During my family’s vacation in Paris, much of our time was spent wandering around just exploring (and lost!), but we also went to several museums and gardens and saw many wonderful sites, including Versailles. Here are a few of our favorite places:
The gardens in Paris are gorgeous and great for both adults and children. There are plenty of chairs to sit on, a playground, a snack bar and this particular garden has boats to rent for sailing on the pond. My kids really enjoyed this low-key activity and it was a nice rest from the hustle of the streets.
Notre-Dame was a short walk across the Seine from our apartment, so we had to see it. While it is a pretty impressive structure from the outside, it is amazing on the inside. Breathtaking. Jaw-dropping. Even with all the tourists milling about making noise, there is a stillness and holiness that brought tears to my eyes. The soaring ceilings, stained glass windows, chapels, altars and art affected me deeply and I must go back again. I took photos, but photographs cannot capture the beauty of Notre-Dame. If you ever have a chance, please go see this beauty for yourself.
Musée du Louvre
We couldn’t come to Paris without going to the Louvre and so we did on Bastille Day—along with everyone else who decided to take advantage of the free admission for the holiday. But the line moved quickly and within 30 minutes we were inside one of the most famous art museums in the world. I knew it was large and that we wouldn’t be able to see much; I thought maybe we could see a whole wing. I was wrong. The Louvre is enormous; we were there for several hours and I think we saw a hallway or two; it’s that big. We did make a point of seeing the rock star herself, Mona Lisa. Despite the massive size of the museum, she was easy to find, we just followed the crowd. She graciously posed for photos and then sent us off to admire her renaissance peers.
It is actually the one time in Paris that I felt a bit unsafe because there were just so many people at the Eiffel Tower. But we went right up to the structure, stood underneath and wowed. It’s impressive. I was glad we made ourselves go out after a long day of touring because the twinkling light show was magical.
Château de Versailles
In retrospect we should not have gone to Versailles that day. We were up late the night before (all week really) and we were tired from 5 full days of touring Paris. Versailles is big, really big. Really, really big. It is not the place to go if your feet already hurt before you get there. Cobblestone streets are not for tired feet. But it was our last day and if we wanted to see Versailles, it was do or die time. My husband really wanted us to go and so we did.
We saw the chateau gardens (very lovely) and The Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon and some of Marie Antoinette’s estate. And grass and trees and more gardens. All lovely. We saw all of this by walking, walking, WALKING all the day. At one point my son refused to go any further and just sat down. It’s a lovely place, gorgeous! And it was beautifully sunny day, perfect for walking and exploring the extensive grounds—but not for people who were on their last day of a 12 day high energy trip. By the end of the day I was calling my husband Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation; he brought his family all the way to France and we were going to see Versailles, dammit!
Honestly even if we weren’t already exhausted, I think it would be hard to see all of Versailles in one day unless you got there very early (and well rested) and used one of the transportation options offered at least part of the time. Silly fools we were, we scoffed at the tram and golf carts. Don’t make the same mistake. If you plan to see the chateau, other buildings and grounds on the same day, use transportation in the form of the tram, a segway, a golf cart or bikes. Biking seemed to be a nice way to get around. You cannot walk all of Versailles in one day without injuring yourself. Do not try. Also, it might be a good idea to bring your own lunch unless you plan to eat at one of the restaurants. Several of the snack bars ran out of food. Check out my rant video:
This is taken from the steps of the chateau. See the horizon? That’s how far we walked – and back.
Marie Antoinette’s bedroom
We finally toured the chateau and it was amazing. In the end I’m glad
Clark Griswold my husband insisted we see Versailles, even if it nearly killed us.