We went to Versailles this weekend. We walked across the Jardin des Plantes to Gare D’Austerlitz and grabbed the “fast train” (as the kids say)–the RER C. It was a fun 45 minute ride all the way to the end of the line. The kids like these trains because they have two tiers of seats and sitting up on the top level seems like a treat. It’s a short, 10 minute walk from the train station. About halfway there you turn a corner and you can see the entrance–it’s one of those sights that you can’t help being impressed by even if you’ve seen pictures. The scale is so grand and the presentation so dramatic, I think everyone picked up their pace at least a little.
And then you see the dozens of tour busses and the hundreds of people standing in line. And you realize you should have bought tickets online in advance. Oh no. A 90+ minute wait for tickets with two kids? Oh no. But look…there is no line at all for tickets to the park (8 euro for adults, kids are free). And we had actually hurried to catch the train that would get us there in time to see the fountains in all their splendor (11 am). So we bought tickets for the gardens and decide we’d see how we felt after an hour or so in the park. Given that we live in Paris it would be easy to come back.
After about 2 hours in the gardens and not even halfway through, it was pretty clear that constitutes a full day (at least if you have 2 kids with you). It was really amazing–the kids were impressed, especially with the view out to the grand canal. We wandered past the Orangerie (inaccessible but beautiful to look at) and through the Bosquet de la Reine, we saw the fountain of Bacchus (and for some reason thought of Rob) and the Bassin de Cérès (goddess of cereal 🙂 ) and more statues than you can imagine. We really loved the Collonade with it’s sculpture depicting the myth of Persephone.
But the Grand Canal was the highlight for the kids. We picked up some sandwiches and pizza slices (and chocolate croissant) and rented a rowboat. Did you know you can rent a boat and go out on the Grand Canal? It costs (13 euros per hour) but how are you really going to say “no”? And the viewes of the Chateau and the Parc from the middle of the canal are fantastic. It was a nice rest for everyone (except me, who did most of the rowing) and we were very refreshed for the walk back to the train station, with no regrets at not having gone inside. By this time the fountains had long been off (not to turn on again until 3:30, I think) and the garden is still enjoyable without the fountains. But definitely time your visit so you get to see the fountains on.
We’ll be going back to see the chateau (probably during the winter) and I expect to be strong-armed into another rowing trip. Things could be worse. This is a big realization–we live here now and can go back “anytime.” We don’t have unlimited time, of course, and sooner or later we’ll be short on time. But right now we’re feeling no pressure to rush about and see everything at once. It really is a big difference and a great pleasure.