The Mistake and the Golf Cart- Versailles's Gardens
My wife and I were fortunate to travel to Paris a few years back for an anniversary. I wanted to show her the palace of Versailles on this trip. Off from the hotel we ventured via Metro and train, excitedly walking with all of the other tourists from the station to the Chateaux. "suu chateaux itz cloosed!" a guard told us. Our hearts sank!
To our surprise the gardens are always open even when the palace is closed and entry is free. Amazingly you can rent golf carts to explore the 1,977 acre grounds (how American!). We love to walk and hike but walking all over the gigantic gardens of Versailles is a huge all day undertaking and you will never see every corner. Never would we have decided to spend the entire day in the gardens, but it was a happy accident that I will never forget!
Had the palace been open I'm sure we would have been crammed together into a small touristic cafe for lunch. Instead our happy accident lead to a luncheon by the grand canal. The often undiscovered alfresco restaurant sits at the end of the massive grand canal that is 1,670 meters long and that took 11 years to build. Running the axis of the garden, it is so big that Louis the XIV organized massive boating parties on the man-made waters so long they flow as far as the eye can see.
Riding over the many miles of topiaries created by thousands of perfectly aligned trees one begins to see not only how vast the garden is but also the axis that unifies the garden created by the designer Andre Le Notre. Le Notre, basically created the French gardens we know today characterized by parterres, axises that relate to the building, topiaries, water features, and statues.
For this professional photographer riding a bit in a golf cart and snapping some great photos before riding on felt a bit like cheating, but I'm happy I had the opportunity to cheat. Versailles was meant to take days to experience by the court of Louis XIV but seldom would the busy American tourist have many days to explore such a wonderful piece of art. So a golf cart when the chateaux is closed may sound a bit "white-tennis-shoe-fanny-pack-American tourists" but it makes for a fantastic day!