Today I’ll talk a bit about my visit to Versailles, especially the Petit Trianon and the adorable Hameau (called on the rather confusing directional signs “Domaine de Marie Antoinette.” Hint: when you come to the fork in the pathways and it points left, go right). The Trianon just completed a year-long, $7 million renovation, meant to look as if the Queen and her friends had just stepped away for a moment. I was lucky to have a beautiful warm, sunny day, the perfect time to wander the gardens and daydream about going back in time about 230 years.
The Petit Trianon was built between 1762 and 1768, originally meant for Madame de Pompador, though she died before she could make use of it. It was then used a bit by Madame du Barry, but did not come into its own until 1774, when it was gifted to Marie Antoinette as her little retreat from the suffocating etiquette of Versailles (if you look at pics contrasting her bedrooms in the chateau and in the Trianon, you can see why she might need a break! Sorry about the fuzzy quality of the Trianon pic–I was in a hurry)
According to the booklets I bought, it’s a fine example of the transition from Roccoco style to the refined Neoclassical. The exterior is simple and elegant, essentially a big cube with four facades that reflect the part of the estate they face. The gardens around the house reflect the Queen’s interest in the more natural, “English” style of garden espoused by Rousseau, and features meandering paths, streams, and a little Temple of Love as well as a grotto. Inside, the rooms are airy and intimate, the perfect place to hang out with friends, play some music, have a little play in the cute little theater–get into some amorous trouble!
A short walk from the house (follow the little stream past the Temple and turn left, through the trees) there is the Hameau, the rustic retreat meant to look like a miniature (and cleaned-up) Norman peasant village. It comes complete with a dairy, mill, and farmhouse, and this is where the Queen and her friends would wear their simple little white muslin dresses and straw hats and chase sheep around. (On display was one of her milk buckets, porcelain from Sevres, fashioned to look like wood and decorated with the entwined MA monogram). The little gardens were in full autumn bloom, with pumpkins and apples, though the buildings can only be peeked at through doors and windows.
It was here, while sheltering from the rain in the grotto, that the Queen learned an angry mob was on its way from Paris. She returned at once to the chateau, and never saw the Petit Trianon again.
I had the most wonderful afternoon wandering around here, picturing what it all must have been like! I wished I had a muslin gown and little lamb to make it all complete. (Though I’m sure the other tourists around thought I was crazy enough already, the way I ran about exclaiming over everything…)
What would be your favorite part of Versailles? Or of any historical site? Do you go a little crazy there, like I do??
And next week we will move across the channel (and back even further in time) to the Tower of London…