North to Versailles

1 Apr

Monday was a lovely day, into the high teens by afternoon. We got up at 7am and left at 8am to take the car for a spin before its emissions test at 9:30am. Went via Vin sur Caramy, Le Val, Barjols to Saint Maximin all on the D-roads (56km) then a 40km blast at 130kph down the A8 back to Le Cannet. Got to the testing station right on time. The guy pulled the dipstick and replaced it with a temperature probe plugged in to his machine. He also clipped a sensor into the exhaust pipe. It took more than 5 minutes idling to get it up to the required 85degC for the test to start. Then it had to go through two ‘accelerations’, one to 3,000rpm and hold and one to 4,000rpm and hold. The maximum score allowed is 3.0. We scored 0.50 and 0.76 resp. Yippee – we passed! Our CT is now good till 9th March 2014. We are fully legal. What a relief.

Tuesday was another great day weather-wise and we spent most of it finishing off jobs around La Regalade.  At lunch time it was so warm that we relaxed on the sun loungers beside the pool stripped down to the waist.  It was very nice.  The afternoon wasn’t quite so nice – one part of our plans for our time in the UK fell apart and we are now looking for another assignment at short notice.  The day ended with a lovely meal out with Chris in Salernes.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent packing and dealing with a few last minute things.  We left La Regalade on Thursday afternoon to stay the night with Jeremy and Jo in Le Thoronet.  Together with Sue we enjoyed a lovely meal together and a good night’s sleep before hitting the road north on Friday.

L'Abbaye du Thoronet is on the road we regularly travel from Le Thoronet to Carcès.  Leanne noticed that from one angle it looked very similar to the image that was on our wedding invitations.  I didn't need any more prompting to take a photo.

L’Abbaye du Thoronet is on the road we regularly travel from Le Thoronet to Carcès. Leanne noticed that from one angle it looked very similar to the image that was on our wedding invitations. I didn’t need any more prompting to take a photo.

We left Jeremy and Jo’s at 9:15am in overcast weather. Went to LeClerc in Le Luc to get some wine then continued to Brignoles to get on the A8. Some light rain. Got to Orange about 1pm and walked to the Roman Theatre but did not go in.

The back wall of the Roman Theatre in Orange.  The protruding blocks at the top are supports for poles that suspended an awning over the inside.  We saw some photos from the time showing them in use.

The back wall of the Roman Theatre in Orange. The protruding blocks at the top are supports for poles that suspended an awning over the inside. We saw some photos from the time showing them in use.

The Orange Cathedral although quite subdued on the outside was very colourful inside.

The Orange Cathedral although quite subdued on the outside was very colourful inside.

Who would ever commission a statue of themselves and describe themselves as a 'vain queer'?  Beats me.

Who would ever commission a statue of themselves and describe themselves as a ‘vain queer’? Beats me.

Church of St Louis near the Palace of Versailles prepared for the Easter celebrations.

Church of St Louis near the Palace of Versailles prepared for the Easter celebrations.

We arrived at Mâcon where we were to spend the night at about 5pm.  The weather was cold and miserable so we went to our room and stayed there.  It was still cold and miserable when we left at 8:30am on Saturday heading for Versailles.  We arrived at about 2pm, checked in to our hotel and headed off for a walk to see where things were, where to get tickets and palace opening times.  Turned out that the ticket office at the palace would not sell tickets for tomorrow’s entry but we could buy them online.  Go figure!

The town hall in Versailles - very elaborate looking and in keeping with the up-market nature of the town.

The town hall in Versailles – very elaborate looking and in keeping with the up-market nature of the town.

The School of Horticulture also near the palace used to supply produce to the palace.  It was not open, this shot was taken by threading the camera through the rails of the gate, but I was taken by the way these trees had been trained.

The School of Horticulture also near the palace used to supply produce to the palace. It was not open, this shot was taken by threading the camera through the rails of the gate, but I was taken by the way these trees had been trained.

And these...

And these…

And these…

And these…

We had read several reviews about visiting the Versailles monument and generally they talked about crowds.  Being Easter Sunday it was expected to be extra busy so our cunning plan was to be there waiting for the gates to open with our tickets already purchased online.  Because daylight saving kicked in on Sunday morning the sun was only just rising when we left the hotel at about 7:30am.  This made the lighting on the front of the palace very soft and golden.

We passed security OK, in fact it was a bit of a joke – the alarm was going continuously. I went through the scanner with my camera in my hand and in my jacket were an iPhone, iPod Nano, external 2.5″ HDD, a battery pack, pocket knife and keys. Leanne had a small backpack with sandwiches and windbreakers in it and although it had to go through the x-ray nothing happened. She had a container of water in a coat pocket as well. Strange system.

Once inside we collected the included audio guides which apart from having to go back and get mine changed from Russian to English,worked well plugged in to our own earbuds. The initial throng of people spread out reasonably quickly and apart from a couple of pinch-points we had a peaceful visit. Spent two hours getting around the main palace and then looked at the immediately surrounding gardens. Next stop was the Grand Trianon but that was over a km across the gardens. It opened at noon and we got there soon after. Not too busy and more intimate feeling than the main palace. After that we headed to the Petit Trianon then the hamlet and the farm before walking all the way back to the main gates.

The Versailles monument is very rich in history and assets and I am certainly not going to present a proper description of the entire place.  I suggest looking at this website for more complete information.  Suffice to say the palace is huge and totally awesome and the gardens are enormous and beautiful.

