first time here, but my mom accompanied me to this wonderful city eight years ago. Even though it is a little out of the way, I made sure they visited Versailles. When traveling to the chateau, weather plays a huge factor because the gardens are absolutely breathtaking. We could not have been luckier in this category. However, perfect weather goes hand-in-hand with long lines at a site like Versailles. While standing in line, we were all taken aback by the amount of gold that covered every inch of the property. Louis XIV made sure every detail was perfect, and this included small ornaments of Louis’ face inside a sun. The color? Gold. Although there was a line that snaked through the whole outer-section of the chateau, the inner courtyard was relatively empty. Once we made it inside, we were shocked by the lack of people.
The fact that we waited in line for an hour but had plenty of space to take photos and wander in amazement inside the castle speaks to its colossal size. I loved relaxing with my sisters in the very center Versailles. We were transported back into time when we imagined Louis XIV glaring down on us and determining if we were noble enough to enter his manor. My favorite room inside the chateau was the king’s bedroom overlooking the front courtyard. It is located directly in the center of his house, and this was certainly no mistake. I initially thought it was small for how famous the room is. I pictured all of the nobles anxiously waiting for the king to rise, but I could not imagine how several people would fit in his bedroom. I guess this goes to show how much of an honor it truly was to see the king wake up because there was not a lot of space in the coveted bedroom. After touring the interior of the castle and a quick lunch, it was time to head outside.
It is impossible to overstate how far the gardens stretch. Pressed for time, we decided to rent a golf-cart to see as much as possible. In the future, I want to walk some and then rent a bike to explore all of the little passages and secrets the gardens hold. One thing I did not expect was the amount of locals that came to the gardens to picnic and enjoy the scenery. I did not know the back gardens were open to cars, but it makes complete sense once you understand how far the gardens reach. I appreciated the fact that even at a location as touristy as Versailles, hundreds of French citizens use the gardens as a place of relaxation and tranquility. My favorite part of the whole day was walking through the woods to the large lake in the center of the gardens. Here, my sisters and I did not say a word. Instead, we took in the trees, the boats, and the hundreds of smiling faces.
If you ever get the chance to visit Paris, I highly recommend taking the RER to Versailles. While it may seem out of the way, you get a sense of how powerful France and Louis XIV truly were during his reign. Finally, it is a great place to take a blanket, a bottle of wine and a baguette to enjoy the luscious gardens and acres of pure serenity.
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<p>My name is Jonathan Skewes, and I am an advertising major at Pennsylvania State University. I have studied French for six years, and it is one of my true passions. I also enjoy playing soccer and discovering different cultures and countries.</p>