Versailles, a lot more than a castle!!!

Yes! I have been telling the world about this! I used to lived there and have many posts on the city and its monuments, so this update will be black and white only. I like to share from several posts condense into one, the other things to see in my beloved Versailles. Of course, the individual monuments here have already a place in my blog with pictures.

As I was saying, this is the town I live for almost 9 years, and now in the Morbihan of Bretagne for about the same length of time. The 98%  of folks coming over do so to see the palace or Chateau de Versailles, actually the Domaine de Versailles as it includes other buildings than the castle; this from a city survey of visitors. However, there is a lot more to see in the City of Versailles.  For those history buffs,like me,  the Domaine de Versailles is the old name, where the castle was, and it included 807 hectares of land vs the 37 of today! I know history is of the victorious…

However, this is the place where any changes to the French constitution must take place, any amendments needs to be carry out here.The entire French government is move here including the President, last was in 2009. It was here that the constitution was done and by the constitution all changes must happenned here. So for this while the city becomes the de facto Capital of France.

The first I have written about it is the Collegiale Church Notre Dame , the first church of Versailles , done from 1684-1686 ,  keeping the heights on building demanded by Louis XIV, where all the baptismal and birth records of the children of the royal families are kept. This is at 35  rue de la Paroisse, just from the statue of king Louis XIV in front of castle to your left you will see it.

Coming more to city center see 4 rue Saint Julien the old post office building, Hôtel des Postes, done in 1752.  poste comes from the word where the stables were kept to relay one horse to another and assuring the transport of passengers. There were 1320 postes and in 1795 took five days to Bordeaux and 125 pounds of money equivalent to a year salary by an artisan of the times.  For 15 days delay the price was 50 pounds.  in main city at 21 avenue de paris you see today the chamber of commerce building, orginal done in 1751 call Hôtel de Georges-Réné Binet . In 1771 the countess of Barry was the last owner, used to house her domestic service! When Louis XV died in 1774 she needed to leave Versailles, the brother of the king the Count of Provence buys the building, the countess was guillotine in 1793.

You ,also, can ask to see at the tourist office the dining room or Salle à manger de l’hôtel de la préfecture et du département, 11-13 avenue de Paris. built in 1863-1867, on the old dog pan of Louis XIV. In march 18 1871 Adolphe Thiers makes the escape from Paris and established here the seat of government. In 1873 McMahon is name president of France here. In 1875 Jules Grévy is the last name here after it was moved back to Paris in 1879. Just a nice walk up from the castle.

Going over the other side at 73 avenue de Saint Cloud, you see the door portical of the Chapelle des Augustine or couvent de la reine, her in 1766 the queen Maire Lesczynska creates a school for ladies, and gives over to the augustinian order, she died before done in 1768 but her daughters continue the work, and the school was opened in 1772. Today is the famous lycée Hoche or high school.  You can see the chapelle de l’hôpital royal de Versailles or Hôpital Richaud at 78 blvd de la reine. Done in 1779, it was Louis XIII that made it into a hospital at rue de la paroisse,then Louis XIV transfer it to the current place,and ordered in 1670 an even bigger hospital under the authority of the religious order of Saint Vincent de Paul. Now a huge private project turn it into a luxurious condo apartment place, leaving the chapel instact!

Right closer to the castle at 13 rue des reservoirs, you see the wonderful theater Théatre de Montansier and its beautiful salle or salon.  Opened in 1777 in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoniette. Her real name Marguerite Brunet dite La Montansier, who went on to do other theaters such as that of Théatre des Variétés in Paris, she managed still in 1819 at the age of 89!

We move up to nearer the castle at 7 rue des reservoirs ( nice street side entrance to castle), here you see the old Hôtel de Madame de Pompadour, on the side of the opera royal inside the castle you will see this building; built in 1752; the later owner in 1875 turn it into a hotel the Grand Hotel des Reservoirs, a very prestigious address in the early 20C. Diplomats of the III Républic to Emile Zola stayed here.

Moving up on the Montreuil district see the wonderful Maison des Musiciens Italiens at 15 rue Champ-Lagarde, where the Italian musicians ordered to play to louis XIV stayed. They came for the first time in 1710, and the king made renovate a house done between 1686-1692 renovation done in 1752. The garden done by Louis Guillaume Le Monnier in 1762, became friend of the court and Louis XVI, creates the bosquet de la reine in 1775 at the castle gardens, and name first doctor of the king in 1789; he came back after the revolution to this place where he died in 1799 at age of 92!

