For those who follow the oeuvre of Mel Brooks, it will be obvious what I mean when I say, “It’s good to be the King.” For those not acquainted with the comic’s masterpiece, A History of the World, Part I, you will find Mr. Brooks embodying King Louis VIX, skipping his way through Versailles Gardens, flirting with all the girls.
Looking straight into the camera from Louis XIV’s newly built second home, Chateau de Versailles, Mr. Brooks exclaims, “It’s good to be the King.” Stepping through the gates of the Palace of Versailles, I can tell you that for Louis XIV, it was pretty great. For his grandson, Louis XVI and famed, cake-eating wife, Marie Antoinette, things didn’t fare so well.
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LE PETIT TRIANON
To be honest, Versailles Palace is so vast that it really isn’t one easy day trip from Paris. It takes several easy day trips from Paris to see the entire Versailles Palace and Gardens. We chose to visit only Le Petit Trianon one afternoon while in Paris for a few days. The car from our hotel, the Intercontinental Opera, in the center of the city, took about 30 minutes to arrive in front of Le Petit Trianon and less than 20 to return, so it makes for the perfect afternoon. (NB: The Petit Trianon is one of the only buildings in the garden that has direct access by car.)
Although built for Madame de Pompadour by Louis XV a generation earlier, Le Petit Trianon became Marie Antoinette’s hideaway when she arrived in Versailles at the young age of 19. She immediately went about redecorating the entire place.
She even went so far as to put her initials on the wrought-iron staircase (MA).
The Petit Trianon was only recently reopened after a major renovation and the interiors represent the Queen’s longing for the simple life. Neoclassical interiors of gray and white accompanied by furniture covered in simple cottons. Quite refined for a lady so young.
Le Petit Trianon was the place where she got away from it all – literally. No one could enter unless de par la Reine (by order of the Queen). Even the King had to ask her permission to enter the grounds. She imagined herself as a shepherdess living the Arcadian ideal.
The Garden next to Le Petit Trianon
Technically the gardens next to Le Petit Trianon belong to the Le Grand Trianon – (another Palais, smaller than Versailles but still a Palais, sitting close to Le Petit Trianon).
You can imagine the doors flung open, the Queen and her invited guests, spending long summer evenings sitting in the Pavilion Frais (or Pavillon du Treillage) sipping champagne.
This spectacular “out” building is a work of art in itself. Covered in green trellising with boiseries (sculpted with garlands and flowers) sitting atop, this Pavillon du Treillage was restored to all its glory by the American Friends of Versailles, who continue to fund brilliant projects here at Versailles.
Another of their current projects is the restoration of the Pavillon Français, sitting directly across from the Pavilion Frais. This lovely structure was demolished by Napoleon. It was reconstructed in the 1980’s but the American Friends are restoring all the details that were lost!
Best Bits: Travel Cheat Sheet
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Thank you so much to Charlotte’s Web Pr and the Chateau de Versailles team for arranging my visit. It was truly a gorgeous day out of Paris.