A few weeks ago I reminisced about my last visit to Versailles in the late fall. Around this time last year we were looking at wedding venues, but managed to fit in a few visits around the city between scheduled meetings. I had never been to Versailles in the winter, nor had I toured without visiting the palace, so I was surprised when I found out that large parts of the garden are open daily to the public. Much like central park is to New Yorkers, Versailles is a place for Parisians to walk their dogs, ride bikes or go for a casual jog on the weekends.
This year, I made sure to go again.
The palace is significantly different in the cold, with fewer buses and tourists clogging the walkways and snapping pictures. Even better, you don’t need a ticket to visit the main gardens, nor do you even need to pay, so long as you park on the street and walk through the gates on Boulevard de la Reine, near the Trianon Palace Versailles Hotel.
We started with a stroll along the Grand Canal to take in the views.
There were no boaters paddling around the canal, just the swans, enjoying the gently lapping water all to themselves.
Unlike the summer, when fluffy, overgrown trees line the canal, the winter woods are trimmed into sharp blocks, which accentuate the incredible length of the property. It makes for a dramatic perspective!
When the palace was a simple hunting lodge, all this was boggy swamp. It took incredible man power to sculpt the mucky clay into the beautiful, flat, and gently sloping land that’s here now.
The Canal was once the site of fabulous boating parties thrown by Louis XIV. One can only imagine the opulence and beauty of the boats and decor, not to mention the hairstyles!
As we walked further, we made our way towards the wooded area that surrounds Marie-Antoinette’s Estate. This part of the park is less manicured and a little wild.
I always stop to say hello to the sheep, but one was not impressed by my bleating and ran away! I do quite a good sheep bleat, despite the unappreciative audience.
Then it was time for a quick hot chocolate to warm my frozen hands.
With the sun setting and the taste of whipped cream still on my tongue, it was time to go. The brisk tour had pinked all our cheeks and muddied our shoes, but it is always a pleasure to walk the grounds.
If you have to pick up after your dog, why not do it within view of one of the world’s greatest palaces? The Versailles Gardens, once belonging to a few, now belong to the many. Make sure to visit next time you’re in Paris in the winter!