Way up on avenue de paris at no 111 you see the house or Pavillon de Musique de Madame, crossing avenue Chauchard. Done by the countess of Provence sister in law of Louis XVI, Marie Josephine de Savoie,came to established in 1780. She addes an English park , artificial mountain, and chinese pagodas, dairy farms etc, and lake in 1784. Last owner was Alfred Chauchard, the owner of the old stores Grands magasins du Louvre, that finally bequested to the city in 1902. The only condition is that his statue is clean and maintain in perpeauty.

Across from here entering from the above property or at 73bis avenue de Paris, you see the  Maison de Madame Elizabeth,  in 1776 Louis XVI buys the house for his sister Madame Elizabeth at the age of 19. She makes parties and teach girls of lesser means, creates a charity for the sick and became known as the Bonne dame de Montreuil, or the good lady of the neighborhood of Montreuil. She convince Louis XVI to buy the village into Versailles in 1787.  She, also, fares bad in the French revolution ,guillotine in 1794 just for speaking out in defense of her brother. She is in process for sainthood, see the Church St Elizabeth in town.

You go to the other neighborhood of Versailles at Saint Louis, you see the Cathedral de Saint Louis, ,named after the king and saint Saint Louis, and cathedral since 1790, another gem that needs to be visit at 4 pl Saint Louis.

See the fountain at place saint Louis by the cathedrale, done in 1766  fed by waters from the machine de marly and hill or butte de picardie worked until 1964!! later was found the water not of good quality and the water came from Croissy sur Seine that feeds the city with water and now of better quality since 1896 until today. You now see a plaque that tells you of this story there. Nearby at the Carre à la Terre, you see the Porte d’Angle, history tell us that from 1750 the relationship between Madame de Pompadour and Louis XV were common. they organise meeting at parc aux cerfs, not sure still but historians thinks it was around 82 rue d’Anjou or 4 Rue Saint Médéric behind a door at an angle in wood, such as the one describe here, porte d’angle.

Next to the Cathedrale Saint Louis there is a building adjoint , it is the Chapelle des Catéchisme ou de la providence, at place Saint Louis.  Done by donation from Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry the chapel was done in 1764.  the architecture is similar to the Church of Saint Symphorien.

You go a favorite area of mine, the Parc Balbi, a deal by the Count of Provence (king ‘s brother) and his mistress Countess of Balbi in 1785. a beautiful picturesque English park with a chinese twist, very nice, and great for families at 12 rue du Maréchal Joffre, on the side of the Potager du roi.

Another nice neighborhood very much neglected houses the third church of Versailles ,that of  Church of  Saint Symphorien, at 2 pl Saint Symphorien in the Montreuil district. And many more see posts on churches.

We move on to a more royal site at the Maison Modéle, building of the Pavillon des Sources at 11 rue Carnot, water came to the city from the forest of Marly and Chesnay since 1682, this house dating from 1683 ,is the first to follow Louis XIV buildings heights in the city, and the reservoir in it worked for two centuries! In 1866 the building becomes a housing site as any other to be live.  There is a plaque in the front door,  that tells you of this message.

We go back to rue Carnot and at no 5 you can see a building, this is the Ecuries de la Reine or the Queen’s stables. done in 1682, here were the first stables of the king later of the queen in 1682 to Marie Thérese of Austria (the  Spanish queen of Louis XIV).  The king and queen loves horses, and one time there were 2300 in the city until the revolution.  Not horses but fruits and vegetables were found at the Potager du roi, by 10 rue du Marechal Joffre. next to the Cathedrale de Saint Louis. This was done between 1678-1683 and a statue of its keeper  Jean Baptiste de La Quintinie in 1876. The best products were served at the court, and still you can see the where the rest was given to the needy at 2 rue Hardy where there is still the trap on the door that the food was given out

Moving over to the other side by ave de Sceaux and rue satory there is a edge street call rue de la chancellerie and here at no 24 there is the Hôtel de la chancellerie where now there is the music conservatory. Done between 1699-1714,  this is the area where at the time most of the nobles and courtisans of the court lived.

Just around the castle and many wonderful things found like the first tennis court in France is the Grand Commun ,where the common people that worked in the castle lived. Just around the corner, at the angle of rue des récollects and rue saint julien, you see the Portail de l’église des récollects, which first stone was put in by Louis XIV in 1684, to replace the church destroyed to built the Grand Comun ,call church of Saint Julien. This was an old order of the welcome order or recueillis that were established in Versailles from 1670.

