Royal Visit: 5 Ways to Experience Versailles

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The city of Versailles will forever be synonymous with the lavish palace built by the Sun King, Louis XIV, and which served as home to France’s royal court from 1682 to 1789 – the year revolutionary mobs stormed the castle and dragged Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette (above)back to Paris where they were later beheaded. The royals may be gone, but their legacy remains. Located just 21 kilometres from the centre of Paris and easily accessible by bus, the city is a must-see excursion that may just inspire you to eat cake.


Take a guided tour into the intimate life of the kings While admission (€16) into the palace of palaces will get you into the impressive Hall of Mirrors (the treaty ending the First World War was signed here in 1919) and other public areas including the gardens, a guided tour gives access to the royal bedrooms, where your guide will explain the formal ritual of lever du roi (when honoured members of the court attended the king as he rose and dressed) along with pointing out the secret passageways between the boudoirs.


 Sleep in a room fit for a queen The Trianon Palace Versailles Waldof Astoria Hotel is less than a mile from the palace with views of the legendary gardens and lawns. If you’re feeling especially indulgent, book the Versailles Suite, a luxurious 1,600-square-foot space – but don’t worry. You won’t be required to entertain an audience during your morn-ing toilette.


Learn to cook the French way After Cordon Bleu-educated chef Patricia Boussaroque leads you through Versailles’s Notre-Dame market, she’ll take you to her nearby cooking school to show you how your fresh purchases can create a sumptuous meal – and you’ll learn there is no such thing as too much cream.


 Watch the dancing horses Just across the main square from the palace, in the Grand Stables that once housed the king’s horses and riding academy, is the Academy of Equestrian Arts of Versailles. Riders are trained in a combination of Haute École dressage, along with fencing, dance, singing and Kyudo, and these elements are incorporated into a unique form of equestrian theatre.


 Explore the palace from your own home Versailles, the book, is an opulent photographic tour of the building, all the more impressive due to the historical insights of its author, Valérie Bajou, who is a curator at the palace. 


Tip! Air France flies seven days a week via Toronto to Paris. In the City of Light, visit the Jardins, Jardin annual garden show (May 30-June 2, Jardin des Tuileries). There’s an exhibit, with the Louvre, celebrating the 400th birthday of landscape designer André Le Nôtre, creator of the gardens at Versailles and head gardener at the Tuileries (right), still sublime to this day (May 25-Sept. 30).