Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Les Grandes Eaux

I have been really enjoying joining in with the Love the Place you Live feature over at Design Mom. The idea is to encourage you to get out and discover something interesting to do in your local area that you might not have realised was there. We are incredibly fortunate to be living just a ten minute drive away from a UNESCO world heritage site, the Château de Versailles, we know it's there, but when real life gets in the way we still need a bit of a reminder to get us out the house and actually explore the riches in our backyard.

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Last weekend most of the world was celebrating Mother's Day, but not France, so no one in this house actually remembered about it until after breakfast! It was a lovely sunny day so we decided to make the most of that and the fact that we really don't have any more Ikea furniture to build to get out and see something interesting. We didn't have a lot of time so the parkland at Versailles seemed like a good choice. For a few euros you can drive your car in through the back gates of the château and once you've wrecked its suspension driving over the seventeenth century cobbles, park and take a walk past horses, sheep and gorgeous countryside.

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We would have been happy doing this with all the other locals who were out that day, but Georgia and Savannah wanted to go into the palace gardens to see the château up close and as luck would have it we paid our entry fee just ten minutes before the musical fountain show Les Grandes Eaux began.

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Louis XIV built so many fountains at Versailles that it was impossible for them all to be running at the same time. When he was promenading through the gardens he had a team of fountain-tenders to turn on the fountains as he approached them and turn off the ones behind him! Today most of the fountains only run for a few hours a day on summer weekends accompanied by music.

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The fountains are incredible works of art but they are transformed once the water starts spouting.

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These are no subtle water features, Louis intended them to illustrate the grandeur of his rule. They were built to impress!

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Are you impressed yet? There's more...

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The Mirror Fountain was our favourite. The fountains spout and spin to the accompaniment of music and the oohs and aahs of everyone watching. Like a watery firework display.

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Another fountain appears around every hedge...

Fountains 14 definitely need a map to find your way around!

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The grove of Apollo's bath, stumbled upon just as we were getting fountain fatigue. We could have done with some nymphs massaging our feet by that point!

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If you've staggered to the end of this post then thank you! Like Louis XIV it's hard not to show off when writing about how we spend our weekends, but I truly appreciate how lucky we are to be living here. As I sit in traffic on our exit from the autoroute it is not lost on me that the coach in front is taking tourists to see Versailles, possibly for the only time in their lives. The girls on the other hand are less easily impressed. Georgia did say that she was glad we had gone to see the fountains but Savannah said it was boring (although she liked it really) and when India got back from her class' field trip to the gardens at Versailles on Friday she said it was 'nothing special'! Sigh, this is why I write the blog to remind us that it is special!

Right, back to the laundry. I've just read that after the Revolution, people used to wash their clothes in the fountains and dry them on the shrubbery. Mundanity amongst grandeur, that just about sums up our life here!


  1. Great piece, Nicky! The gardens and the fountain show are magical, we just need to pause and appreciate it! OK, off to get my bedsheets out of the dryer. Such exciting lives we do lead! Cheers, Maureen

  2. Lovely photos. Well, I, for one, still remember the picnics our family used to have in the Versailles gardens when we visited our Parisian relatives... I was never too fond of the palace itself, but the gardens, ah, the gardens... Le Hameau de Marie-Antoinette, the canals... My brother and I loved throwing chips and the remnants of lunch into the murky canal waters just to see the giant fish swim up to the surface and gobble it all up! Good times. Thank you for the memories. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. After seeing one Roman ruin after another, my 10 year old said, "One old stone looks like all the others"!! I, on the other hand, enjoyed your photos.

  4. Great photos. This is definitely on our to-do list for this summer when we drive to Belgium from Italy. Although I am wondering if the crowds in July will be overwhelming. Greetings from Italy!

  5. I haven't been to Versailles since I was on a school trip as a teenager. We won't say how long that was ago!

    Beautiful photos. The man has a short sabbatical coming up in a few years and France is definitely on the list! That and Italy too. Maybe both??!!

  6. Awesome post! Yes, you impressed me. Those pictures of the fountains were amazing! Kids are funny. Mine used to act the same way when we'd go to a spectacular national park or something like that. Thankfully, they get better as they age.


Bienvenue chez les Berries!
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A bientôt! Nicola

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