Right on the right side of the castle when looking at it is the rue Robert de Cotte; I drive by it every day or every time in the city, you see here the Chateau d’eau or the water services of the city.  They were once serve the splinkers of the fountain of the castle , still inside there is a huge barrel or cube of 1200 cubic meters carry high by stone column 13 meters high, built in 1684, to stock the water from the hill or butte de Montbauron, the water was suck out in about 41 minutes!!! and filled up again. you can still see the inscription at 1 rue Robert de Cotte, Service des eaux, at the entrance to the street rue Peintre Lebrun. you can still see the arch door , looking like a house building today. Here lived the fountain keeper, the engineer in charge of the fountains was François Francine and he lived at 14 rue Hoche not far from the house of André le Notre who lived in no 16, today both houses are gone.

You go to the other side now, at 4-6 rue de l’independance americaine to see the old hôtel de la Surintendance des Bâtiments du roi, the house or building of the builders of Versailles, done in 1683, after the French revolution the last in charge of buildings in Versailles left in exile to Germany ,but the wife remains inside until her passing in 1808! Most past by but dont go in,and its a pity, the Hôtel de Ville or city govt building at 4 avenue de Paris, has a wonderful Salle des Mariages de l’hôtel de ville, a marriage center room.  The old hôtel de Conti rebuilt in 1899 in roccoco style , the room dates from 1723 done for the dukes of Bourbon, the prime minister of Louis XV. Gorgeous room. Going a bit further at no 6 Avenue de Paris, you see the old Hôtel des Gens d’armes de la garde du roi, or the kings guards headquarters. dates from 1723, for the exclusive use of the king done to house 200 guardsmen and 10 officers. A total of 2000 men were kept here forming 14 companies of soldiers, including the guards inside the Louvre of Paris.  55 000 special corps in total all over, covering as much as 50% of the budget.  You can see now the French flag as it house the police HQ today.

Beautiful building showing the arms of the Madame.  If you pay attention and play my game we are now going back to the other side by 12 rue de l’independance Americaine, and see the old Hôtel du Grand Contrôle, purchase in 1680 , and the owners going bankrupt in 1720 the hotel was sold n 1724 to louis XV to established the general controls or budge office.  When the estate generaux was assembled in 1789 by louis XVI, more than 40 controlers have passed!

Staying this time on the same street at No 3 rue de l’independance Americaine, you see the door of the old Hôtel de la Guerre or war ministry. done in 1758, to house the secretary of state, it has five floors but not wood all is done with brick to avoid the fires of past ravages, the building was tested in person by Louis XV in 1762. stay on at No 5 ,you see the Galerie de l’hôtel de la marine et des affaires étrangeres. The navy and foreign affaires building.  See a round marble table where peace treaties were signed such as the Seven year wars, and the treaty of Paris of 1768, treaty to annex corsica, and the one on September 3 1783 where England recognised the new nation the United States of America.

We move on to Avenue de la Division Leclerc, to see the wonderful door front of the Portail d’entrée du pavillon de la lanterne, It is the old royal  horse stables established by Le Vau between 1622-1664. Louis XVI  made it the official royal stables in 1787; around the central courtyard, you find a lanterne with seven courtyards smaller of deer, wild pigs, cerfs,phaisants, and other birds.  Inside you ,also, find the old house or pavillon de la duchesse de Bourgogne.(duchess of Burgundy mother of Louis XV).

Going by the Chantiers train station you see at 22 avenue de Paris, corner of rue Eduard Lefébvre, the traces of the foundation of the room where the estates generals met to write the French constitution and the nation.  It is at the Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs, now a music center. The room is still kept where 1200 deputies met in 1789. Louis XVI does have two previous convocations in 1787 and 1788. History tell us that the abolition of privileges, and feodualism ended on the night of August 4  1789. the adoption of the declaration of the rights of men and citizens on August 26 1789. Here monarchy has its last great representation of the absolute power.

And just around the city of Versailles, you have still some nice side trips to do, all architecture and historical wonderful to complete your tour of Versailles!

