It’s a bit ironic that while being a London tour guide, I have decided to write first about my relatively recent trip to Paris first. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start off this new (ad)venture of mine, at least to some extent, with a feature on the Big Smoke? Probably, yes, but no … Never one to play by the rules (I wish), I’m going to keep the boundaries and scheduling of this blog fairly open for now – after all, I am the proverbial king of this castle! (Translation: expect off-topic ramblings, TfL-style delays between posts and more than one or two flights of fancy.)
Speaking of castles, and those of you who might be following me on Twitter (@ypldn) will know where this is heading already, today I’m going to take you on a visit around the illustrious Château de Versailles. This tour should last approximatively three minutes – five minutes maximum, I swear – and I’ll be more than happy to take your questions at the ending. (Once a tour guide, always a tour guide.)
Providing a lavish stage for Louis XIV and his successors, Versailles needs no proper introduction and is internationally renowned as a true model of understatement! (Not.) @kathrynsdaniels, my friend Laura and I rocked up fashionably late to the palace on a Friday morning in mid-June. You see, our horse-drawn carriage was stuck in rush hour traffic – I bet Marie-Antoinette never had to deal with that sort of problem – and thus we had to queue for an hour before entering. (I’m sure she never had to deal with that sort of problem too, but then again, they cut off her head. Lose some, win some, I say!)
As you can guess, dear reader (hi mum!), the palace was packed to the rafters with tourist season being in full swing. You could have fainted in the Hall of Mirrors without ever hitting the floor, hence why I only took pictures of either cordoned-off areas and ceilings. Oh dear, the lengths I go to in order to make it look like we had a private visit. (I wish, once again). Nonetheless, perusing the castle was good fun although it was interesting to notice that the external tour guides were the worst offenders. They were constantly blocking exits in crowded rooms – I wonder if they’ve heard of Health and Safety? (By the way, this is one of my favourite catchphrases ever since moving to the UK.)
As you can see, no expense has been spared in decorating the castle and it can all get a bit overwhelming after a while. I often do wonder if I would really have wanted to live there? Well, of course! This opulent pilgrimage felt a bit like a spiritual homecoming, however, my most cherished Versailles memory goes back three years ago when I first went. Outside the tourist season in late October, I was one of the first visitors inside and when I entered the Hall of Mirrors I was confronted with staff using modern vacuum-cleaners. A bit of an incongruity … and a reality check!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this first blog post and I’ll be back soon with my take on the Petit Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet. Do you have any special memories of visiting Versailles? Sound off in the comments below!