We recently visited Paris to visit some sights we have, for one reason or another, missed in the past. At the top of the list for the grownups on the trip was Versailles.
I will preface this article by saying all the members of my family from 22 months old through to the adults enjoyed their visit very much. The Palace and the associated gardens are stunning and provide a glimpse of the opulence of a certain era, and obvious clues as to why the people of France revolted and cut off the heads of the palace’s occupants.
I have heard and read many times, if you are to visit only one European palace, make it Versailles. After seeing it, I could not agree more, but that does not mean our trip visit was not without its challenges.
The typical route most people take to Versailles is the RER, a commuter rail service that gets you to Versailles from Paris, theoretically, in 35 minutes. I say theoretically because during our visit, all the stations and lines in central Paris were closed. I am not sure that during the height of tourist season is the time to shut down a main rail service in the world’s most visited city, but what do I know. We of course did not learn this until we arrived at the station, because even for my exhaustive research I have never researched maintenance closures on public transport, and the shuttle bus provided to compensate added at least 45 minutes to our trip.
I have spent my life as a traveller trying to beat the lines everywhere I go. Thus far, the hour and a half long wait on the hottest day of the summer at Versailles was by far the longest. I am truly starting to question the advantage of buying tickets in advance for attractions as most people do this now and lately we have discovered an equal if not longer line for ticket holders. We purchased tickets online yet still endured a line. Perhaps if we had arrived at opening like we had intended before the train delay we would have had less of a wait to endure.
Ticket Taking and Security
The reason the line was so long, as best I can tell, was that despite the hundreds of people waiting, they were all being filtered through 2 ticket takers and 2 security lines with x-ray machines and metal detectors. I am relatively confident that Versailles makes plenty of money; they could add a few more screening stations to make that line a little more bearable.
The Fine Print
Armed with our two adult, all access passports and the knowledge that kids were free* we were now ready to enjoy our day. Not quite. We toured the palace, had lunch, and prepared to enter the gardens, where we were turned away because although children are normally free, that night there was a show in the garden and they were charging for children over 6 to enter. The show was at 10pm and we were there around 2pm and it was irrelevant that we did not want to stay for the show. On a few special days of the year, the little imps need to pay to enter the garden specifically. Back in line we got for 25 minutes with all the other fuming parents to pay 7€ to get our son into the gardens.
The Poorly Planned Escape
When you finally get through the expansive gardens there are exits at the end furthest away from the Chateau, and after being surrounded by people all day and wanting to get the train home, these may seem like an oasis, but don’t be fooled, they all add a lot of extra walking to your trip. Now is time just to bite the bullet and make your way back through the gardens, the palace, and the crowds as this is the straightest and quickest route back to the train station.
As I stated in the beginning, see Versailles if you have the chance, just prepare yourself for the challenges we experienced, and maybe now if you know about them, you can find a workaround. If you did find a workaround to some of the challenges I mentioned please share them in the comments below so everyone can benefit.
Happy and safe travels!
This can also be viewed along with other great bloggers idea’s at #CulturedKids.