Friday, 22 July 2011

Paris: The Gardens of Versailles

 The Gardens of Versailles are the most visited gardens of the world, this was obvious when we visited, with queues snaking back and forth across the expansive courtyard. The sight of this enormous queue and the vast palace made me want to leg it back to the train station but we realised that you could walk straight into the gardens without even having to pay.

The approach to Versailles was a bit disappointing, the grand vista was interrupted by a massive car park on the left and coach parking  to the right which spilled out onto the approach and detracted from the splendid enormity of the palace itself. When we visited the French artist Bernar Venet had a number of installations which highlighted and distorted to the great vistas.

Versailles seems to be all about wide open spaces, vistas and a play on perspectives. The great French tradition of exerting power over nature and taming the wild into perfectly neat parterres and clipped ornamental structures - a bit like Parisian women!

Marie Antionette's hamlet was completely bonkers, an ornamental village in the style of a Normandy hamlet which she had built in 1783 in order to flee from the court of Versailles. The village was charming and the surrounding landscape much more welcoming that the austere formality of the palace gardens.

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