Versailles, Versailles, Versailles – Day 2. After exiting the hotel 30 minutes later that we had hoped and the train taking more than 30 minutes longer than expected we arrived at Versailles over an hour after opening; (with all the people from the Eiffel Tower and everyone they had ever met). After the shock and disbelief passed that this long winding line covering the size of a football field was really the line we had to wait in we regrouped and came up with a new plan. If we were to put our little one down for her nap on schedule she would have napped through all the line waiting and have woken up and been ready to play as we entered Versailles. So instead one of us followed her around the ‘football field’ as she met everyone waiting in line over the next two hours; including having her picture taken by many of them while the other waited in line. There was also some notable video footage taken of her by other tourists, but we won’t get into that.
– WARNING – If you haven’t ever traveled with a child and/or are not interested in the trials and tribulations that come with that, (and possibly a little venting too) feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph. As we approached security and our wait was coming to an end we got out little one situated in her stroller for her long awaited and much needed nap. We hoped the running around for an extra two hours would afford us a long nap and a relaxed visit of the palace of Versailles. And then it happened – security regulations and museum personnel ran wild. While in line for three days we had plenty of time to read all the appropriate signage about what you can and cannot bring in and what you can and cannot check at the cloak room, and it very clearly indicated that strollers can be checked, vice must be checked. So as we spent about 10 minutes in line for the final approach to security and then entrance, under the watchful eye of numerous employees, we straightened everything up; put things back in bags; and prepared to go through security without hassle and without holding up those behind us. Not until we were about to enter did someone stop and tell us that we were not allowed to bring the stroller in and we would have to check it. So besides the logistical issues of what we were going to do with a very over-tired toddler who will now have to be carried for the next two hours we had to step out of line and sort out our things for what to carry and what to check, and breakdown the stroller (something we probably could have found time to do while waiting in line had we known). Again all of this under the watchful eyes of a dozen employees, and again it wasn’t until we approached the bag check counter that they told us the stroller could not be folded and must be reopened and our belongings placed back inside. After quickly considering leaving France all together right then, we ultimately decided to stay. So we stepped out of line once again to reset the stroller and returned our unneeded belongings to it. Our stroller now checked we were allowed to enter. In a fast decision and wishful thinking I didn’t check my wind breaker; we ended up being able to put her facing me in the front where she would have been had we had our carrier and we zipped the jacket up around her and cinched the elastic at the waist and had a makeshift baby carrier that did at least 80% of the work of carrying her and she was asleep in 5 minutes. With much relief we finally began our tour of Versailles after only two and a half hours of waiting. – End Warning –
The tour of Versailles we are pretty sure was worth the wait and hassle. Our little one slept through most of it, even allowing me to listen to the audioguide. She awoke for only the last couple rooms and then she listened to the audioguide as I read the descriptions instead, happy that she was at least quiet. At the end of our tour we stopped off at a café in the palace for lunch and some wonderful pastry items. It was also a nice relaxing break from the madness of the actual sightseeing part.
After lunch we picked up the stroller and headed to the gardens. The gardens were just as impressive as the palace and the questionable weather seemed to be on our side at least for the time being. We were disappointed to find that the fountains were not operating; apparently they only have them running on the weekends. We were there on a Tuesday, which is musical garden day. The classical background music being piped into most of the garden we found to be a poor substitution, with the notable exception of the dancing fountain where they had an 8 minute piece of music synchronized with the fountain. We actually watched it a couple times as our little one danced along with it.
We eventually made our way through the gardens to Tyron Palace and the Marie Antoinette Estate. The Marie Antoinette Estate was absolutely the highlight here. Beyond the main very formal house a dozen small (relatively speaking) cottages sprinkled the grounds looking like something out of a fairy tale with their very own Koi pond complete with miniature lighthouse to round out the scene. From there we wandered back towards the gardens to eventually make our way back up to the castle and exit. In route we decided to complete our full day at Versailles with dinner in the gardens overlooking the reflecting pool. After dinner a very tired group was very happy to be heading to bed for the night.
Guidebook – For this leg of our journey we switched out from our Fodor’s Spain travel book to our Fodor’s France travel book. We were just as happy with it and it lead us well trough Bordeaux and Paris. For European travel in general Foder’s are my go-to Travel Books.
Versailles – This was my first time to Versailles. It’s amazing of course, but it is a full day. You will have to decide if you have the time to devote a day for this. If you are traveling in the high season as we were I would highly recommend planning to be there an hour in advance. You can talk to your hotel about the best way to get there and how long it should take. There is a train that runs south of Paris to Versailles and works great but travel time will vary based on where your hotel with. Ticket prices and times are always changing, check the website for current information. Family Travel Concerns – As you have read the stroller is not allowed in the Palace. The gardens are expansive though so I do recommend bringing the stroller because you’ll want it for after the Palace. What I would also bring is a soft carrier that could be stored on the stroller and used for the Palace. We always travel with our Ergo but didn’t have it with us that day which was regrettable. If you can make it through the Palace with your little ones the rest of the visit will be a breeze. – Must See, if you have a full day for it