Archive for October 29th, 2017

October 29, 2017

The Chateau de Versailles, exteriors

I am back on the nostalgic Sunday. My Versailles is sublime, can’t go a day without thinking of it, visited many many times over the years and again next month; however, living there for 10 years was tops. A royal chic town with friendly folks and history all around you, France, Europe, the World. Unique

I have done posts on Versailles of different kinds over the years but now will do one on simply the exteriors of the palace/museum of Versailles. The architecture is phenomenal and the look from any angle in the city is awesome.

We know from history, that the first mentioned of Versailles goes back to 1038AD as was mentioned belong to the Abbey of Saint Pére of Chartres. From 1607 , king Louis XIII age 6 does his first hunting in the area.  In 1623 king Louis XIII has a serious sickness and need spiritual seclusion when he decides to built a modest manor hunting house of brick and stone on top of a summit in the plains of Versailles  on the road going from Versailles to Trianon , a site called Val-de-Galie

In April 8 1632 king Louis XIII buys the whole property of the Domaine of Versailles from Jean-François de Gondi, the Bishop of Paris. He ordered construction of a nice royal mansion on site and works continue until he passes away. His son , the next King Louis XIV  that was only 4 years old, too young to govern he is chaperone by the regency of Anne of Austria and the construction stop for 18 years!  We know that the future king Louis XIV did his first visit to Versailles in October 1641 with his brother (future Louis XV) to evade an epidemic of chickenpox that was affecting his castle home at Saint-Germain-en-Laye (favorite because he was born here). We know too, that he came back again in 1651 and thereafter more often ,continuing to improved the hunting mansion from 1660-1664. The improvements continue on the period of  1664-1668 where the need to improved the housing is essential for the parties done by the Court especially the famous parties of pleasure of the enchanted island!!!  There is another period from 1669-1672 where the wars are going and the treaties are signed here like the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ending the war of devolution. At this time the palace begins to take the shape as we know it today.

In the period 1678-1684 the  treaty of Nimégue puts an end to the war of Holland and starts the next construction wave on the castle. Now we do the  galerie des glaces (gallery of mirrors) and its twin rooms the salon de la Guerre and the salon de la Paix and the wings of the noble and princes as well as middle wing and huge work on the gardens  as well the decorations in the Grands appartements.  A bit after the defeat in the war of the league of Augsbourg (1688-1697) and under the influence of Madame de Maintenon, king Louis XIV begins the 4th construction wave to the castle from 1699-1710. The Royal Chapel , appartement du roi or kings apartments and the salon du l’oeil-de-boeuf and the bedroom of the king. After these construction the work is stopped as well as the king Louis XIV died.  The brother king Louis XV born in Versailles, in 1710 too young to rule yet alone. His tutor Philippe d’Orléans or regent leave Versailles to be house in the Palais Royal and the court of Tuileries in Paris; it was even suggested to demolished the castle at this time by the duke of Noailles.  He goes on to do three projects here the finished of the Grand Appartement, the renovations of the salon d’Hercule, basin de Neptune, and the extra building the Royal Opéra.

Under King Louis XVI, the improvement continue to create the most luxurious palace in the world, even with a budget.  The Petit Trianon is done for the Queen Marie-Antoinette,by 1777 a wonderful library inspired by Louis XVI; 1783 the cabinet doré is done,  as Louis XVI wanted an exposition room with in 1788 exposition of his personal purchases the cabinet des papillons (butterflies).  After the French revolution the palace suffers greatly and many items are destroyed or sold. The Imperial period of France under Napoléon Ier brings back some of its glory 1799-1814 period in which even Pope Pie VII came to crown the emperor Napoléon Ier and blessed the crowd from a window in the gallery of mirrors . In 1805, the emperor visits the chateau and decides to stop the renovation in it by choosing the Grand Trianon for residence.

The restoration of the crown from 1814-1830 under the youngest of the Louis still alive, King Louis XVIII continues cautiously the restoration known the history of his family and this work is continue by the youngest brother and final bourbon king of France Charles X. From 1830-1870 king of the French Louis Philippe tried to save the castle by doing it as a palace/museum with the motto « À toutes les gloires de la France », to all the glories of France. During the period 1870 under emperor Napoleon III, he only comes to the palace in commemorating the victories of Crimea and Italy but nevertheless is attach to keep the palace in the best condition possible. In 1855 he dines with the Queen Victoria of England in the gallery of mirrors.  The imperatrice Eugénie who follows the cult of Marie Antoinette (as a saint in progress)  provides an additional push to save it and under her influence at the Universal Exposition of 1867 most of the furniture is restituted to the palace of Versailles.

