Wednesday 19th September
The Palace of Versailles.
Everybody had warned us of the huge queues that supposedly dominate this attraction, so we planned our day out accordingly, including a recce bike ride to the Palace entrance last night to time our attack.
With tickets bought online, (including beat the line) we arrived at the castle gates almost as the doors opened at 9.00am, sorted as pretty much no queue, in fact took longer to get through security than it did to get into the Palace, with the Free Audio Guide firmly in place off we set dodgeing our way between tour bus groups. Now I have spent this whole blog since starting trying to be politically correct and not putting ethnic titles on “tour groups”, unfortunately I have to be a little less discreet here as there is one type of group that makes this sort of place f$%&#@g hard work.
That group no matter what their age demographic have to without fail have their photo taken by another member of either their family or wider tour group in front of each and every thing. Now this seems a little thing to get on ones wick but a couple of further observations to this ritual :-
A, Each tour group numbers about 45 – 50 depending upon the size of the bus.
B, each member of the above tour group must go through the same process
C, the process itself involves a huge amount of “getting the right pose” which varies between the side on “god I’m georgeous” or the just stand in front of it “hurry up I’m not getting any younger and there is another glass case just there that I need to see” types.
D, the results of each said pose above then have to be evaluated and either deleted done again until satisfactory results are obtained, or ohh and ahh’d about and in most cases posted to social media.
E, I forgot to mention the positioning for each of these shots, if it’s a painting or something in a museum then the photographee needs to stand right in front of it while the photographer finds the need to stand as far back from said subject as possible, usually the other side of the isle.
However if it’s a landmark say a fountain a monument of even a side of a building the photograhee moves around like a demented rabbit to enable final shot to be a full length portrait with a halo of the said landmark.
Unfortunatley this is all done with quite a lot of “jibba jabba” from the tour guide who is obviously on the clock, “8 countries 24 cities in 14days”.
Probably reading back on this now we haven’t helped this process by inadvertently on purpose “photo bombing” many of these shoots.
Oh that’s right we were talking about the Palace of Versailles, yep pretty cool place, very big very grand and quite funny how each generation of the Royals put their own mark on it in terms of period architecture.
Versailles is also a huge collection of artwork, mostly portrait type of the various royals and their subsequent wars.
Moving out into the grounds and gardens was much better, there is just over 850ha of grounds here and about ½ of that is in some form of garden or park type setting. Unfortunately for us is that it is very very dry here, (Hawkes Bay Summer Dry, bordering on drought) and the obviously magnificent fountains (all 600 of them) aren’t going. We have since heard that they are supposed to run at 6.30PM each night, but someone obviously forgot to tell the guy in charge we were there to see them.
The grounds contain the Palace itself and then 3 other smaller residences “holiday homes” as well as a “Farming Hamlet”. These buildings are spread between incredible spaces of symmetrical gardens formed either side of the grand canal.
The grand canal area is a public place and was certainly being enjoyed by tourists and locals alike in the sunny afternoon. We spent a hilarious hour sitting on the grass watching various “couples going through the whole courtship routine on the rowboats. It does however seem that rowing a boat is no longer a skill that can be taken for granted in the modern population.
Part of the palace tour also involved a visit to the old Grand Stable building which now houses the collection of Royal Horse Drawn carriages and harness. This was pretty cool and the sheer opulence quite incredible.
So day 1 finished with a quiet beer in a bar beside the Grand Canal and a move of Miss Stella away from the direct line of “bus corner”.