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A day in Versailles


versailles-01.jpgA day which does look like any other. However, for Elytour this day looks like many other days. Details, excellence, quality of service, 10 years of history, guiding their clients at places rich in history,  “savoir-faire” (know-how) and “savoir-vivre” (art of living), accompanied by the explanations of professional guides.

We meet on a Wednesday morning, at the beginning of December close to the Arc de Triomphe. Being served fresh croissants, we are on the way to Versailles. We leave Paris for a capital. Journey, which used to take two hours in a carriage driven by horses, takes couple of minutes by a private bus. Marouane, our international guide, welcomes each guest with a slight bow, everything in his manners reminds a royal court. Listening to his explanations, we have the impression that he really lived there. By a magic trick he takes us to the castles, among the kings, their manners and love affairs.

versailles-02.jpgVersailles is not just a castle. The town was a capital of France from 1682 to 1789, it is a town with exceptional cultural and historical heritage.

Marouane explains us that during a reign of the king Louis XIV no building could be higher than the castle. The Versailles town was a model for other cities, such as Washington D.C. All the Versailles avenues converge toward a castle. We notice the High School Hoche which in its past used to be a monastery. The Versailles town is proud to to say that they have the most charming market Notre-Dame in the Ile-de-France region.

We get out of the bus in front of the impressive Townhall building and are welcome in the splendid room “Salle de Mariages” where the weddings are held. In his speech, Mr Mayor highlights the fact that it is important for tourists to discover the town of Versailles, not only the castle. Versailles is proud of its French art of living and one cannot forget that a castle without a town has no sense.

versailles-03.jpgAccompanied by historical knowledge of our guide, we discover small and big royal apartments. We have a chance to visit the parts of the castle which only 5% of visitors get to see. We learn that during the reign of kings, all French could access the castle, provided they were well dressed, and the men had to wear a hat and a sword. The small king’s apartments were their intimacy. Louis XV was a king who lived the longest time in Versailles, he rearranged the small apartments and it’s his style that has been considered as the most beautiful.  Louis XV was the one who introduced the blue porcelain from Sèvres which has become famous all over the world. When he was 15 he got married to a princess whom he met one day before the wedding and with whom, during ten years of marriage he had ten children. He was considered to be the most handsome man in the kingdom. Marouane explains us why the king’s apartment was twice as big as the queen’s apartment and that the biggest room was the king’s room, loaded with gold decorations. However, its ceiling was so high that the room was difficult to warm up. The 2nd floor was for the king’s mistresses. Even the far past seems so real and present when we enter the hunting room of Louis XV, when we see his private dining room, admire the splendid precious wooden secretary in the room where Louis XV received secret reports, hidden from the sight of the ministers, when we are in front of the room in which, in front of the public, the king pretended to get up and to go to sleep.  The old clock that has been functioning since 1754 reminds us that the present moment is a continuity of the past and that the centuries can become also ephemeral as the hours and years.

We contemplate the royal chapel, the highest place of the castle to symbolize the importance of God. In front of the altar of this chapel Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette got married.

versailles-04.jpgThe Versailles castle has one of the biggest painted ceilings in Europe, 250 m² of paintings, fascinating colors, painted during three years by three painters. The ‘burn-out’ is not a privilege of our times. One of the artists committed a suicide after this demanding work. Mona Lisa, the most famous painting of Louvre, in 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was hidden in a private gallery since it was not considered as a beautiful painting.

We make a pause in the Mars Saloon in front of the painting « The family of Darius » from Charles le Brun. A pause enriched by the expertise of the artist Thierry Moutard-Martin who specializes in copying the old paintings and in grinding the colors. Our look at the painting, which is often purely esthetic, is unveiled with a better understanding of used colors and techniques. As it is the case in music, two similar notes close together make a dissonance, the effect on the painting is the same for two similar colors close to each other.

Discovery continues

Versailles has always been a town of horses and horses have never left this place. In the royal stables more than 1000 persons worked around more than 2000 horses. Today, the Big Stables are always a palace for horses. Under the arcades of a historical building 45 horses live comfortably, with the names of painters and artists indicated on the small plates, mulching on the ground on which they can lay down. The Lusitanien race, of a magnificent noble cream color, blue eyes, was considered as a horse of a king and a king among horses.

The visit of stables ends by passing in the carousel during a training session. Four horses, four young ladies responding to the instructions of their coach. Their movements are elegant, flexible, fast, majestic, royal.

The Small Royal Stables are today a place, hidden to the tourists, which holds a reserve of moldings of Greek and Roman statues from Louvre as well as the original marble statues from Versailles.

Everything is out of ordinary during this day that ends by a cocktail, tastes of professionals and the bubbles of champagne wishing an excellent continuation to Elytour.

Vive Versailles!