Louis XIV 1638-1715 and King of France from 1643.  At 8:30am the sun was still low and casting a soft light on the front of the palace.

Louis XIV 1638-1715 and King of France from 1643. At 8:30am the sun was still low and casting a soft light on the front of the palace.

The queue at 8:30am on Sunday of Easter.  Within 30 minutes it was 200m long and 3 people wide.

The queue at 8:30am on Sunday of Easter. Within 30 minutes it was 200m long and 3 people wide.

According to a sign somewhere, the main gates were restored in 2009 or something hence the sparkling appearance.

According to a sign somewhere, the main gates were restored in 2009 or something hence the sparkling appearance.

The queue at 9am - down the forecourt and back up the other side.  My estimate was that the forecourt was at least 125m long.

The queue at 9am – down the forecourt and back up the other side. My estimate was that the forecourt was at least 125m long.

Being very early into the palace has its benefits - not too many people get the chance to photograph the front of the palace without others in the shot.

Being very early into the palace has its benefits – not too many people get the chance to photograph the front of the palace without others in the shot.

Two storey chapel built between 1687 and 1710 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart then Robert de Cotte.  The front was reserved for the King and Royal Family.

Two storey chapel built between 1687 and 1710 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart then Robert de Cotte. The front was reserved for the King and Royal Family.

Former Louis XIV's billiard room and ballroom.  Decoration made of Campan, Rance and Carrara marble.

Former Louis XIV’s billiard room and ballroom. Decoration made of Campan, Rance and Carrara marble.

The Hall of Mirrors in the main palace.  Amazing ornamentation and not too many people.

The Hall of Mirrors in the main palace. Amazing ornamentation and not too many people.

Queen's Jewel Box by Jean-Ferdinand Schwerdfeger.  Mahagony, mother-of-pearl and gilded bronze; 1787.

Queen’s Jewel Box by Jean-Ferdinand Schwerdfeger. Mahagony, mother-of-pearl and gilded bronze; 1787.

Official bedchamber of the queens of France.  Decoration by Robert de Cotte and Jacques Vth Gabriel (1730-1735).  On 6th October 1789, Marie-Antoinette escaped from the rioting crowd by the door on the left of the bed to take refuge in the King's apartment.  Silks of the bed and the alcove woven in Lyon from the original models.  Room refurnished between 1948 and 1976 in the state of 1789.

Official bedchamber of the queens of France. Decoration by Robert de Cotte and Jacques Vth Gabriel (1730-1735). On 6th October 1789, Marie-Antoinette escaped from the rioting crowd by the door on the left of the bed to take refuge in the King’s apartment. Silks of the bed and the alcove woven in Lyon from the original models. Room refurnished between 1948 and 1976 in the state of 1789.

After two hours inside the palace we got outside and found this area of the courtyard deserted in spite of how many people were around.

After two hours inside the palace we got outside and found this area of the courtyard deserted in spite of how many people were around.

The spring is late - these looked like they were only starting to bloom.

The spring is late – these looked like they were only starting to bloom.

There is no hint of it in this photo but it was bitterly cold.  The wind/breeze was icy.

There is no hint of it in this photo but it was bitterly cold. The wind/breeze was icy.

Beautiful formal gardens everywhere.

Beautiful formal gardens everywhere.

We missed the water display at this fountain but I thought it was worth a photo anyway.

We missed the water display at this fountain but I thought it was worth a photo anyway.

Le Grand Trianon struck me as being more intimate and less formal and to me was more enjoyable.

Le Grand Trianon struck me as being more intimate and less formal and to me was more enjoyable.

The adjoining section between the wings of the Grand Trianon.

The adjoining section between the wings of the Grand Trianon.

An example of the decoration in the Grand Trianon.

An example of the decoration in the Grand Trianon.

Large water installations are a big part of the gardens.

Large water installations are a big part of the gardens.

We came across this lovely view of the Pavillion Française on the walk between the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon.

We came across this lovely view of the Pavillion Française on the walk between the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon.

Le Petit Trianon, the home of Louis XIVs mistress.

Le Petit Trianon, the home of Louis XIVs mistress.

Here is a quote from a website, "Marie-Antoinette, seeking to flee the Court of Versailles, ordered the construction of her hamlet in 1783. There, she regularly found the charms of country life, surrounded by her lady's companions. It became a veritable farm, directed by a farmer, whose products supplied the kitchens of the Palace."

Here is a quote from a website, “Marie-Antoinette, seeking to flee the Court of Versailles, ordered the construction of her hamlet in 1783. There, she regularly found the charms of country life, surrounded by her lady’s companions. It became a veritable farm, directed by a farmer, whose products supplied the kitchens of the Palace.”

More gorgeous buildings in the hamlet.

More gorgeous buildings in the hamlet.

And more...

And more…

Walked back towards the hotel finding a bar on the way for a coffee.  After that short rest we swung by the Church of Notre Dame for a quick look before hitting the room at about 5pm.

The wooden pulpit is about 600 years old if I remember correctly.

The wooden pulpit is about 600 years old if I remember correctly.

That was a very big day so we popped out at 7pm for a quick dinner and were well and truly ready for bed by 9pm.

Now that you have made it to the end of the post, did you notice the deliberate error?  Post a comment.

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