This is my dear VERSAILLES !!!

I will tell you again about Versailles, by updating this older post for you and me. IF you have read my previous posts on the city, you will notice I once lived there,  9 years of glorious times. Not everyday you can say live in a royal town, surrounded by history and beauty and do your jogging in the gardens of the palace of Versailles. This will be on my black and white series, no pictures! But enough of me; let me tell you about my dear VERSAILLES !!! Oh yes this is in the Yvelines dept 78 of the Île de France region of my belle France. All the places mention in this post have their own post in my blog fyi

The city of Versailles is 22 km (14 miles) from Paris. The town developed around the 17C Palace of Versailles, built on ordered of king Louis XIV, the principal residence of the kings of France and the seat of the government for more than 100 years. The first scenes of the French revolution were enacted at the palace, whose gardens, the masterpiece of André Le Nôtre, have become part of the national heritage of France and one of the most-visited historical sites in Europe.  At its height, about 20,000 persons attached to the court, some 1,000 courtiers with 4,000 attendants lived in the palace itself. About 14,000 soldiers and servants were quartered in annexes like the commons building to the left of the palace while looking at it, and in the town, which was founded in 1671 and had 30,000 inhabitants when Louis XIV died in 1715. Today, it has about 84k inhabitants.

The first mention of Versailles was written in a charter dated from 1038, in the Abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres  where it was cited the name of a lord named Hugues de Versailles ; he will be the first known lord of Versailles. In 1623, king  Louis XIII  had built a hunting meeting house in the land of about 350 hectares purchased from different owners. By April 1632, king Louis XIII purchased the totality of the lordship of Versailles to his last owner Jean-François de Gondi, bishop of  Paris. The General Estates were held here on May 5 1789 at the Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs and by June 17 1789 upon the suggestion of abbot Sieyés took the current name of National Assembly or « Assemblée nationale ».  The king had closed the  Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs, and the  members of the third estate took to the salle de Jeu de Paume on June 20 1789  where the famous sermon was said ; not to leave until the constitution was agreed.  Immediately after the taking of the Bastille the first noblemen immigrated such as the Count of Artois, future Charles X and younger brother of king Louis XVI . The National Assembly abolished feudalism in August 4 1789. Finally, by October 5-6 1789 the crowds coming from Paris invade the palace and forced the royal family to come to Paris.  A while later, the constituted assembly followed the king and this was the end of its role of Capital of Versailles. It must be mentioned that today the French constitution calls that any changes, amendments or alteration to it needs to be decided and voted on by the entire French government at Versailles; last done in 2009 under President Sarkozy.

Some of the wonderful things done during the monarchy was the Grand and Petit Trianon as well as the Hameau of the Queen Marie Antoinette. Outside the palace grounds you have the Grand Commons, where the servants and lower officers lived right off ave de l’indepedance Americaine left side facing the palace. This building was the work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, built in 1684 in the form of a square ring in front of the midi wing of the palace and occupied until  1995 by the Military hospital Dominique-Larrey,it now houses the administrative services of the palace. Also, the Grande Ecurie housing the carriage museum and the Petite Ecurie both in front of the palace and separated by the Avenue de Paris, also built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart ; You have the stables of the Queen  or écuries de la Reine, first of the King and later of the Queen built by  François d’Orbay in 1672, that houses today the appeals court  of Versailles at 5 rue Carnot.

See the old police mansion of Versailles, these were the old stables of Madame du Barry up 19-21 avenue de Paris; and the current chamber of Commerce also the mansion of Madame du Barry nearby. On the other side you have the vegetable garden or potager du roi, next to the parc de Versailles  from which it communicated by the royal grille , the garden was of 9 hectares and was created in 1683 by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie.; houses today the school of gardeners that takes care of it today. It is in the process of a renovation project  with various institutions including a funding group from the USA.

One of my family’s favorite is the parc Balbi , English style gardens of 2,5 hectares, created at the end of the 18C  for  Anne de Caumont -La Force, Countess of Balbi and lover of the Count of Provence (future king Louis XVIII and next brother of Louis XVI). You come to 73 ave de Paris and see the Domaine de Madame Élisabeth  a wonderful park of  7,2 hectares and one of my family’s favorites ; Madame Elizabeth was the sister of king Louis XVI beheaded for defending her brother in 1794. She has since been beautify to become a Saint of the Catholic Church. The palace you should know is also known as a Château/Museum of of the history of France (château de Versailles) created and saved in 1837 by the king of the French  Louis-Philippe, dedicated to all the glories of France , where the room emblem is the gallery of battles or galerie des batailles. The Orangerie of course, another wonderful spot to visit.You, also have the Salle du jeu de paume,(Royal Tennis Court) now a museum of the French revolution since 1883.Recently, renovated! The educational Musée Lambinet, at 54  boulevard de la Reine (wonderful must see) the municipal museum of Versailles since 1932  in the mansion hôtel Lambinet  that showcase the collection retracing the history of Versailles and specially the work of local sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The Centre la marechalerie art contemporaire 5, avenue de Sceaux , wonderful modern art and close to palace and nice parking!! You, also ,have the sublime Osmothèque, a private museum since 1990 in the building of the international superior institute of perfumes, cosmetics and aromatics foods or ISIPCA, where they have a collection of perfumes going back to Marie Antoinette ; but only visited by appointment at 36 rue du Parc de Clagny.