The castle today is an expression of the very best of France. The cours or courts in the front numbered 3 . If you see them from the Place d’Armes facing the city on the threesome avenue de Saint Cloud, avenue de Paris, and avenue de Sceaux.  At the place d’Armes you see an equestrian statue of king Louis XIV.  From this square you pass by the Grille d’Honneur to reach the biggest court that of the cour d’Honneur then comes the Grille Royale that closes the access to the cour Royale. At the end of this court you see five marbres where you find the cour de Marbre all done in black and white marbre.

You follow the building by the central body of the palace, including the Grands Appartements of the castle ,of the king, gallery of mirrors, and grand appartement of the queen, the apartment of the king, small apartment of the king, and the small apartment of the queen.  Follow the apartments of the ladies, lower gallery, apartment of the heir or dauphin and dauphine, apartment of the captain of the guards, the small apartments, interior cabinets of the queen and the apartments of madame du Barry, marquise de Pompadour, and the Count of Maurepas.

Then, the aile du midi or middle wing  including the gallery of battles, congress room, gallery of high south stones, and lower south stones. This then follow the aile du nord or north wing, including Royal Chapel of the chateau, south side, the Royal opera of the chateau north side, the rooms of the 17C, rooms of the 19C, and the crusades rooms, the gallery of high north stones and lower stones north.

You have the gardens (see other post) and the park as well. Then, other buildings such as the Petite Ecuries and Grande Ecuries across the street, the Grand Commun (domestic help housing in the time of the kings and recently renovated) for short, the real name is the « Grand Carré des Offices – commun du Roi, de la Reine, de Monseigneur, de Madame la Dauphine » built 1682-1684  ,to the right of the castle looking out ,and the Ailes des Ministres or Ministers wing.

You,also, have the Grand Trianon, built in 1689 in marble. Petit Trianon, built from 1749 under the influence of the marquise de Pompadour step back from the Grand Trianon. In 1774, Louis XVI offered it to Marie-Antoinette that changes the lieu and had built other construction such as the sculptures of the Temple de l’Amour, Pavillon du rocher or Belvédère, and the royal Théâtre, all done between 1777-1779, as well as the gate or porte Saint-Antoine, built in 1786 near the Hameau.  The Pavillon français is built in 1749-1750.

The Ménagerie was built between 1662-1664.  This was done in the route leading from Versailles to Saint-Cyr, at the extremity south of the Grand Canal. There is a monumental gate going to the ferme de Gally where my boys enjoyed coming to see some of the descendant animals of the Royal period.

The castle is huge and very much a must to see in Versailles or when in the area. However, remember Versailles is the royal historical town of France, there is a lot more than the castle… Enjoy the post and the photos, have a great Sunday ,Salut!!!

October 29, 2017

The gardens of the Chateau de Versailles

It has been a while for my beloved city, where I spent my first 10 years in France. Versailles is unique, not only because of the castle palace museum but the Royal city itself is magical, a charm of old with trés chic ambiance, something clean away from Paris. Do not confuse Versailles with Paris is a world apart. Versailles is department 78 Yvelines , western administrative part of the region of île de France.

I give you the city of Versailles historical context in English info page:  history of Versailles

And the tourist office of Versailles tourist office Versailles

And the part on gardens page of the Chateau/Museum de Versailles: gardens Chateau de Versailles

All essential readings to know this magical royal town of France. Be at the  best for the visit.

We used to go with the boys by the porte Saint Antoine off ave de Versailles and go in by the Hameau of Marie Antoinette for free, wondered in the park and gardens and jog, ride a bike or just plain walk amongst kings/queens. Awesome.  You too can do it. Just take bus 19 at ave Saint Cloud and blvd de l’Europe direction les Mureaux and stop at Arboretum(old park of Versailles kings planted the trees used to be part of the domaine of Versailles/Parly II (great shopping center too); walk down about 300 meters and get on the gate of Saint Anthony or Porte Saint Antoine! More here: Bus 19 to porte Saint Antoine Versailles

Of course, you can come to the front door, lots more crowds to the gardens and if no event like the water musicals is on ,you can come in for free too on certain days like Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can also cut across the rue des Reservoirs on the right side of the castle with a bit less crowds. And always if plan to go inside the castle buy your tickets in advance and be there early at opening.

