I woke to the sound of crying babies in the upstairs cubicles in the very early hours, a favourite time for babies it seems; followed by mothers shouting at their babies and fathers running around their rooms trying to fetch whatever it was the babies wanted. I was immediately reminded at the class of my fellow hotel guest and the full symphony of bodily noises and thumps ensued throughout the plastic motel. I was not too concerned as I was leaving as soon as I could get washed and dressed.
It was only 3 more hours drive to the Versailles, so I took my time and stopped just around Orleans for a coffee break. The drive to the hotel Trianon Palace was easy and the roads were very quiet, I presume because everybody else was still on or on their way to the coast. I pulled into the front drive of the hotel and a valet took my car keys and baggage from me allowing me to go straight to reception to check in. I was not at all embarrassed to give my 9 year old dilapidated ford focus car full of the remnants of a long road trip in its boot and back seat. I stood proud as I handed the keys to the valet as he took my car and parked it next to a Aston Martin, although I noted he parked it right at the back of the car park out of view from the windows of the hotel. At reception I learnt that a room with a view over the place was not available which I had reserved, this was a bad sign of things to come. I also discovered that the dinner table that I had booked at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant was not available in fact the restaurant was closed for August but nobody had told me that when I made the booking 2 days ago. However, the room was fine and large, and the bed was a delight, soft and crispy clean linens simulated a cloud. The bathroom had a beautiful mosaic tiled floor with black and white tiling and marble wash basins which gave an opulent and Edwardian feel.
After my bags were brought to my room, I unpacked and freshened up. I went for a stroll in Versailles to find a restaurant to have dinner. I walked to the front of the Chateau and was astounded at its beauty even in the twilight of the early evening. I was excited about my visit tomorrow but it was too late to enter and I needed to find a place for dinner. I decided on the La Taverne de Maitre Kanter which was just to the left of the Chateau forecourt and had a vibrant brasserie feel to it, we were seated inside as I expected the evening air to be a little chilly and ordered a Kir cremant d'Alsace which was lovely, not too bubbly like champagne and a great start. Our waitress was on some sort amphetamine as she was darting around in a agitated manner and not even letting me finish my carefully and hard thought-out French sentences before pre-empting my request and dashing off. Nevertheless, the service was polite and efficient and I was given plenty of time between courses to enjoy the evening, presumably because the waitress was buys rushing tending to other diners. I took the fixed menu gourmand and had the fois gras starter followed by margret d'canard. I also had a bottle of Alsace Riesling which came with the correct glasses, green steamed and small bowls. I finished the evening off with the Crème brûlée.
As I exited the restaurant and walked back to my hotel I noticed that the front forecourt of the Chateau had become a car park and people were walking into the grounds. I decided to follow them and soon discovered that there was a night fountain and firework show starting at 2315. How lucky I was to stumble across this on m first evening here, so I entered but was taken aback that the fee was 23 euro! I paid as I thought I had come a long way and to miss this spectacle would be a bad idea. I followed the crowds to the Chateau gardens where thousands had already congregated and had taken positions sitting on steps, floors balustrades or whatever they could find. The seating was so badly laid out that I started feel cheated by the entrance fee. The lighting in the fountains was enjoyable but not particularly spectacular. They were lit by simple white lights that illuminated the water fountains and stone surrounds. This did make a pleasant effect making the surrounding sculptures dance. The vastness of the estate meant that the impact was not particularly stimulating and my eyes struggled to appreciate the view. After about 30 minutes of standing around in the dark the fireworks started in the distance at the far end of the gardens. Although the display was well choreographed with the lighting I found the whole experience a big disappointment and certainly not worth the entrance fee. Nevertheless, I had experienced the Chateau gardens by night. After the show the hoards of visitors headed for two narrow arched exists which resulted in traffic jams reminiscent of my drive in Cote D'Azur! I was back in bed by 0100am and nestled in the deep pile of the feather quilt and large luxurious pillows – my cloud.