For all Parisian people, Versailles means sunny picnics and long walks or rides along the Grand Canal or in Marie-Antoinette estate. Versailles is such a huge estate, it never feels crowded and it is such a easy, bucolic and close escape (30 minutes drive or RER) from the center of Paris.
On sunny and warm days, Versailles is always a good idea.
But what about Winter? These Winter week-ends which we all imagine lying in bed or reading in a cozy nook by the fireplace… Why resist the temptation to hibernate and go that far, to Versailles?
First, because it is the best season to visit the castle, always so crowded during the warm season. This fantastic museum, witness to the glorious hours of french kingship is twice less crowded in winter.
The pleasure to visit the castle easily is one of the reason that drove me to spend a grey and misty saturday of january in Versailles.
When you leave the castle, you are surprised by the gardens, even more quiet and mysterious in winter. The Grand Canal and Apollon fountain were covered with thin ice on which swans, seagulls and ducks were trying to skate or at least to walk to grab some baguette crumbs we had taken for them while the park was dimmed in the mist.
I recently bought “Parisian sketches” from Henry James and I discovered that he too went to Versailles on a similar winter day and felt exactly the same about this winter enchantment in Versailles.
His words describe so perfectly what I felt then and I wanted to share a quote here :
“There is entertainment enough, of a mild, misty winter day in strolling about that stately solitude of Versailles. (…) It had never appeared to me before to have so much of his drowsy majesty. I had always been there in summer, when the fountains were playing, the avenues green, and the long polished floors of the gilded halls dotted with Paris holiday-takers or American tourists looking like flees on horizontal mirrors. But all deserted places and gardens should be seen in the chill and leafless season. Then nature seems to give them up to your sympathy and they appear to take you into their confidence. (…) The long, misty alleys and vistas were covered with a sort of brown and violet bloom which a painter would have loved to reproduce (…)”.
After a long walk in the gardens, we took a comforting break at La Flottille, the charming café-restaurant by the Grand Canal. Already time to leave (as I remind you winter days are short) with rosy cheeks and the impression of a well spent day in a timeless place.