You can, if you like, skip the Chateau at Versailles. It is, when you get down to it, a big fancy house. You can see those anywhere.
But the Queen’s Hamlet, on the other hand, is an absolute must-see.
Versailles was orginally built by a Louis who wanted a break from Paris. The problem was, Versailles was so popular the king soon needed a break from it, so he built the Grand Trianon way out in the gardens. Then, for the times when the queen just had to have some privacy, she built the Petite Trianon. And when the queen really needed a break from court life, she would retire to her hamlet and be a peasant for a few days.
Here are thatched cottages and a dairy and a working farm that was not quite worked by the queen, but she would dress up in “costume” with a few of her friends and enjoy the simple life.
And who, honestly, can blame her?
Who can blame the royals of Versailles for taking a bunch of money and land and building their ideal world? Isn’t that what we all dream of doing on some scale?
But while the house is grand and the gardens were wonderful, the farm is the most picturesque farm I’ve seen outside of a Disney movie, and it’s still being run. There are cows and goats and sheep and pigs and geese and chickens and ducks and bunnies and carp busying themselves with their own business (not as a petting zoo!).
The gardens are planted with lettuce and artichokes and carrots and other vegetables. There are small orchards and paddocks tucked here and there.
None of the buildings are in working order or are designed to look or go into, but that just leaves so much more to the imagination!
It is truly a delightful place to be!
The rest of the gardens are very large and worth travelig around in — if you rent a bicycle. I probably walked half a mile just going from the Grand Trianon to the hamlet — of course, I did take the long and muddy way.
I also took tea (well, chocolat chaud) along the Grand Canal (I do wish the boat rentals were open!) and took some nice pictures.
In the end, after the hamlet, my favorite part of the Chateau was the Battle Gallery. It was long, broad hall papered in ten by fifteen foot canvases of decisive French battle scenes. They were all done at different times by different artists, but they all seem to flow together into a mass of limbs, horses, uniforms, and wounded soldiers. There was even one for the Battle of Yorktown! It was impressive and sobering — almost every painting depicted dead and dying soldiers.
And the Gallery of Mirrors is so not all that. Shiny, yes, but the chandeliers were all way too low! I preferred the gallery at the Opera Garnier for pure luxury and glint.