My tastes have changed since visiting the Palace of Versailles for the first time in November - I have a newfound appreciation for the ornate and downright outrageously opulent decor. And the gardens are just as beautiful as the famous interiors.
Like many royal residences, Versailles owes its origins to hunting, as Louis XIII had a hunting lodge built here. From the start of his reign, Louis XIV was intensely attached to Versailles, which he kept embellishing and enlarging to make it the most beautiful royal residence in Europe. He relocated his court and government here in 1682 from Paris.
Galerie des Glaces
the Grand Trianon, as seen in this recent Dior campaign
The Palace, a symbol of absolute monarchy, remained the seat of power until the end of the Ancien Régime, but after the departure of Louis XVI in 1789 and for another 40 years, its future was uncertain. Transformed in 1932 into a historical museum dedicated to all the glories of France, Versailles today is a beautifully restored palace, historic museum and an official residence of the Republic.
official bedchamber of the queens of France. Decoration by Robert de Cotte and Jacques Vth Gabriel in the 1730s. On 6 October 1789, Marie-Antoinette escaped from the rioting crowd by a door in this bedroom to take refuge in the King's apartment.
autumnal colours in the gardens
As soon as we entered through the 80m golden gate, a replica of the original which was torn down during the French Revolution 200 years ago, everything in King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's former residence was a gilt gold feast for the eyes, from elaborate stone carvings, magnificent fireplaces, wrought iron and bronze decoration, hand painted wallpaper and woven silk damask upholstery to marble sculptures. No wonder it was stormed.
We spent all afternoon wandering around the grounds and through the countless rooms before the sun set as were strolling through the gardens, lakes, weeping willows and ponds. My favourite part of the whole place was the world famous Hall of Mirrors and the Grand Trianon with its dreamy pale pink marble pillars, porcelain tiles and black and white checkered floors.
It was one of the best and most enjoyable days of 2013 and I will definitely return for another dose of unbelievable extravagance. Now, to get out my Marie Antoinette costume, paint a blue sky fresco on my ceiling, re-decorate with gilt gold everything and fleur de lys embellishments, fill it with old family oil paintings and buy a hundred crystal chandeliers for my apartment. And start saving for a château.