The Palace Interior
Day 3: Day Trip to Versailles (Cont’d)
With our earphones on, we let Rick Steves guide us through the palace, streamlining our sightseeing efforts to maximize our time. We breezed by other tourists taking in every artifact (I confess, that would’ve been me without the assurance of Rick Steves that it was necessary in order to see Versailles in a day). For a visual of our course through the palace, view page 2 of the Rick Steves Versailles Audio Tour Map (PDF).
UPDATE: Google Street View allows you to tour inside the Palace of Versailles (and have the place all to yourself)! How about I drop you right inside The Hercules Drawing Room, near the beginning of my tour? Then you can walk through the King’s Wing along with me.
Our first exhibit was The Royal Chapel, where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were married. The Palace of Versailles was built to glorify Louis XIV and celebrates man, not God, so you won’t see
much any more of this at Versailles. Rick warned us that exhibits can move, and sure enough we almost blew right by the ground floor view of The Royal Chapel that the audio tour described from the first floor perspective.
We caught up with the crowds in this hallway of the palace and I was unexpectedly awed by the tunnel of doorways framing each room of a different color. These rooms are the 17th Century Galleries, featuring notables of the palace and the phases of its construction.
The Hercules Drawing Room
The palace is absolutely grand in every way – ginormous in size and rich in ornamentation.
We experienced one lavish room after another while walking through the King’s Wing. More murals filled the ceilings and what wasn’t covered with lavish fabric wallpaper or carved of marble was gilded in gold. One room was even called the Salon of Abundance.
In the Venus Salon, the mural at one end of the room had marble columns painted into the courtyard scene to match those actually in the room’s architecture. They’re done so well (notice the vertical glare line on each column) that I didn’t even notice they weren’t real until the audio tour mentioned it!
In the Mars Room, also known as the Guard Room, a bronze sculpture of a cupid wielding a sword emerges from the corner of the ceiling.
The Apollo room seemed to exude luxuriousness with candelabra sconces lining the red walls and a sparkling chandelier hanging from the ceiling mural.
The lighting plus the color of the decor seemed to cast a warm red glow on the faces of those in the room, an appropriate effect for a room dedicated to the Sun god, with whom Louis XIV most identified. I can only imagine what it was like back in the 1700s.
The portrait of King Louis XIV in this room captures him showing off his legs in dancing attire, which they often did in this room. About age 63 at the time of this painting, he’s sporting a wig due to his receding hair line. Apparently he’s the one to start the wig trend that even influenced George Washington.
The Hall of Mirrors
The most well known room in the palace, the Hall of Mirrors, showcases the view of the palace grounds through the arched windows while the matching arched mirrors on the opposite wall reflect the grandor of both the palace interior and the gardens (and allow the guests to catch glimpses of themselves throughout the evening). Mirrors of this size and quantity (17) were kinda like a big deal back then.
The King’s View
The King’s Bedchamber is situated midway down the Hall of Mirrors right at the center of the palace. This is the view through a window in the King’s Bedchamber looking out at the palace gates and toward the rising sun.
The Queen’s Bedchamber
The Queen’s Bedchamber is decorated as it was for the last queen, Marie Antoinette. I certainly noticed the change in decor including cheery floral wall coverings with touches of pink. This is the summer pattern – the bed, chair, and wall coverings were switched with the seasons (as was most of the decor throughout the apartments)!
You can scarcely see the open door on the left of the photo below. Apparently this is the door (hidden when closed) through which Queen Marie Antoinette escaped in 1789 when the Paris mob stormed Versailles! A private corridor connected her apartment to the king’s.
The Coronation Room
We exited through the giant Coronation Room with huge paintings, including one of Napoleon crowning himself emperor.