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Things You Have To Do: Versailles fountains at night


Mark Arbour

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I love French history, so you may disregard this recommendation and figure that I'm biased. You'd be making a big mistake. If you're in Paris or going to Paris, plan to see the Grandes eaux nocturnes. I've been through the palace lots of times, and gone to see the fountains run (Grandes eaux Musicales), but none of them even came close to this.

 

I went on a Saturday night a few weeks ago and it was a beautiful evening. Just a bit of a chill in the air, which is good, because there is a lot of walking to do. As they do when they run the fountains in the daytime, there is 17th and 18th century music pumped through the gardens. They also turn on the water. That's where the similarities end. At night, they actually pour dry ice in some of the fountains to give them almost an eerie feeling. They're lit up beautifully. Along the center parterre between the chateau and the grand canal, they set up a series of gas torches that go off in a sequenced pattern to match the music. When they go off all at once, it feels as if a jet is flying low overhead; the ground even vibrates. There are all kinds of interesting food vendors there, giving it a bit of a festival/fair feel, but nothing too much, and certainly nothing too tacky. And then at the end of the evening (11:05pm), they have a huge fireworks display, set off over the grand canal. Then there's plenty of time to stroll back to the RER station and catch the last train back to Paris.

 

And did I mention that they have some of the cutest guys in France working there?

 

 

 

 

Here's a snippet below from the Versailles Website.

 

Grandes eaux nocturnes

 

 

 

 

As night falls, the Louis XIV Royal Garden becomes a stunning audiovisual spectacle. Visitors discover pools and groves filled with water and light, decorated with glowing colour. This year, once again, lighting and set designers will take over the gardens to make them glitter with a thousand lights and dazzling installations: from the ghost ship of the Sun King, Louis XIV's flagship, which will emerge from the waters, to the lasers that will criss-cross the sky and the spectacular defeat of the giant Encelade.

 

Dates :

Saturday evenings between 19 June and 28 August 2010 from 9 to 11.20 p.m.

 

 

Bookings:

Grandes Eaux Nocturnes:

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Yes, I can only agree that it is beautiful, Mark.

 

I live pretty close to Versailles and go to the Parc at least once a month. I even have a pass so I don't have to pay extra when the Grandes Eaux are on (which is the only time when you have to pay to visit the gardens).

 

Did you get to visit other chateaux in the area (Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Chantilly...)?

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are you doing a tour of france? Or europe?

 

wish I was back to travelling again.

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Yes, I can only agree that it is beautiful, Mark.

 

I live pretty close to Versailles and go to the Parc at least once a month. I even have a pass so I don't have to pay extra when the Grandes Eaux are on (which is the only time when you have to pay to visit the gardens).

 

Did you get to visit other chateaux in the area (Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Chantilly...)?

 

I agree with you. The gardens are like large, lifeless parterres, then the fountains come on and they burst forward with life.

 

This trip, we only had four days, so I went to see the fountains at Versailles as my nod to the Ancien Regime. That, and a walk through the Louvre. I've been to Fontainbleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte, but no Chantilly. I've also been to Vincennes. My favorite palace, from an architectural vantage point, is the Grand Trianon. It is very symmetrical and masculine. I like that.biggrin.gif I wanted to go see the Parc at Marly, where that palace used to stand, but didn't get to do that either.

 

I did hook up with a guy on the RER on the way back from Versailles though. Guess that's a whole other blog entry.innocent.gif

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are you doing a tour of france? Or europe?

 

wish I was back to travelling again.

 

We did two weeks in Spain (with jaunts to Gibraltar and Morocco) and four days in Paris. Now I'm done....for now.

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That sounds like a great evening. The best part of going to places like Versailles is that weird sensation of having one foot in the present and another in the past. Any tips for what for when your exploring the palace or the Grand Trianon? When's the best season to visit Versailles I'm definitely a fan of European history, so France would be one of the first countries I'd like to go through. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif How awesome would it be to disappear for a year and backpack through Europe, maybe even parts of North Africa? You'd have plenty of time to see more places and get a better feel of the local cultures.

 

Out of curiosity, whats your favorite period in French History?

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That sounds like a great evening. The best part of going to places like Versailles is that weird sensation of having one foot in the present and another in the past. Any tips for what for when your exploring the palace or the Grand Trianon? When's the best season to visit Versailles I'm definitely a fan of European history, so France would be one of the first countries I'd like to go through. thumbsupsmileyanim.gif How awesome would it be to disappear for a year and backpack through Europe, maybe even parts of North Africa? You'd have plenty of time to see more places and get a better feel of the local cultures.

 

Out of curiosity, whats your favorite period in French History?

 

If you don't mind being hot, I think July and August are good months to be in France. It's usually not terribly hot there, but they don't air-condition places like the Metro in Paris, and that can get a little stuffy. And there are a lot of stairs to climb if you use that marvelous system. That being said, it's less crowded (I think) because those are the big vacation months, when the French head South for the coast. At least that's what I've been told. I liked it because the evenings (like my night at Versailles) were cool. I've been there in April and it rained the whole time, and I've been there in the winter, when it's cold. I love France any time of the year. To see the fountains, though, you have to go when they're open, and that rules out winter.

 

I hear you about having your feet in two eras at once. My favorite place for that experience is the Louvre. I wrote about the dig in "Man In Motion" because it so fascinates me. The foundations of the old castle in the basement of the Louvre are a MUST SEE. It's surreal to be able to walk around, underground, in what was once the moat of the Louvre when it was a fortress, and to be able to put your hands on the actual walls that had been buried for centuries. Another place to go in Paris is the St. Chapelle, which is part of the Conciergerie. It was a church built to house Christ's Crown of Thorns. When you go in, it seems like a normal, pretty church with a nice vaulted blue roof. If you go up the stairs in the back to the upper chamber, though, it will blow your mind. The upper chamber is all done in beautiful stained glass windows.

 

My favorite era is the Ancien Regime, from Henri IV to Louis XVI. My favorite King is probably either Henri IV, Louis XIV, or most likely, Louis XV (he was the one who had Madame de Pompadour as a mistress). Louis XV was such a horn dog he had his own whorehouse, Les Parcs aux Cerfs, next to Versailles. It was stocked with hot peasant girls from all over France. After he banged them for a while he'd give them a dowry and marry them off to some guy well above their own social class. A win-win for everyone, or so it seemed.

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Seventeenth century France was a blast. Hmm. I loved the picture of the fountain Mark, and your description of the evening (with the hot guys) was wonderful. If my stupid house ever sells I am planning to go to France for the first time and Versailles and the Louvre are definiely on my list. Now so are the gardens :). The list is getting longer all the time. :)

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