King Louis XV continues to enhance and renovate the palace to the point of extravaganza; by 1837 Louis Philippe restored the palace and turned into a museum as it is today. The Prussians besiege Paris in 1870 and used Versailles as its headquarters, and in 1871 the Prussian emperor was crowned there. For eight years after the peace with Prussia/Germany, the palace was the seat of the French Parliament, and the constitution of the Third Republic was proclaimed there in 1875. The presidents of the Third and Fourth republics were elected in Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) between the Allies and Germany was signed in the palace, which was again restored and modernized under Pres. Charles de Gaulle. The city of Versailles is now a local administrative center and residential suburb of Paris. The palace serves as a tourist attraction and as a residence for visiting heads of state. The district of  Satory ( right coming out of the palace), contains the newer cathedral of Saint-Louis,(1843) . While the Notre Dame district (mine !!) , is the site of the oldest Church of Notre-Dame (1686); where all births, baptisms and marriages of the princes of Versailles are recorded and still revered by all French noblemen. You still can see the emblem of French kings on the upper left hand inside. Versailles is an important garrison town, with a military hospital and a school of military engineering and artillery. However, the adjoining Satory plateau is the location of armament and high-tech (electronics) industries. A school of horticulture (1874) is attached to a fine garden. Lots of building and renovations going on here now.

Versailles lost its position as the administrative capital permanently in 1789 with the forced departure of Louis XVI for Paris.  The privileged among these were granted rooms within the chateau itself (which contained 220 apartments and 450 surprisingly small rooms); the less fortunate lived in the town of Versailles or were forced to travel back and forth to Paris each day. To secure the allegiance of his nobility and to prevent anyone else from gaining too much influence and power, Louis XIV distributed all royal patronage personally, no chief minister had control over the treasury, the distribution of estates, or the assignment of lucrative church posts or military commands. The intricate rules and rituals that governed the members of Louis XIV’s court facilitated the creation of the modern centralized state. The ordered society of Versailles became the European ideal of the well-run state from the Hôtel de ville or city hall.

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most popular attractions in Europe, the gardens cover 800 hectares of land with sculptures, rare flowers and vivid greenery. Designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the Royal Opera of Versailles is located in the North wing of the Palace of Versailles;  some sights to see the Galerie des Glaces inside the Palace of Versailles, served daily as a meeting area and passageway connecting the apartments of the King and Queen. More than 350 mirrors are used in the decoration of this breathtaking hall, with 17 mirror-decorated arches reflecting 17 gilded and arcaded windows; The Royal Chapel, also inside the palace was constructed in 1689. It became the inspiration for many other European churches, thanks to its colorful marble flooring, large sculptures and illustrious paintings; ; Versailles also plays host to an array of bustling markets and street stalls. Beginning back in the 17C, Versailles’ ancient market stalls became a lively part of daily life until they were replaced in 1841 by the covered market, a business still in operation today. Top picks for markets in Versailles include the Market of Notre Dame (very near my old home!!!) , offering a range of fresh French food from brioche to frogs legs., and more galore, simply the best!!!

The towns surrounding Versailles are Vaucresson, Marnes-la-Coquette and Ville-d’Avray to the north east (towns of Hauts-de-Seine dept 92), Viroflay to the east, Vélizy-Villacoublay and Jouy-en-Josas to the southeast, Buc to the south, Guyancourt to the southwest, Saint-Cyr-l’École  to the west, Bailly and Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt to the northwest (my kids high school was here in the old town of Le Chesnay !!!) . The city is in a curve valley located at between 100 and 150 mètres  altitude, and high hills surrounding those at most 180 meters on the south plateau of  Satory, and to the east the forest of Meudon , and the plateau of  Vélizy, north the forest of the Fausses-Reposes. Then on the plateau of Versailles on the west you have the hill of Montbauron, at 157 meters high right in the center of the city !

Versailles is easily accessible by car (parking available), taxi, bus, or train. The RER C line links several stations in central Paris with the Versailles Rive Gauche-Château station, five minutes from the palace on foot. Trains also run from Paris Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers and from Paris Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive-Droite (closest to me),each a ten-minute walk from the palace. The RATP bus 171 runs from Pont de Sèvres metro station to front of Palace of Versailles  There are two other train stations such as Montreuil and Porchefontaine a bit further away from the palace. It  pays to arrive at off-peak hours such as soon after the 9h (9a.m.) opening time or earlier. Some days are also busier than others, including Sundays and Tuesdays, when many Paris museums, including the Louvre are closed. Best Wednesdays but nowdays is so pack, hard to tell. Better to purchase in advance at any FNAC stores or the office across from the tourist office before heading to the palace.