There are imaculate parterres, great basins, an orangery, a vast collection of outdoor sculpture and some of the grandest fountains which have ever been made. The park and garden were designed by Andre Le Nôtre between 1661 and 1700. There are about 386 works of art that makes the gardens like an outdoor museum , includes 221 statues that are with magnificient features: huge parterres, an orangery, famous fountains (which operate….), rich bosquets (ornamental groves), a 1.8 km cruciform canal. The Grand Trianon, another formal garden, was built on the site of a former village. The Petit Trianon was given to Marie-Antoinette in 1774. She favoured the irregular style, with hills, rocks and streams. The Hameau was designed in 1785, as a stage village, for Marie-Antoinette to play with her friends in the idle years before the French Revolution. One particular one often bypass but a must to see is the cave or grotte de Thétys finished in 1670; the cave were done to make believe of the illusion of Apollon as the Greeks had it was the place of where god rests after taking his chariot to enlighten the sky; this cave was isolated from the castle . At the interior, there are motifs of shells to re create a marine cave with statues representing the Sun god believed by Nereides in the central group and horses guards of Tethys the other two auxiliary groups. From a point of view of the hydraulics of the gardens this cave plays a major role; the ceilings had a reserve that kept the water pumped from the lake of Clagny to feed by gravity the fountains in the gardens!

Other attempts with great architecture efforts were tried to feed the gardens of Versailles. In 1682, the machine de Marly (towns of Marly-le-Roi and Louveciennes) and the aqueduct of Louveciennes the latest technology of the 17C were done to link the waters of the Seine river to the Castle and Marly. They were done to replace the windmills cave system that a weak pressure water to feed Versailles; only feeding up to Marly. The need to find a solution continues.  The construction of the Canal de l’Eure was started to direct the waters of the Eure river to the Seine and to Versailles! with a system of aqueducts. There was wars that stop for good this work. Versailles stayed been fed by a system of gravity done with aqueducts like the one at Buc, built between 1684-1686. They had the advantage of never needing upskeep; a total of 30 km of canalisations with lead and melted steel was done in the gardens and 40 kms of underground aqueduct existed at the time to feed the bassins and water spouts of the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles.  Practically, about a third of the cost to built the Chateau was used to feed it with water!!!

During the old regime, the property was much bigger indeed, things the revolution do not want to tell much; do you know? The Domaine de Versailles was done in two sections, one was called the Grand Parc ; this is the region of bushes that encircle today the castle and the town of Versailles (partly walled) , and the Petit Parc, the part surrounded by a wall that were developed into gardens à la Française near the castle.  Today, this division still exists but call differently of course… There is the Grand Parc now call the Parc de Versailles including the green spaces that belongs to the Domaine de Versailles (bushes, fields, garden of the castle of Trianon , and Versailles castle. The Petit Parc, today includes under the Jardin de Versailles all located east of the castle and west of the basin du char d’Apollo, to the north the basin de Neptune,and to the south the Orangerie, and includes the gardens à l Française near the castle.

One of the highlights for me besides the famous statues and fountains in the garden park is the Grand Canal and the rental boats! fun for the whole family that we enjoyed tremendously. It has a length of 1 500 meters and a width of 62 meters built between 1668 and 1671 given a long view of the axis east to west until the Petit Parc.  Here, king Louis XIV ordered the construction of the Petite Venise located at the crossing of the transversal part of the Grand Canal housing the yachts and caravelles boats received from the Netherlands and housing as well the gondolas received as gifts from the Doge of Venice . The  Grand Canal  is located at a low point in the gardens and received the water trickling in from the fountains ; this water was pumped into a network of windmills pumps that were place on top the cave of Thétys to feed the fountains in a closed circuit.

I have to tell that the garden were saved from the French revolution in 1792, when by orders of the national convention many trees were taken down and some parts of the Grand Parc were sold. seeing  a menace to the survival of the gardens , Louis-Claude Marie Richard director of the botanical gardens and grandson of Claude Richard had pleas to the revolutionary government to save the gardens, and eventually he succeeded opening them to the general public. The hospital of Versailles bears his name . The Napoleonic eras ignored for the most part the castle and gardens. The Restauration of the Bourbons in 1814 made the first renovations to the gardens after the revolution; by 1817 king Louis XVIII (brother of Louis XVI) ordered two bosquets ,those of bosquet de l’Île du Roi , and the bosquet du  Miroir d’Eau , both changed into English style gardens to form the garden of the king or le Jardin du Roi.  Finally, the whole complex were saved by king of the French Louis-Philippe(not king of France (difference)) by 1837 under the museum of the history of France ; of which the property is today, a lot more than a castle.

