by Kimberli Hull
Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Famously home to French kings and the royal courts throughout the ages, the Palaces at Versailles date back to 1623 when Louis XIII built a hunting lodge on the grounds.
Between 1661-1678, Louis XIV oversaw the first transformation of the site of the former lodge into a grand palace, with the king and his court moving into the palace and making it the home of the government of the Kingdom of France in 1682.
During a second phase of expansion, additions continued to the enormous and extravagant palace until 1715. In 1770, a theatre was built for the marriage of two of the palace's most famous residents, Austrian Archduchess Marie Antoinette to Louis-Auguste Dauphin of France, who would become Louis XVI.
Continuing palace additions and living a life of extreme luxury, the couple fell out of favor as France fell into serious financial difficulties. It was sometime during this period that, when told the people of France were starving and had no bread to eat, reportedly Marie Antoinette stated, "Let them eat cake."
The royal family abandoned the palace and were forced to return to Paris, three months into the French Revolution in 1789.
Between 1789 and 1950, the palace and grounds fell into decline and disrepair, suffering through wars and the lack of upkeep. In the middle of the 20th century, restoration began with an objective of restoring the palace and grounds to its state in 1789.
Today, the palace is one of France's most popular tourist attractions, with 8-10 million people visiting the palace, as we did this cold, but clear January day.
Strolling through the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Chamber, and the Mesdames’ Apartments, one can only imagine what life was like for those that walked the same halls and viewed the gardens from the same windows so long ago.
In addition to the main palace and gardens, the estate includes the Palaces of Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s escape from formal palace life, the Queen’s Hamlet.
We enjoyed a delightful lunch at one of the onsite restaurants, Angelina. While we didn’t eat cake, we did have the signature dessert Mont Blanc dessert, enjoying the decadent delicacy under the watchful gaze of an oil painting of Marie Antoinette.