We spent yesterday at Versailles. After we toured the whole Jardin de Versailles, Kathryn had some work to do, so she found a spot on the grounds with wifi, and I kept exploring.
I had been to Versailles before, but I’d never had quite this much time to check out all the surrounding gardens, which was a lot of fun. First off, though, here are a few tips on saving money at Versailles. If you don’t care about saving 27 euro or so, just skip to the bottom, or go on facebook or something, whatever.
Avoid Weekends and Tuesdays. The Gardens of Versailles are usually free to enter. However, on the weekends and tuesdays from around May to November 2, the park turns on the dancing fountain show, which costs 9 euros. This sounds ok, I guess, but it’s nothing close to what you would expect. Of the many, many fountains of Versailles, one is turned on, and the jets move in different directions while music plays. Music also plays throughout much of the park, piped in through speakers.
Now if the park turned on all the fountains, or half the fountains, or a quarter of the fountains, this would definitely be worth it. Unfortunately, virtually every fountain has fallen into disrepair, so you end up paying 9 euros for approximately the same experience you get at Jardin de Luxembourg or Les Tuileries or really any nice park in France or anywhere in the world for free.
So don’t feel bad if you go there on a day without the fountain show, because you’re really just saving 9 euros. Unfortunately, the website is really bad at telling you which days are paid and which are not. For example, today, November 1, 2015, should be free according to the website, but it’s not. Here’s the link in case you want to read something with no bearing on the truth.
Don’t Park in Front of the Palace, it’s 18 Euro
Seriously, there was a traffic jam caused only by people driving up to the parking lot, dropping their jaws at the prices and then backing out again. So just park somewhere else, there are many, many places in town, and you can even enter the free area of the grounds with your car for 6 euro.
Here’s the photo of the sign proving I’m not a liar.
To be entirely honest, I’m not clear on where cars park once they’re in, but it’s a huge park.
If you don’t want to park in there, there’s a lot of parking in town. We had to look around for a bit because there was a lot of 2-hour parking, but we found a large lot on Avenue de Sceaux, 2/3 of the way away from the palace. I don’t know what it was supposed to cost, because the machines were all broken, so it was free for us. But it can’t have been 18 euro.
You Can Bring a Picnic
I wanted to do this regardless of the cost, because I’m not into eating venue-controlled food, but rest assured that they let you bring food in and eat it. Technically you can’t eat it within the controlled area, but you can go out by the lake and eat, then come back in just by showing your ticket again. Or, on free days, just by walking.
If you don’t bring your own food, there are many, many cafes and restaurants just outside of the paid area, and really all through the greater park. I checked a few out and they have pretty reasonably priced salads and sandwiches and things that looked pretty good.
More Value Than One Fountain: Bike Rental
You can rent bikes just outside of the north corner (all the way to the end on the right side if you’re standing at the palace looking at the lake) of the paid area for 7.50 euro per hour. You can even rent them by quarter hour. I didn’t rent a bike because I didn’t think there was enough space for them, but boy was I ever wrong. I spent the next two hours walking happily all around the lake and through hidden trails through the woods. The place is huge.
If you want to see the whole grounds but don’t like walking, or have mobility issues, you can rent golf carts around there, too. I didn’t look at the prices. Props to the guy I saw sitting on the back of a cart splitting a bottle of wine with his much younger girlfriend. With his long grey hair and autumn outfit complementing the changing leaves, he was basically France personified.
So yeah, that’s all I can think of as far as savings go.
So Versailles was beautiful, no surprise there. What really got me, though, was how enormous the park was – you can walk and walk and ever retrace your steps.
So in this photo I took of the map for my own benefit, not expecting to throw it up here, it took me around two hours to walk from the palace at the bottom to the petite trianon up and to the right of the main gardens, then around the giant cruciform lake and back to the gardens. Heh, cruciform. I know words.
Of course, if you bike or rent a golf cart, you could do it faster.
Now the actual main gardens themselves probably took about 90 minutes of wandering (mostly wondering where, exactly, was the dancing fountain show I had paid for).
I didn’t have tickets for Marie Antoinette’s house or anything, so I was really just enjoying the walk through the foliage. By the way, if you like long tree-lined paths, this is paradise. After living in NYC for so long, I have a big thing for roads where the trees meet above you. After less than a week in France in Autumn, I’ve had bliss overload and they just seem normal.
Rather than talk about how much I like trees, how about I just post some photos?