One of my family’s favorite places, the Ferme de Gally. Yes a farm, but not an ordinary farm. It was acquired in 1684 by Louis XIV to supply the court of milk products. It is at the end of the Grand Canal, yes the one you think ends by the boat lakes, but its actually goes way back,keep walking …. all along the allée de la Ceinture. The farm is still today in activity,handle by the same family since 1741!!! It is one of the oldest building in the area ,originally founded in the 11C by the priests of the abbey of Sainte-Geneviéve-du-mont at Paris to plow and put into use the lands around the plains of Versailles.  It was call after the val de galie, a stream,that since then was change to Gally. We can continue today follow the stream, from the allée du Plat Fond just to the small village of Rennemoulin off the D307 and very picturesque horse country today.  At the beginning by 1038 ,this stream gave the name to Versailles because the lord of these lands was named Hugo de Versaillis.

We go military now to the town of Saint Cyr-l’école, here we see the chapelle Notre Dame at the special military school of Saint Cyr. 2 avenue Jean Jaurés, Saint Cyr l’école; it was Madame de Maintenon, that in 1684 creates the Maison royale de Saint Louis , an educational center for young girls of the bankrupt nobility. Born herself of a bankrupt family at a prison in Niort, knowing the severe education of the convents and monasteries and agreed upon by Louis XIV, the school was born. Her remains were placed in 1719 in the nave of the Chapelle Notre Dame, but in 1794 the revolutionaries profane her tomb.   In 1836 when construction to reinforced the altar of the chapel it was found a black marble coffin,that in turn was destroyed in 1890 by those who accused her of the revocation of the Edit of Nantes .In 1944 Saint Cyr was occupied by the Nazis,and destroyed during WWII, it was again discovered an old coffin without knowing how it ended up there. In the last honors, the ashes of Mme de Maintenon was deposited in the royal chapel of the Chateau de Versailles,before coming back to her original burial at the Chapelle de Notre Dame in 1969 where she rest in a marble block in the central alley. She is the only member of the royal family to be buried in land or dirt of Versailles.

We can continue your glorious car ride on the D307 back there,and visit Noisy-le-Roi, where there is the Porte Criton. The lands around here belong to a Florentine family, the Gondi,  ,and he buys the lands to built the castle of Noisy, today the only remains is this archway door.  This castle in 1607 welcome the children of Henri IV while deseases rage at St Germain en Laye. Louis XIII hunted these lands with the Gondi’s. In 1622 Paris was given the rank of archebishop, and it first bishop the son of Gondi, Jean-François de Gondi. It was later purchase in 1631 by Louis XIII and you know the real Versailles was born from here.  The bishop now Cardinal Retz was found in conspiracy with the rebellion of the Fronde, and thrown in jail in 1652, later the castle passed to bishop Jacques Benigne Bossuet (the eagle of Meaux,and religious advisor to Louis XIV). The castle was incorporated into the Domaine de Versailles in 1675. The Chateau de Noisy was finally left unused and destroyed in 1732.

We move a bit south to the town of Le Loges-en-Josas, at rue du petit-jouy, you see the Pavillon Forestier de la Porte de Jouy,  It served as the headquarters of the guards of the king hunting trips. One of the 22 archdoors given way to the Domaine of hunting grounds, in 1684, it included 43 kms long, longer than todays’s periphérique de Paris (beltway road around Paris today). By 1705 ,Louis XIV creates many lordships, one for hunting was called the Petit parc of 1700 hectares, included the piéce des Suisses, Grand Canal, Ménagerie et Trianon ,and the other was the Grand parc, included the hunting grounds of 6000 hectares, in addition 2000 hectares of the Domaine de Marly.The perspective of this grand parc reach way beyond the Grand Canal for about 5 km, and eight villages. Including the today’s Bailly,Bois-d’Arcy,Buc,Guyancourt, Fontenay-le-Fleury,Noisy,Rennemoulin, and Saint Cyr.

We go for water now to the town of Buc, (across street Versailles) and the great Aqueduct de Buc; team of engineers of Louis XIV, did from 1663-1688 a huge network of more than 30 km around the castle.  The aqueduct has nine arches, and was built between 1684-1686.  It is 580 meters long and 24 meters high processing 8 millions cubic meters of water with 170 kms of irrigations hoses with 40 km of underground hoses.  After it was installed in 1981 a waterpump in the Grand Canal, the fountains of the castle could again play the water show we see today!!!

And so many sites, just leave you with the Yvelines dept 78 tourist board in French:

And there you go folks, my beloved Versailles, worthy of France and the world. Hope you have the opportunity to visit it and beyond the castle/domaine. If you have , considered yourselves lucky and cherished it. I will always have a Versailles,too…

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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