THE TRIANON TALES (DAY SIX, VERSAILLES)

I’m beginning to see a trend as I transcribe the travel diaries. I now understand why our days passed so quickly while away. I don’t think we ever really got moving until 11:00-ish. When I think back on the trip to Wales last year and jolting awake at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. to the Tower Bells setting on my phone so we could catch an 8:00 train to our day’s destination, I shudder. I’m grateful, but I shudder.

So basically, Lady and Sir Lounge-about slothily got dressed and headed out the door of the hotel at a dead crawl. Hotel Trianon was situated just outside the Neptune Gates and near the Queen’s Gate. You could pass through either of these and be on the palace grounds. Being the first Sunday of the month, the gates and palaces were open to the public at no charge.

Knowing this, we decided we’d better be the first in line at Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s estate, which opened at noon.

A brief history refresher: Louis XIV moved his main residence to Versailles from Paris. There, upon her marriage to a young Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette (beginning at age 15) resided during her first years in France. Louis XV had commissioned the building of Petit Trianon as a love nest for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Unfortunately, Madame de P. passed away before the completion of the project. However, Madame Du Barry was only too happy to take her place, and was the first occupant of the beautiful little residence. After Louis XV passed, Madame D. basically had to clear out in a hurry, as she was universally despised.

Instead of following in his father’s footsteps, the new King Louis XVI decided to break with tradition and give the Petit Trianon to his WIFE (of all crazy things). Marie- Antoinette spent the years 1777-1789 playing house there – barely spending any time at Versailles. She also spent close to 2 million livres on the house, property, furnishings and the little Hamlet she had constructed so she could enjoy a walk into her tiny town and visit the “fake” (hired) townsfolk without getting her hands dirty.

I can see why she loved this house so much. It is feminine, not flashy or overdone, and the grounds are beautiful. Compared to the Grand Trianon and the Chateau at Versailles, this is Goldilocks’ “just right.”

Dining Room fireplace

Music and Game Room

Music and Game Room

Gardens

Leaving the Petit behind, we wandered through the grounds to the Queen’s Hamlet. It boggled the mind. A picturesque mini-village.

Yes, Robert had a swan eating out of his hand. And if you look closely, underneath those ducks, are about a million catfish. Someone needs to get a fishing pole and get cracking. Those ponds at the Hamlet are a bit crowded.

The Hamlet includes crops and vineyards.

If I ever disappear, I’ve gone to live in this little cottage.

Passing through the Hamlet, we moved on to the Grand Trianon, which was built by Louis XIV as a retreat – where he could get away from all the formality of court. And what says informal more than a pink marble palace with a backyard full of thousands of plants in pots that are to be changed out daily?

Napoleon organized its restoration and stayed often with his wife, the Empress Marie-Louise. (Who just happened to be the grand-niece of Marie-Antoinette.)

Next stop? We decided to rest our feet and return to the hotel to check out the indoor pool. The thought of being relatively weightless was too appealing to deny. This was one of those moments when you wish you had listened more carefully to the hotel staff when they attempted to introduce you to the hotel amenities. I recalled something about a route to the pool – I thought – but couldn’t pin it down in my tired head. Thus, Robert and I took the elevator we normally take – wearing our swimsuits (him in a t-shirt and me in a cover up) and our complimentary hotel slippers. Imagine our surprise when the elevator did not have a button for the -1 floor, on which we knew the pool to be located.

Instead, the door opened on the Lobby level and out we went, already embarrassed. The concierge was quite surprised to see us thusly attired, as were the dozen or so individuals we passed as we took the walk of shame past Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant and the hotel bar. Oh, and the individuals having afternoon tea. Our concierge COULD have instructed us to return to the 3rd floor and walk down the empty hall to the elevator that goes to -1, but he didn’t. The fink.

We also discovered that wearing the complimentary hotel robe would have made us a little less conspicuous. Not through the lobby, but just in general.

The pool was lovely. I did not take a camera for what should be obvious reasons. You’ll just have to trust me on this. Lots of geometric tiles, a glass roof and soothing (if cool) water. By the time we had floated around for 30 minutes or so, we felt worlds better and headed into the dry sauna to complete our recuperation. Heaven. For the first time in days my feet and legs didn’t ache.

Feeling rejuvenated, we made our way toward the “back” elevator which had a sign on it that said “Out of Order.” We would need to climb two flights of stairs to get to the next elevator option and to our room. Our relaxed muscles lasted approximately 5 minutes.

We traipsed into the town square to have dinner at Le Boeuf à La Mode. For some reason, Robert ordered the marrowbone appetizer. I ordered (don’t hurt me) slices of semi-cooked foie gras. I think Robert expected something like you see Anthony Bourdain enjoy. Like this:

Instead he got what look like 3 femur halves that would have made Hannibal Lecter salivate. About 6 inches long, with gelatinous ickiness inside. Robert gave it a valiant effort, but I think finished only one before reality set in (and a certain pallor).

As for my foie gras, it resembled what it actually was, which caused me no undue amount of distress. Sitting at the table that evening, in the soft Versailles night air, I looked at the contents of our plates and very nearly became a vegetarian.

Thank goodness no animals were harmed in the making of the vin blanc.

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