Versailles so exciting and… so frustrating

Olafur Eliasson's waterfall is prodigious Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfall is prodigious

Going to Versailles is always very exciting and very frustrating. This time was no exception and I am going to give you a tip so you don’t have the same misadventures I had. There are three reasons to go this summer : first Olafur Eliasson’s water projects, second the exhibition “Versailles and the American Independence” in the Galerie des Batailles, third, “De Gaulle at Trianon”.

Trianon is delightfully restored partly thanks to de Gaulle grand ambitions

Trianon is delightfully restored partly thanks to de Gaulle’s grand ambitions

It was easy to get there on a Thursday morning and I parked dutifully near the Trianon Palace Hotel in order to walk directly into the park. I passed by the Bosquet du Théâtre d’eau with its beautiful golden Jean Michel Othoniel fountains (which were asleep and still beautiful), checked on Louis Benech’s garden, which is growing steadily, and walked along the Tapis vert all the way to Bassin d’Apollon. There I saw the magnificent “Waterfall 2016” created by the Danish artist : it is stunning from afar and from close up as well. Olafur Eliasson, the son of Icelanders, was brought up in Denmark. Not 50 yet, and already an international star, he has made projects for the Tate Modern in London, Beijing, Reykyavik, Berlin and New York. He lives near Copenhagen.

Boaters were rowing just behind the waterfall and I could feel what Versailles had been like in the 17 th century, a place of entertainment and magic.

"Fog Assembly" in Bosquet de l'Etoile

“Fog Assembly” in Bosquet de l’Etoile, photo Anders Sune Berg

Then I decided to go to Trianon, a nice fifteen minute walk in the shade with the beautiful little palace at the end of the alley. The exhibition on de Gaulle was not much, except for photos of the restoration works in progress and many short films with Malraux, Gérald Van der Kemp and the architects of Versailles in 1963 : the refurbishment of Trianon took 26 months and 250 workers. It is all furnished in Empire style because Versailles’ original pieces went to England after the Revolution. It was de Gaulle’s obsession to have a grand palace  for state receptions and visitors such as Queen Elisabeth. It is still used from time to time including by President Hollande.

The chairs designed by Marcion in 180ç are covered with a divine silk velvet fabric

At Trianon, the chairs designed by Marcion in 1809 are covered with a divine silk velvet fabric

In his private quarters, austerity is visible. A desk, a chair, no frills… It is well worth the walk but you can also drive there through the gates or use a little golf cart to access Trianon.
Back to the palace and to disillusion. The two other Olafur Eliasson’s water projects, “Fog Assembly” and “Glacial Rock flour garden” were closed. I learned hat they are only open certain days and never at lunch time… I decided to queue and go into the castle. And frustration invaded me. I jumped part of the queue thanks to two sweet French girls who were horrified by my behavior, but let me through anyway. I then tried to walk between Japanese and Chinese tourists, passed a loud Spanish speaking guide, walked up the steps and into the Galerie des Batailles. By that time, I was so fed up by rucksacks hitting me and rude Chinese men spitting, that the nice pastels of Louis XV and Louis XVI, exhibited along La Fayette and other American heroes of the Independence war, just did not catch my attention.

From the terrace of the palace, Waterfall is magical

From the terrace of the palace, “Waterfall” is magical

It is a small exhibition, very pretty but why in Versailles ? It would have been more fit for the residence of the American ambassador…
I escaped rapidly, walked another half a mile back to my car at the gate of Neptune, considered stopping for lunch at Trianon palace hotel, but finally drove back to Paris in twenty minutes.

But what hard work… the morale of the story is : check the days and times when the water works and bring good shoes ! The Sun King will then do everything to please you…

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3 Comments on “Versailles so exciting and… so frustrating”


    The Sun King does not disappoint!
    (nor does PDbL)
    I love the waterfall – the illusion of water pouring out of thin air is fabulous.
    As much as your frustration kept you from being touched by the Versailles and the American Revolution exhibit, I am glad it’s there – some citizens of the USA need reminders …

  2. Gall

    Gérald Van der Kemp is the proper way of spelling the name of this great “Conservateur en chef “! He , with his wife Florence, achieved a real tour de force in restoring at Giverny Claude Monet’s garden and house, You know so well, dear Laure!

  3. Karen Knorr

    We visited Versailles las week and loved Olaf Elliason’s interventions and were lucky to experience them all open and functioning. Unfortunately as Geoff and I walked in the King’s Garden we felt a spray of water on our backs covering our hair and clothes and it turned out to be bird poo ! Two south american’s jumped to our aid whipping out wet towelettes to clean up the bird poo which smelled atrocious! It was gray colour.. Wewere very grateful for their kindness. What we did not realise until 8 hours later was that they had managed to unbutton Geiff’s short pocket , extract his wallet and take all 150 Euros ! Luckily no cards .. A warning to all those visitors to the beautiful Versailles gardens beware the bird poo scam which is a classic performance across the tourist spots of the world .

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