A picnic fit for a king at Versailles…
When the sun shines in Paris, the Parisians shine too. Everyone has a smile on their face, a rarity in this city, and the air becomes filled with chatty voices, for once not fueled by gallons of coffee but by une joie de vivre.
When the sun shines in Paris, the word “indoors” is out of the question. Café tables flood the city sidewalks, dogs and children prance about in the parks, and everyone sports their chic, très chère sunglasses that glimmer in the sunlight.
But when the sun shines in Paris, the savvy Parisians escape the festering city heat and migrate to the gardens of Versailles for a picnic lunch and an apathetic afternoon by le grand canal.
After a long, hard winter, my friends and I make the most of every moment in the sun. So, of course, the first beautiful weekend in May we made our way down to Versailles with our lunch sacks, our cameras, and our summer smiles. Along with the hundreds of tourists, we lined up to buy entrance tickets into the garden.
I was shocked to learn that we had to pay to enter into the gardens, since the sun, in my opinion, should always be free. Nonetheless, 6€ for a student ticket was worth the sunshine, but not worth the “water spectacle” we were paying for. I’ve seen much more impressive fountains elsewhere. However, it was une expérience to stroll through the gardens with the fountains shooting streams of water into the air and classical music being blasted from hidden speakers.
When first entering the gardens, the landscape is quite stark and a bit hostile. I suggest you make your way down past the fountains, get a bit lost in les allées, and stroll through the shady forests that line the canal. After this adventure, you’ll have worked up an appetite, will want to sit in the sunshine all day, and dip your toes in the cold canal water. Then finish the day off with a whirl-wind tour through the château or Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, with free entrance for European students under 26.
You might want to bring along a big bottle of sunscreen, a few extra Euros to rent a beautiful, white rowboat to paddle around in the canal, and a satisfying picnic to munch on. Then just sit back and enjoy the real royal treatment.
Address: Château de Versailles, Place d’Armes – 78000 Versailles
Métro: RER C from Paris to Versailles-Rive Gauche
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 9h00 – 18h30. Last ticket sales at 17h50. Last entrance at 18h00.