As you read above there is a huge number of statues, and fountains, forest like design spots to really enjoy the property for a whole day alone. Versailles proper as the Domaine of Versailles needs more than a day to visit ,really! Impossible to tell you all here.

Another part of the castle property I love is the Orangerie; located in the parterre du Midi right along the road N10 that goes into Versailles and then into Paris as the old carriage way of the kings entering Paris is the D910 into avenue de Versailles along the Seine…!! The Orangerie is done with a central gallery of 155 meters long surrounded by two lateral galleries located on top of the stairs or escaliers des Cent Marches (Stair of 100 steps) that front the before mentioned road. It has a high of 13 meters and contains more than 1000 trees, oranges, lemons, grenades of which some are centenaries, also, roses all with great big windows. The trees produces fruits and they are shown outside from mid May to mid October each year, weather permitting.

Well , hope this helps, I know is a general view but with so many rather give you the hint ,the will to visit it, you will be glad as millions have! Cheers and enjoy your Sunday!

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October 29, 2017

My travels in the Morbihan XXXVIIII

And on a nice sunny weekend of end October 2017 I write to you about the department 56 Morbihan of Brittany, France!  As I write the temps is 13C and tonight we change the hour , back so 17h or 5pm tomorrow will be 16h or 4pm !! This is something never understood ,we seems to like differences all over when instead we should be more equal.

We did some errands today as usual ,and since I like to share our daily life in France away from the glamour blogs and the idea ,we do not have all dresses like YSL, this is  a continuation of our stories.

We went to Vannes ,is not only the capital city of the department but the main town in everything. In fact, sometimes I think it is the only town lol!!! Well mine is only 7K folks and laidback peacefulness great for family life. We do not complaint.

We got up early by 8h and went to do our banking, taken some cash for the morning market (even if many take bank cards we like the old fashion way in the markets). We went straight to the Marché or market day in the place du poids public in Vannes.

We arrive and parked by the underground parking  République at place de la République just crossing rue Thiers we are in the market; the whole day stay cost only 1,60€ !!!

Once in the market we know our merchants of many visits to we headed straight for our cheese provider the couple Ménacer, and we got our farm made Brie de Meaux, goat cheese from our area, and ewes cheese from the Basque pyrénées ; of course these cheeses have nothing to do with what you get in the supermarket even here in culinary France there are differences. The industrial revolution still going on it seems, and many goods in supermarket match any in the world. Once you get to the farm traditional produce products ,then France moves full steam ahead of all.

After tasting some of the cheeses, and purchase done, we move ahead to our fruit and vegetables stand of folks from nearby area of Séné. Here we got raspberries, blackberries, black grapes, mangos, clementines, pears, and figs. Some already tasted at home and they are sublime!!!

Here , we went not far into the place de Poissonnerie and the Halle aux Poissons or fish market open on Saturdays and great fish and seafood from nearby coasts all fresh and good ,delicious. We went to our local provider from penvins mussels bouchot the very best from our region for 4kg or about 9 lbs.

Once loaded with the goodies, we need to find something to wash it down. Of course, our wine merchant is right there in the Place du poids public ,Nicolas. We load up with about 24 bottles of the liquid red and white to bring to our cellar. The service is always friendly and helpful as the staff already knows us all well.

Finish the tasks, we headed home but continue to do some errands in Vannes. Stopping by the centre commercial Carrefour, we check into the micromania video games store to check on orders, then, the pharmacy there to put to date our health cards, and Carrefour hypermarket to buy some sauces that are needed lol!

And the roundtrip was done. All good and happy we headed back home to cook some good stuff for tonight and tomorrow Sunday, a day of family rest in Breton lands… We are headed into the end of October, some Halloween decorations in the stores are in order but here the celebrations are minimal , much more in Paris. And we are heading to November, where Thanksgiving here is none, some in Paris. Christmas is the big time here and we are ready with some ideas and hoping my wallet is not ruin lol!!!

Stay tune for more goodies in 2017, and you all have a great Sunday wherever you are. Happy travels and good health and cheers to all. Salut

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