Paying a visit to Marie-Antoinette at the Petit Trianon (Paris Part 2)

Welcome back, readers! I’m using the plural here as my WordPress stats tell me – rather shockingly – that not only my mother (hi again!) reads this blog. Quelle surprise! Thank you all very much for your warm welcome, I’m deeply touched … Okay, enough of the mushy stuff already and let’s get on with this post! *wipes tears away*

The Gardens of Versailles, designed by André Le Nôtre of the Tuileries fame, are truly magnificent – for once, believe the hype – and my photographs couldn’t do them justice.

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Patterns that could rival Peru’s mysterious Nazca lines.

I have only one gripe with the gardens: why is there no proper vantage point on the estate? Imagine, just for a second or two, how beautiful it would be to look down onto all those intricate layouts and patterns from above. While I’m not saying the estate of Versailles is as flat as a Flemish landscape, it isn’t, in terms of views, Primrose Hill or Greenwich Park either. Maybe I’ve been too spoiled with Venice and its many belltowers and I guess one can always charter a helicopter flight for a proper view … *sigh*

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The Petit Trianon seems rather a bit more modest, don’t you think?

In the following tour, we are going to explore the Petit Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s intimate refuge away from life at Versailles, as well as the Hameau de la Reine, an Arcadian hamlet gently tucked away into one of the estate’s corners. (Apparently, this time, ‘Baby’ Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna wanted to be put into the corner!) Let’s have a look at the Queen of Deficit herself (painted here by Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun) as well as the interior of the Petit Trianon.

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Most scandalous Queen of France? But I’m a perfect picture of innocence.

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Marie-Antoinette’s monogram can be spotted on the staircases’ railings.

While much more subdued and understated than Versailles, the Petit Trianon’s homely nature introduced – dare I say it? – a certain sense of normality to life in this luxurious ghetto. One could imagine oneself truly living here. But then again, this is Versailles and things are often not what they seem. In fact, nothing quite prepared us for the ultimate fantasyland that is the Queen’s Hamlet!

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This little farm house is just the definition of quaint!

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Is this still Versailles or have we ended up on a film lot?

Designed in the style of a Norman village, the Hamlet is made up of eleven buildings, including a mill, a barn and dovecote, and was built for Marie-Antoinette’s interest in rustic pleasures. A true Arcadian vision Rousseau would have been proud of, the farm, which is still fully functional today, is often listed as a folly. (Is it just me or can you also faintly hear the theme music for The Little House on the Prairie playing in your ears while looking at these pictures?)

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The Tour de Marlborough or, as the French would say, Malbrook.

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Under the arches, the lovers meet …

After my return from the land of opulence and cake (code words for Paris), my Twitter friend Emma rather bravely asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Adventures of a London Kiwi. I use the word ‘bravely’ here because, unbeknownst to my host, this was to be my first blog post ever and @LondonKiwiEmma‘s request might now have been responsible for launching a thousand ships. So, if this little experiment fails and I bore you to death, you might want to send the mob – with their pitchforks, torchflames and whatnots – her way. Sorry, Emma, I’m just paying it forward! 😉

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The Temple of Love featuring an 18th century replica statue of Cupid.

But wait a second, what does this story have to do with Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet, the Petit Trianon and Versailles? Ah, dear reader(s), I warned you about potential ramblings in my previous post, however, I promise you there is a point to all of this … I think! While researching my guest post about the V&A’s amazing Ceramic Galleries, I discovered this centrepiece ‘folly’ which strongly emulates the neo-classical style of Marie-Antoinette’s Temple de l’Amour. I wouldn’t be surprised actually if it’s French too !

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La folie des grandeurs … or delusions of grandeur in miniature form!

And this brings us to the end of today’s tour. I hope you enjoyed it and that you’ll come back for the final installment of my Parisian trilogy which will all be about French pâtisserie. Did anyone say cake? Sound off in the comments below – I would like to hear from you!

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15 thoughts on “Paying a visit to Marie-Antoinette at the Petit Trianon (Paris Part 2)

  1. Hi Yannick
    Thanks for another great blog. Really enjoying reading about your trip to Versailles. The gardens are wonderful but unfortunately the fountains were not switched on when I was there, so a good excuse to return. Delighted that you included the Queens Hamlet which for me was the unexpected highlight of the entire visit as it is so utterly charming. Did they still have the farm animals there when you visited?
    Can’t wait for your next blog on French patisserie, you know me and my cakes!

    • Hi T,

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the Parisian saga so far. The cakes will come on soon and it will make you want to book a ticket to the City of Lights! 🙂

      Indeed, it’s a shame they only turn on the fountains on weekends, when I suppose the gardens are even more busy. But yes, it’s a good excuse – not that one needs one, really – to visit again!

      Yes, the animals were still there. We saw a few (not-blue) cockerels wandering around as well as dozens of rabbits and a peacock. Incredible!

      • Hi Yannick

        Definitely don’t need an excuse for a trip to Paris or to eat cake. Pleased to hear the animals are still there I also saw donkeys and pigs. Will email you a photo. Have a lovely day and looking forward to your next blog.

  2. We found much the same when visiting the Versailles Gardens, it is beautiful, but an ever shifting axis. I guess in some ways it means that you continually enjoy the vistas, but…
    I love the cottage and it was my favourite part of , do you think it’s the Royalty crying out for a sliver of ‘normalicy’ in amongst the opulence and power struggles of office?
    I’m so glad I enticed you into the blog world and can’t wait for the cakes, I mean 3rd blog post.

    • Yes, the landscape keeps changing as you keep wandering around the grounds. This makes it fun, but I just wish you could just climb onto the roof of the palace and see the whole picture. That would be truly breathtaking!

      Without being an expert on the matter, I’d say that yes, in the case of Marie-Antoinette, it was a means of escape from reality. It also feeds into the myth of the simple life that harks back to the Classical World, I suppose.

      Yes, you have unleashed a blogging demon and I hope you never rue the day this happened! The already (in)famous cake post, which will make you run to your nearest bakery, shall be up on the blog next week! 🙂

  3. Great post, I think I can never have enough cake and folies, especially in Paris. Marie-Antoinette docet 🙂

  4. You really have a way of narrating things! I loved this post and the next one (as I read it before this one, so I know what an icone of betrayal you can be now! 🙂 )

    Waiting for the cakes galore post with much anticipation!

  5. Hi Cindy,

    I’m really touched – that’s so very kind of you to say! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoy reading my (crazy) musings and rants. I’m sorry for having betrayed all of you though!

    I promise the cake galore will be here next week. Should be fun to write up! 🙂

    y.

  6. I was going to say, watch Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette if you haven’t already, but apparently some scenes were shot in Vaux-le-Vicomte, Château de Chantilly, Hôtel de Soubise and the Belvedere in Vienna (thanks Wikipedia). I’m sure there were actual shots of the hamlet in it, though. Loving the blog, Yannick :o)

    • Haven’t I mentioned ‘Marie Antoinette – The Movie’ is one of my favourite movies ever? I just love it. In contrast to many period drama, this film is full of life and colour. Irreverent and funny one-liners too! Don’t get me started on the soundtrack … 😉

      I know some scenes were shot at Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors, and the Queen’s Chamber. After visiting, I watched the movie again, and I can confirm that the hamlet scenes were filmed in the actual hamlet.

      You’ve been reading my mind. Well done!

      • Ha ha – presuming you were a fan of the macarons. It’s one of my favourites too, Yannick – I re-watch it regularly. You can’t beat a film that pairs an 18th century masked ball with Siouxsie Sioux!

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