Versailles is extending on Marie Antoinette’s territory

The Queen’s bedroom at the Hameau

There is not a week without a new event at Versailles and the opening of the Queen’s hamlet, newly restored is major news. At the same time, a new prize for historical books is created and given to a biography of Camille and Lucile Desmoulins by Hervé Leuwers (Fayard). From Revolution to restorations, the old palace is constantly on the move. In September it will be hosting dinners and receptions every night fo the Ryder Cup. Golf National, where the major golf tournament is taking place, has a private gate to the Park of Versailles on hole n°14! and all the players will be staying at the Trianon Palace hotel.

The Salon is furnished with Empress Marie Louise’s furniture, photo Didier Saulnier

On my last Eurostar trip from London, I sat with a group of Indians from Kerala who were spending two days in Paris. Their first destination was the Eiffel Tower, the second was Versailles. When I raised my eyebrows at the huge crowds that clutter both sites, the guide said, we have a booking, we have a booking… Versailles has become a nightmare on most days and this is why, its attractions are forever expanding.

A walk in the Grand Trianon and all the way to the Hameau was a lovely experience especially since syringas were perfuming every path and the warm temperature had attracted many young lovers.

The main house of le Hameau overlooking a pond has been recently restored

The renovated “Hameau de la Reine”, the little hamlet where Marie Antoinette enjoyed some privacy and could play in her “English” garden is going to be new center of attraction this summer with its pond and immaculate furniture and silks. It lies near the Grand Trianon and  Petit Trianon which are already attracting the smart visitors.

Dining room, © château de Versailles, Didier Saulnier

One reaches them by car directly, with the little train which you can jump on near the castle or after a two kilometer walk along the canals. When I arrived at the Trianon, and asked my way to the Hameau, the security guard sait “vous allez à la campagne? c’est tout droit” (you’re going to the country? straight on…). this seemed to be the new code among habitués…

Cows are still grazing nearby like in Marie Antoinette’s times

And it is truly a delightful walk with a few cows on the left, a nice English garden next to the main house and the laiterie (milk house), the gardners’ house, the mill, and the Temple of love not very far. The whole complex is a delight and visitors are different. There were many American college kids, a few families, delighted walkers. For it is a little effort to get there and you can only visit the house if you have booked previously a private “conference tour”.

The mill and laiterie where the Queen watched people milk her cows

I am not sure it is worth bothering since the furniture is all from Napoléons’s second wife, Marie Louise and not Louis XVI th as expected for Marie Antoinette. The poetry of the hamlet lies in the surroundings, the lovely roses, the superb “elephant foot”  Plane tree planted in 1798, the yellow irises on the pond, the English river surrounding the island of love,  and in imagining the queen playing around.

The Temple of love built in 1777-78 is only ten minutes away

There are ballets and operas in the Royal Opera house and Philippe Jaroussky will be singing Orpheo by Gluck on 8th  and 10th of June.  After having heard him at Théâtre des Champs Elysées, I can testify he is unique!

The gardner’s house with the vegetable garden

There are special days when the Bosquets in the park are animated with music and the fountains are working. Check the calendar here. And you can take a 1H 30 tour for 10 € of the Potager of the Queen  with gardner Aain Baraton on Tuesday  12 June (10h-11h30) : Les fraises  and on Friday 29 June (10h-11h30) : L’ananas

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2 Comments on “Versailles is extending on Marie Antoinette’s territory”

  1. Theodora Zemek

    Extra special blog this week – so thank you Laure. First of all a big smile on “the American Dream ” – I worked for the Mc Govern campaign in 1972 (ancient history) so this stuff resonates more than most – the Jim Dines in Cross Campus library always used to pep me up ! And I love F111….

    And then the hameau – I have never actually managed to see it even though I have tried on several occasions – somehow always seem to get lost at one of the Trianons. This was a reminder that Versailles always has a lot to offer, crowds notwithstanding !

    xxxTheo

  2. catherine bernard

    it is indeed the best season to get to the Hameau de la Reine..
    But it is also extremely easy to get there by car:
    instead of going directly to the palace with the first exit on the “autoroute de l’ouest”, the motorway to the west of Paris, take the second exit to Versailles and the road leads you straight just after a left turning bend on to the park entrance by the Hameau… you can park at Grand or Petit Trianon , or by the Canal further on next to La Flotille restaurant… it is a far more pleasant way to get to the castle.. aviiding the crowds.. and crossing the park..

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