I woke up about 0800am and washed and dressed for breakfast. It was a buffet style breakfast which was strangely and inconveniently laid out in the hall leading to the reception while the seating was distant some two rooms away, which made for a long walk to-and-fro from my table. The selection of items was very limited with the usual pastries, breads, hams, smoked salmon and fruits. But the basics failed miserably with the croissants and pan au chocolat being a little soft like the cheap supermarket packet variety; was this really a luxury French hotel? I was sat so close next to another table that there was little room for my chair because the tables were packed so tightly even though there was plenty of space in the room. Nevertheless, I was not going to let the disappointment of the hotel get me down for what I expected to be an amazing day in Versailles. As I left the hotel a few drops of rain landed on my head, the clouds were hiding the blue sky I was hoping for but the door man provided me with a hotel umbrella. I make the short walk to the entrance main gates. I was aghast with the sight in front of me. A queue snaked around the Place d'Armes in front of the Chateau making several loops. I thought to myself briefly well I am pleased I bought tickets in advance, then my heart sank on realising that this was the queue for those with pre-booked tickets!
There was no choice so I joined the queue and just as I thought things can't get any worse it started to rain slightly, fortunately not to hard so my umbrella ensured I did not get too wet. The queue moved slowly across the puddle laced cobble stones but progress was at encouraging pace and after 4 loops around the square and after a full hour I was at the entrance gate and finally entering the Chateau. I couldn't believe my eyes, no sooner had I endured an hour queue I was then confronted with a long queue for the ladies toilet, which I desperately needed and then another queues to across the inner court yard to enter the building and rooms. I decided to skip the loo and go straight into the building entrance queue, this took another 15 minutes. Then as soon as I entered with my expectation of visual beauty and magnificence of art and decoration, I was confronted with the barrage of heads and back packs all squashed into a maelstrom of people throbbing through the small pathway through each of the magnificent rooms of the Chateau. There was neither time nor space to listen to the audio guide nor even enjoy the splendour. I felt abused and insignificant; I had paid a lot of money for the entrance ticket and had been financially abused at last night’s fireworks show and now this! I was despondent and unable to enjoy what Versailles had to offer; in fact I stated to hate this place and vowed never to return. Can it be possible this is where we are, a State charges so much to view its history and then does not provide simple facilities such as toilets or to a system ease queuing or even to allow the sights to be enjoyed in calmness. I felt I would have been happier to see the chateau on DVD rather than in reality.
The walk through the rooms became suffocating, albeit with some brief snippets of beauty and opulence between towering heads of the crowd. In many rooms the air was stale with pungent body odour so strong I had to hold my nose. I no longer wanted to be here but was trapped and was carried through the building by a sea of heaving smelly bodies all holding cameras and audio guides inching through the various airless rooms. Finally I reached the end and could breathe again so I followed the signs for the gardens, as I emerged through an arched entrance, the beauty and splendour of the garden unrolled before my eyes, wiping the memory of the smelly crows and queues away at an instance. The landscape of patchwork gardens stretched all the way to the horizon as far as my eyes could see. I did not know where to start, it didn't seem relevant as there was no way I was going to be able to see the entire garden but I made a start and proceeded along the central path against which all the other patchwork gardens connected.
The extent and size of the grounds was its most impressive aspect and I had an immediate feel of the people of the court of Louis XIV strolling among its paths gossiping and scheming in its many alcoves and avenues. T here were many water fountains scattered throughout the grounds, each taking a central place within the many flower beds and statues that were beautifully arranged around them, they were magnificent and completed the effect of blending water and flora. I was disappointed that the fountains are only turned on at certain times and I had to effectively repeat my entire walk through the gardens to see them with the fountains on. This was no easy feat with my bloated bladder!
I needed to use the toilets but again the toilets had long queues which I could no longer avoid and this lost me another 30 minutes. By Round 1700 I was completely exhausted with still much of gardens still unexplored but I felt I had seen enough to fully experience this amazing place. I headed for the exit and went to back to the hotel to prepare for dinner. The weather was not at its best today, with a lot of clouds around and the odd scattered drizzle but I felt I had been able to look through this and had seen one of the most impressive monuments to European monarchical decadence from the 17th century. All-in-all it was a successful day.
I had dinner at the hotel which was a little disappointing as it was served in one of their small rooms that was used for breakfast this morning so all the tables we're occupied and without linens and generally cramped. The food was good so I started with the fois gras followed by Coquilles St. Jacques. After a long dinner I needed my bed and finally succumbed to the draw of my bed in the clouds around 2300.