- Lily radziemski
- BBC Travel
The palace looked magical.
The canal water glistened in the sun, drawing my gaze to it.
The opulent building dominated the landscape, and the landscape seemed made for it.
I got on my bike. The strobe light cut through the narrow cracks between the trees and my tires crushed the gravel.
As I cycled down a hidden path, the crimson leaves of the trees covered my head and the open fields stretched into the distance.
No one was in sight. But a short distance away, inside the opulent ballrooms of the Palace of Versailles, thousands of people gathered.
I was in it Versailles ParkA 2,000-acre playground for the kings, queens and political leaders who made up France’s ruling class until the late 18th century.
Versailles was the center of power and the material embodiment of the absolute monarchy that ruled France until the Revolution of 1788-1799.
The palace witnessed strategic weddings and state visits.
But the entire property was actually built for other reasons: restLarge park and small manicured gardens are used Pleasure and abuse.
Over the centuries since its construction, Versailles has become one of the most famous and most visited palaces in the world, welcoming 27,000 visitors daily.
But outside the palace is another storyStretching for miles and impossible to walk in a day.
It is there, amidst the fresh air and solitude, that another facet of the great vision of the wondrous place can be seen.
“When you visit the gardens, you learn more about the history of Louis XIV, XV and XVI,” tour guide Mara Alfaro Brias told me.
“Versailles is more than paintings or chandeliers.”
It began in 1623 when Louis XIII built a hunting lodge in the countryside surrounding the small town of Versailles, 20 km southwest of central Paris.
But his son, Louis XIV, had bigger plans for the grounds.
“In Paris he couldn’t make palaces bigger because the urban fabric was too dense…at Versailles it was the opposite.”
The king didn’t just want more space.
“Louis XIV required what we today call a ‘bachelor’s apartment,’ that is, Little House of PleasuresFor fun parties with some friends,” said Michael Verge-Franceschi, the book’s co-author. A Histoire Erotic de Versailles.
“So, he built Versailles partly for his pleasure and partly for his sexuality, with magnificent gardens.”
At the top of the park’s Grand Canal, hidden among cafes and restaurants, is a stand where visitors can rent bikes.
On my way to it, last fall, I passed it Latona FountainI collected fallen orange leaves from carved trees and wanted to learn more about flower gardens and love groves.
They were the work of Andre Le Nôtre, gardener to the king.
“It’s a garden,” Helen Tollifard, the palace’s director of communications, told me.
“The vision is always towards a certain effect… The idea is to imagine the garden as a museum. The viewer thinks he is walking aimlesslyIn fact it is entirely guided by the effects of perspective“.
The dimensions of Versailles and its park were carefully calculated to mirror the Louvre; The Etoile Royale (The scene at the other end of the canal) and Fountain of Apollo They are as far away as Place de la Doyle and Place de la Concorde in Paris.
The distance between the Fountain of Apollo and the Palace of Versailles is the same as the distance between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.
There are optical illusions, hidden groves and more Subtle messages indicate Sol across the parkA personal emblem chosen by Louis XIV He is known as Surya Raja.
Reinforcing that connection, the image of Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, appears in the fountains, groves and statues of the site. Symbolically, Versailles will surround him and the gardens will be his setting.
Louis XIV even wrote a book about the proper way to visit the gardens, Versailles-Franceschi said, adding, “Versailles was the theater of the king.
The trail, which begins at the top steps of the garden, reads almost like an instruction manual, with precise directions on where to walk, stop and what to admire along the way.
In 1661, when Louis XIV married Maria Theresa of Austria, he met Louise de la Valliere, who would become his first official mistress.
“She would ride a horse in the park…holding the reins of the animal with silk ropes and standing on the horse, she could kill a wild boar in the forest of Versailles,” Verke-Franceschi said.
They were meeting privately at Louis XIII’s hunting lodge in the park.
“Because the castle was so small before Louis XIV expanded it, most of the parties took place in the gardens,” da Vinha said.
Officially given in honor of the mother and wife of Louis XIV, but unofficially dedicated to the duchess of La Valliere, six days of spectacular celebrations took place with a carousel, fireworks and works by the famous French playwright Moliere.
An open space
The park has an air of excess and exclusiveness, but surprisingly, The grounds were never closed to the public.
The whole complex was open, from the king’s bedchamber (in his absence) to the gardens and park.
“The tradition of the French monarchy was for the king to be accessible to his subjects, so one could enter the castle very freely while well-dressed,” da Vinha explained.
A lack of privacy may have been a factor in the stadium’s expansion.
At Versailles, a palace was not enough.
It was commissioned by Louis XIV who wanted a place to escape Grand Trianon 1670 at the north end of the Grand Canal.
It was here that he spent time with Madame de Montespan instead of Louis de la Valliere.
A 30-minute walk from the palace to the site, but a 5-minute bike ride from the rental stand.
The Grand Trianon sits on high ground, its salmon-pink marble walls curving in curves open to the landscape. It’s breezy and cute, like a little jewelry box born out of nowhere.
A short walk from the Grand Trianon Little TrianonThe palace was commissioned by Louis XV in 1758 for the Comtesse de Paris, his mistress at the time (it was supposed to be for Madame de Pompadour, but she died before it was finished).
It was eventually given to Marie Antoinette as a gift from Louis XVI in 1774. He spent most of his time there.
The isolation of the monarchy at Versailles played a part in the revolution; There they lived in prosperity while the French people starved, and hundreds of civilians finally stormed the place in 1789.
“Contributed by Versailles [Luis XVI y María Antonieta] Disconnected from reality” said Verge-France.
A few years after the Revolution, the palace and its gardens were absorbed into the Republic and kept for the public.
*This artThe article is part of the BBC Travel series Run slowly, It celebrates slow, self-driven travel and invites readers to step out and reconnect with the world in a safe and sustainable way. If you want to read the originalClick here.
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