Paris is a great and wonderful city to call home. But every now and then a girl needs a little green, something more than the city’s elegant parks with their “Keep off the grass” signs. While most visitors think of Versailles as just one of the many day trips from Paris with a palace to visit, it has become my go-to destination for a quick and easy getaway, with all the art and culture of city life and the added bonus of lots of green you can stomp, picnic and play on.
Queen for a day.
Recently, we decided to make our visit really green and started with a trip to the Potager du Roi, the king’s kitchen gardens, started under the reign of Louis XIV in the 1670s. The gardens are beautiful, with sculpted trees, wildflowers and heritage fruits and vegetables. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home of France’s national landscaping school. In the boutique you can purchase products like rhubarb juice, made from the fruits of the gardeners’ labors.
Rhubarb Juice from the royal gardens.
Across the street, the Monument Café offers a spectacular buffet lunch featuring local produce, often from the Potager du Roi. Also offered are private trips of the Saint Louis neighborhood of Versailles and château tickets that help visitors avoid the long lines nearby.
After lunch we were ready for a long walk and headed across town for a visit to the antique quarter near the Passage de la Geôle, where I marveled over aristocratic sedan chairs, intricate game tables and a monkey’s head!
This was a very special birthday weekend, so we had booked ourselves a night’s stay at the luxurious Trianon Palace hotel, overlooking the royal gardens. We headed up the front steps, relieved to get out of the rain that had started pouring down. We were greeted by a particularly enthusiastic receptionist, who announced we’d been given an upgrade, before showing us how to access our Suite Terrasse, with a spectacular view of the château and the Royal Chapel.
The majesty of having Versailles to ourselves.
The hotel has a welcoming pool, where we wound down after the day of sightseeing and before our dinner at the hotel’s two-Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Chef Ramsay is not French, so I was dubious, but his menu featuring fish and seasonal produce looked so tempting on an earlier visit, we decided it would be worth a try. It was the right decision, and we had the best meal that we have had on the Ile de France, enjoying his playful dishware, the charming staff and, most important, the glorious food that was simply delicious without fussy foams or questionable gels.
Locals enjoying the Versailles gardens.
After an incredibly peaceful night’s sleep at the hotel, we arose to see the descendants of Marie Antoinette’s sheep as they grazed in her meadows at our feet. The gardens beyond were ensconced in a fine mist, and we headed out for an eight-kilometer run around the Grand Canal, as local oarsmen, cyclists and families took advantage of “their” garden.
Descendants of Marie Antoinette’s royal livestock.
Returning to our room, we sat on our private terrasse, the sky now a stunning blue, the sun shining down on the royal palace as we enjoyed a fruit-filled breakfast, feeling like royals ourselves.
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