Yesterday we left off after touring four separate parts of the gorgeous palace of Versailles: the main palace, Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette, the Petit Trianon, and the Grand Trianon. Our tour, however, was far from over. Versailles boasts over 800 hectares of gardens, including 200,000 trees, 210,000 flowers planted annually, a man-made lake and river, an orangery that's relocated outside every spring and inside every fall, and over 50 functional water fountains.
Our ticket for the day included admission to the famous "Grandes Eaux," the staging of the fountain show that runs every spring and summer.
The gardens are incredibly formal and laid out in a way that forms "outdoor rooms" known as "bosquets," intended to allow the sensation of existing in a sort of escapist maze. Anne-Sophie, our wonderful guide for the day, made sure we saw each of the stunning, unique bosquets and their fountains over the several hours we spent in the gardens! First, however, we took a quick break at the Grand Canal to admire the sweeping views.
Emily caught this photo of the rowers on the canal...
...and I caught this photo of her in the act. Love.
Anne-Sophie was also kind enough to take our first official Schwegwomen photo of the trip!!
I also loved getting to see how massive the palace was from down below in the gardens:
Unbelievable, right? No wonder the concept of the Bourbons' absolute power lasted unchallenged through so much, for so long.
Designed meticulously by André Le Nôtre, the famed landscape designer, every view in the gardens of Versailles was scrupulously engineered and designed very specifically to create vignettes and visuals intended to delight the eye. Anne-Sophie was incredible at pointing out the intention behind every framing, whether it was with plants, arbors, sculptures, or water. See?
And the fountains! Due to poor water supply, the fountains at Versailles can't run year-round. According to Wikipedia, "In 1672, Jean-Baptiste Colbert devised a system by which the fountaineers in the garden would signal each other with whistles upon the approach of the king indicating that their fountain needed to be turned on. Once the king passed a fountain in play, it would be turned off and the fountaineer would signal that the next fountain could be turned on." How ingenious! I would like a personal fountain-whistler someday, please...
Every fountain is different, and I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. The Fountain of Enceladus shows a giant being dramatically buried beneath boulders...
...while the Salle de Bal is designed to resemble a rushing mountainside stream. In the Bourbons' time, elaborate concerts would be staged in this bosquet, with musicians perched among and playing over the sound of the rushing water. Can't imagine that would have been good for the instruments!
I was also partial to the Colonnade Grove, 32 perfect arches with individual fountains surrounded by perfect topiaries and statues.
I do think my favorite, however, was the Mirror Fountain. While all the fountains had beautiful symphonic music piped in the background, the Mirror Fountain was actually synced up to perform a Bellagio-esque show along with the music.
Perfect setting for a Schweg sister pic! Meems is pretty gorgeous, huh?
I tried to take a little video, but ended up wanting to just watch them instead. We lingered there for close to 15 minutes...an eternity when you consider the other 49 fountains we could be admiring!
I also loved the Grotto of Apollo, the Bacchus fountain featuring drunk baby cupids, and the garden's famous centerpiece of Apollo, the Sun God (how fitting) emerging from the water driving his chariot. It was near impossible to get a good picture of that guy, however, with the prevalence of selfie sticks...UGH! Bane of my existence right there.
Having enjoyed the entirety of the fountain show, we wandered slowly back to the palace's exit, admiring sculptures:
Enjoying the views:
And stopping to check out the famous Orangerie, one of the classic examples of a truly manicured, regimented formal French garden. Can you even get over the amount of attention these sculptural hedges have to require? It was absolutely staggering to see the size of this garden alone...the photo truly doesn't do it justice.
Time to bid Anne-Sophie goodbye and head back to Paris! Until next time, Versailles...merci millefois for un journée incroyable. Thanks a million for an incredible day!