Versailles parks,Zoo, and the Potager

Moving right along in my wonderful Versailles. There is plenty to see and do here, you just need more time than the just the Castle. I like to tell you a bit about the Arboretum, Bartabas and his horses, the Potager du roi, Parc Balbi , and a bit away but link in my region the parc animalier,chateau de Thoiry.

The city limits has the extension of the Chateau de Versailles in its northern borders way beyond what you normally see at the Grand Canal, here the old domaine now greatly reduce gives way to a forest of trees, it is call the Arboretum de Chévreloup! Created in 1924 it gives you a tour of the world in trees covering an area of 50 hectares ( 123.5 acres). You will follow trails showing trees from far away regions as the Himalaya,Europe,China,Japon,Caucausian range, USA, Canada, etc. You will find a trail of cedar trees from the Atlas mountains, Ecus ,Sequoias, maple syrup erables trees, sycomores,also fruit trees like prunes, apples,and flower trees like paulownias. The total area is 200 hectares (494 acres) but not all open to the public, preserving about 2 500 species of trees. An oasis in Versailles. The best way to go there is from Versailles gare d’Europe by ave Saint Cloud, take bus no 19 to stop Parly II/Arboretum, then just walk across the street; If you are coming straight from Paris at gare rive gauche RER station, there cross the street and take local bus H. The park is open from April 1 to November 15, mondays,wednesdays,saturdays,and sundays from 10h to 18h. Contact tel +33 01 39 55 53 80. official webpage in French

One close to heart is the Académie du spectacle équestre led by its director Bartabas. If you love horses with themes of history you will love it. It is located at the Grande Ecurie of the castle right across the street from pl d’Armes the building to your left. You will see lusitanians horses, high above riders, fencing on a horse, choreographies of many actions and jockey changes by the master Bartabas. There are seances in the mornings call Matinales des Ecuyers with baroque music , you can visit the stables or ecuries or a visit to just the building done by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the architect of the court in 1683, which was renovated for this spectacle in 2003. The stables keep about 40 horses today. Again to get here is the same as to the chateau, from Paris RER C to rive gauche and walk maybe 7-10 mins to it. The info at official webpage programs for 2011 here

Another pastime and great on wednesday market day is the Potager du roi.  At the request of king Louis XIV, gardener Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie made this vegetable/fruit garden between 1678-1683.  It provided the king with its own supplies of veggies well done for his taste. The design is of three central trails of about 3 hectares ( 7,4 acres) divided into 16 squares all around a fountain. At the center of each square, surrounded by fruit trees, you have rounds of vegetables flourishing. You will have a wonderful view of this from the terraces. You will discover about 12 enclosed gardens with its collection of fruit trees where still the art of growing them continues. You can,also, with time take a course in gardening at this wonderful place. The location is at 10 rue du Maréchal Joffre, just in front of the Cathedrale Saint Louis. You can come from Paris on the RER C to rive gauche, take a left to rue du Gal Leclerc and  take left on Maréchal Joffre, about 10 mins walking. It is open from April 1 to October 31 every day except Mondays from 10h to 18h, and from November 1 to March 31 the tuesdays and thursdays from 10h to 13h. However these are the general times, it can change each year see the webpage to follow, admission is 3€ .

One more park I like to mention that is very near the potager du roi is the Parc Balbi. It is part of the historical heritage of the city and very often overlook by visitors, but a wonderful park to visit as well.  You will go to very narrow old streets of old Versailles, the park itselt is 2,6 hectares ( 6.4 acres) and you access it by 12 rue  du Maréchal Joffre.  In 1785 the count of Provence (brother of king Louis XVI , and future king Louis XVIII) and the countess of Balbi buys the land here; touse as enjoyment for the countess Balbi. The garden is done in 1786 by gardener/architect Chalgrin. In 1791 in the French revolution they had to leave, and in 1792 the plants and vegetables, trees of it are taken and transfer to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. After the revolution, many owners pass by the park until finally in 1828 it is sold to the State.  In 1907 the school Jules Ferry is located here and a door had access to the Potager du roi. In 1914 the park is given to the horticulture school., and with the coming of WWI the park is left abandoned, until 1930 again it is renovated.  During WWII the park is again abandoned until 1960 a new plan of renovation takes effect.  Finally in 1982 the park is open to the public all done. It has a cave original from its creation in 1786 deep in the forest of the park, to reach it from the Potager du roi only. Very nice area.  It is open during the school holidays in the area, and normally Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 9h to 17h, sometimes later in summer. The official webpage is this one still not all operational you can see more at the potager du roi webpage above.

Then,we move a bit away from Versailles to go to the central Yvelines my department to see Thoiry. Here you have the Castle and the Park/gardens .  The castle was built in 1559 AD in renaissance style built in only five years! It is still own by the same family! the Count of Panouse! You can visit it alone or guide tour dress for the occasion in period costume. You will hear stories of the belle Angelique and Charles in a romantique story of 6000 pages long of letters. The children can play a game of enigmes or riddles in English, and come out with a diploma passing the test. Open from February to October from 11h to 18h normally but again check the webpage for official details as it may change with the seasons. Then you move on to the park/gardens, it has an African safari reserve with several recreation of mountains and steppes, the animals for a part are free roaming. You can ,also, get lost in one of the biggest laberinth in Europe. The hours here can change with the season so check the official webpage. The best way to come here is by car, as public transport wont reach this deep wood area of the Yvelines. Autoroute A13  direction Rouen, then A12 direction Lyon etc then N12 direction Dreux, take exit Thoiry on the D76 then follow on the D11 direction Thoiry. The webpage tells of a trip on Paris Vision, you can inquiry as never taken it from rue de rivoli in Paris from may to september. official webpage in English here

To eat or stay I suggest the Auberge du Vieux Pressoir, 21 Porte Saint Martin, tel + 33 01 34 87 40 50. No web ,just around from the castle and the church in city center. The cuisine is Italian,and very good. You can,also, spent a couple of days as hotel. The other is the Jardin d’Hiver inside the castle property also good, but I prefer to eat out of town  in the Auberge.

Hope you have some extra ammunition to enjoy my area of Versailles into the real French countryside. Cheers!!!


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