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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