The roads here are excellent, and you passed right next to the palace on the N10 from Viroflay to Trappes , and in Versailles proper this road goes around the place d’Armes in front of the palace under the name of Avenue de Paris, and continues west towards the south of the parc of Versailles passing between the palace and the lake of the Swiss or the pièce d’eau des Suisses. The town is reach by wonderful roads such as the on the north the A13 (autoroute de Normandie) on the exits or sorties  5 and 6 takes to city center /Downtown Versailles. It can be continue on the A12 that goes around the town on the west side; to the south is the N12 where I come to visit now with exit or sorties 1 to 4 given access to the city. Starting at the bridge or pont Colbert, it goes along the district of  Satory, direction  Saint-Cyr-l’École towards  Brest via Dreux, Alençon, Rennes ,Vannes , and Saint-Brieuc ; to the east you have the western side of the A86 forming under a tunnel with tolls linking Versailles  (Pont Colbert) to  Rueil-Malmaison. You can come on the N186 by the boulevard de la Reine or blvd du Roi, as well as by the big avenues such as Avenue de Paris, Avenue de Saint-Cloud ,and Avenue des États-Unis. Versailles  has about 65 km of bike trails and a green belt of about 20 km around it good for cycling as well as in the surrounding forest. The N10 is known here as the kings route as this is the traject king Louis XIV did to go from the palace of Versailles to the Fortress of the Louvre in Paris, today still can done starting at the palace up avenue de paris is the N10 by Boulogne-Billancourt it is the D910 same road along avenue de Versailles into Paris and the Louvre at rue de Rivoli.

The bus line express 19 by Transdev Ecquevilly comes into the town by Avenue Saint Cloud before Avenue de l’Europe. This road you can take from ave Saint Cloud and stop at Parly II shopping center, next to it is the Arboreteum or natural tree park some dating back to the Kings, and walking about 300 meters down you can entered free on the Porte Saint Antoine and see right there the Hameau of Marie Antoinette then the Trianons, and garden to palace: it was our route to avoid the crowds and go joggying!!

In the city there are 8 districts such as Notre-Dame (mine !!!) on the north axe of the palace and avenue de Paris with the emblematic Notre Dame Church ; the parish Church of the Palace ; the first district to be built under king Louis XIV ; location also for the théâtre Montansier opened in 1777, right by rue des reservoirs the old aqueduct folly of Louis XIV; more on this theater that Marie-Antoinette love so much as well as the Musée Lambinet. The Hôtel du bailliage or bailif today antique shops galore  and the best shopping streets of Versailles  such as the rue de la Paroisse,  rue Hoche (old rue Dauphine) and the rue du Maréchal-Foch, in addition to market heaven place du Marché-Notre-Dame, surrounded by its four halles or covered markets.  To the north of the district you have the boulevard du Roi ,and the boulevard de la Reine, and the tranquil rue de l’Ermitage, along the sides of the palace.  You have the district of  Montbauron  from the place d’Armes to the hill or Mont Bauron  including the between the avenue de Paris and avenue de Saint-Cloud ; here you have the oldest flower market ,more on the markets. On the other side you have the district of Saint-Louis, symmetrically opposed to the  Notre-Dame by in line to the axe of the palace and avenue de Paris,on the south flank of avenue de Paris and where you find the Saint-Louis Cathedral that gives the name to the district, here you have the Salle du jeu de paumepotager du roi ,and the pièce d’eau des Suisses. It is on the old site of the village of Versailles, before the construction of the palace; move on to the district of Chantiers, around the train station of same name, and given this name due to been the work sites for the construction of the palace in the 17C. There is also, Montreuil, to the east with the shopping street of same name , domaine de Madame Elizabeth is here as the old house of the count of Provence (Louis XVIII)  and the house of the Italian musicians called in by Louis XIV and today the museum of compagnons, and Porchefontaine, to the south east a more residential village ambiance; then Clagny-Glatigny, to the north of the same makeup; Bernard de Jussieu, to the north east of town and north of Montreuil  basically a residential district as well; Satory, to the southwest and the district essentially with a military fields, and buildings for housing defense personnel except the rue Satory, a very lively resto shopping area off avenue de Sceaux to the right of the palace and a great parking at the end.

An anecdote, at 11, Rue Exelmans which now is a Forest Hills sports center used to be the freezing room of the King or freezer to keep meats with huge chunks of ice! And of course we do have a little train too even in palace property and out !

The city of Versailles on its heritage: https://www.versailles.fr/73/decouvrir-versailles/patrimoine-et-monuments.htm#

The Versailles tourist office on its heritage: https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/the-essentials.html

The official Château de Versailles : https://en.chateauversailles.fr/

For info, the Friends of the Palace of Versailles (which me a member since 2008): https://www.amisdeversailles.com/?lang=en

The Yvelines dept 78 tourist office on Versailles: https://www.sortir-yvelines.fr/Art-et-culture/Art-et-culture-dans-les-Yvelines/visite-decouverte-yvelines/visiter-versailles-ville-royale

There you go folks, you have it all. This is a town where according to the city of Versailles 98% of visitors only come for the palace, pity, they are missing a whole royal town of France, unique. See it for more than that. Versailles is France. Glad spent my earlier French life there, never to be forgotten, Hope you enjoy this post on my dear Versailles, an introduction.

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

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