Although the forecast was showers we went ahead with our plan to visit the Palace of Versailles gardens. We have visited the Palace a few times previously so decided against battling the crowds to view the stunning interior of the Palace again.
Upon arriving at the gates to Versailles we were amazed by the huge crowds, a sea of umbrellas and the huge carpark absolutely full of tour coaches. We certainly made the right decision to view the gardens as spending hours in a queue is not our idea of fun. This is certainly one place you need to pre-purchase your tickets and preferably not visit in the height of the tourist season.
Entrance to the gardens is free except on the weekend when the fountains are in operation albeit on a timed basis as there is not enough water to run them all simultaneously. It is well worth visiting to enjoy this beautiful spectacle as some of the fountains are set to classical music which plays as the fountains of water dance in time to the music. The fountains are spread out over a huge space with the palace as their backdrop and the Grand Canal stretching out in the forefront.
The gardens are now one of the most visited public sites in France, receiving more than six million visitors a year. In addition to the fountains, parterre gardens of flowers, acres of lawns and thousands of topiary trees are the magnificent sculptures which are located throughout the gardens. The sculptures are mainly from marble with their white colour standing out from the green walls of the neatly trimmed hedges and beautiful aisles of mature trees, manicured hedges and rows of topiary trees. Other brass sculptures are in the 50 fountains of the gardens with some of them very large and intricately detailed and when flowing with water are absolutely grand.
We decided to walk around the Grand Canal which is beautifully set amongst manicured lawns and mature aisles of trees and edged with wide pathways the entire way round. We estimate it is 5-6 kilometres around the canal as it is very long and has two cross channels from each side of the main canal. The walk around was very relaxing as the forests beside the lake are so lush and green with mature trees everywhere and climbing vines covering many of the trees. There were many tourists rowing boats which made a pretty picture with others cycling in large groups all enjoying the tranquility of the gardens. During our loop we came across the smaller chateau the Trianon which was built so King Louis XIV could escape the 6000 courtiers in the main palace areas. Another chateau the Petit Trianon was built in the grounds for Marie Antoinette. Each of these areas was crowded with visitors. It is said that over 30,000 labourers worked for 50 years to complete the Palace and the cost nearly drained the French coffers. Looking at the Palace and gardens we can believe it as everything is on a huge scale and to the highest possible standard and no expense was spared in any way.
The Versailles estate now is around 800 hectares and is used as a recreation area for the French, as well as tourists, with the gardens and forest walks very popular for picnics and family gatherings as well as cycling and jogging for the enthusiastic people. The estate is meticulously maintained and is a credit to the French people and a pleasure for all visitors who make the trip to see it. Another enjoyable day on our grand tour.