Enchanting Evening at the Palace of Versailles

"Pouvez-vous déplacer votre appareil photo?"*

The photographer and his wife, whom I was sitting next to, turned to glare at the person who dared question his choice in positioning. Not only would he NOT move his camera, but he would argue in French for as long as it took to shut the other poor tourist up. AND cause a commotion.

A few (French) words later, and the photographer and his wife looked at Justin and I with a smile as if to say "Sorry, our country is full of idiots. Don't mind them. 😉 )

Except, despite not knowing French, I could guess what had just transpired. And I completely took the other party's side, not that I myself could say anything to his defense…


Shortly after a friend's wedding, Justin and I went on a grand tour of Europe with them. We saw Venice, Cinque Terre, Marseille, Provence, and we even took a day trip outside of Paris to the Palace of Versaille. Of course, when we went to get tickets for the palace, we were informed that they were sold out for the day, BUT we could explore the gardens for free. So, why not?

That's exactly what we decided to do.

We hopped aboard the estate train and road from one end of the estate to the other, getting off and exploring at the opposite end of the property.

It was a nice enough experience and we enjoyed speaking with people from other cultures (shout out to Australia!), but, this was the end of a two week long European excursion, and I was tired. So, so tired. I had spent much of the trip stressed out. So being able to explain what happened in detail during our visit to the Palace of Versailles in 2014 … is just not going to happen. Plus, even in May, I found Versailles to be unbelievably hot! Like seriously! Don't the French have outdoor AC units?! Because they totally should! ;) Or maybe they could just control the weather for me? That'd be nice too. :)

Either way, I was pretty disappointed with this first trip to Versailles. The gardens were unappealing to me and I was just ready to get out of the heat.

SO IN 2016

as I was planning for my birthday trip to France, when I read that there was a fireworks show at the Palace of Versailles during the summer, I was undecided about whether or not to attend. Reviews indicated that the show was beautiful and totally worth the extra money, but I had serious doubts.

Plus the tickets were complicated. And mostly in French. How would I know if I bought the wrong one? … Or paid too much for my ticket?

The fireworks are what got me. For fireworks, I will do almost anything. ;)

For our last night in "Paris", I booked the beautiful Hilton at the Palace Trianon. (Seriously. Beautiful.) Then, I did that thing I almost never do – I contacted the concierge desk. By email. I pleaded – "Can you please help me book tickets for the evening event at the Palace of Versailles? If you do, I promise to love you forever and ever and give you a great review on my blog?!";)

Ok, so maybe I didn't actually use those exact words, but Hilton was kind enough to book the tickets for me anyway. They had me fill out and send back a totally insecure document with my credit card information by email, but hey! It was worth it to not stress about getting the wrong tickets or even dealing with it at all

The concierge wrote back and said that on the day of my arrival I could pick up my tickets at his/her desk.

Sounded good to me. :)


that's exactly what we did. We checked in, got upgraded to a suite(!), then stopped by the concierge's desk where the young female concierge talked us through how exactly to walk to the Palace of Versaille from the hotel (waddle like a duck, hop like a frog, that sort of thing 😉 ) and gave us a map of the property. She(!) was extremely helpful breaking down the two entrances and explaining what we would see at each. She gave us the opening and closing information for the estate and then sent us on our way.

Instead of walking to the palace proper, Justin and I opted to begin our tour of the estate at the other end of the property, near Marie Antoinette's private estate, the Grand Trianon, and the Petite Trianon. Security was minimal and lines were short (one or two people in front of us). Unfortunately, we never actually made it all the way back to Marie Antoinette's estate, but we thought we did. After viewing the Trianon buildings, we went into the small town of Versailles for dinner. By that point, we were STARVING. And to make matters worse, we had limited time before we were expected to return to the palace to see a baroque-style dance performed in the Hall of Mirrors.

Important note: There are limited food options on the Versailles estate. Namely: Angelina's and an ice cream stand. If you want food, unless you brought some, you will have to exit the Palace estate and venture into the city (which feels like a LONG walk when you are tired and hungry).

Even with pre-purchased tickets, the line for the evening baroque dance show was long…
We arrived approx. 45 mins early!

ceiling art

our host

I had chosen the last time slot for seeing the baroque dance, which was entertaining, but ultimately not nearly as wonderful as the beautiful sight we emerged to as we exited Palace of Versailles that evening.

At 8pm, the sun was already beginning to set and the most beautiful golden hour had overtaken the gardens. While the gardens are typically free to enter during most of the year, during the summer, there is a charge. And let me say: IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY (or Euro cent).

The weather is cooler, which is a plus AND, I could not stop taking pictures. There were picture-perfect flowers in bloom and all of the fountains were turned on. We could hear the most beautiful classical music being played over speakers. And, if you wanted to roam the garden with a beer, soda, or glass of champagne (or mimosa with freshly squeezed orange juice), you could!

This picture does not do the bubbles justice!

AND THE BUBBLES! *swoon* :)

Of course, that meant that the first major decision we had to make was whether or not to find a seat on the stairs at the edge of the garden and watch the most beautiful sunset I think I have ever seen … or go explore the garden. As much as my feet were hurting, and as wonderful as sitting on the steps watching the sunset with a glass of champagne filled my heart with happiness, I opted for the more frugal approach of making my dollars (or Euros) count and exploring as much of the gardens as we could before sunset.

Pro-tip: HAVE A PLAN. 

Justin and I wandered the gardens aimlessly going wherever we thought we would see the prettiest "picture worthy" plants and fountains. And while we did see some pretty fountains, now that I have been to the garden for a third time (we returned on the Sunday morning following this event), I now know that I would have approached the garden and captured more of the flowers from the right side (as you exit Palace of Versailles) rather than the left, which is where we ventured instead. The key thing to remember is that the "golden hour" is quite literally an hour (maybe a little less, maybe a little more); if you have a plan and know where you want to shoot, you're all set! If you don't have a plan, you will waste a lot of time wandering and not really seeing as much beauty as you could. (Personal opinion. Maybe you don't care about photographing the golden hour? If so, you are all set. Just relax and enjoy with a glass of champagne!)

Pro-tip #2: Just as the sun begins to set, FIND A SEAT facing the gardens and looking away from the palace.

If, when you visit, the crowds are anything like what we experienced, seat-finding will become difficult the longer you wait. In fact, our "seats" were actually on some gravel on the ground. It got a little uncomfortable after a while. And I swear the gravel stuck to my jeans for at least a day or two following the event. *sigh*

Ultimately, the only reason we initially sat was because my legs were tired from so much walking. But seriously, the timing was wonderful. We got to see the tail-end of the sunset and we were pretty well positioned for the firework show. (There IS some bad seating. This is why I suggest finding a spot to sit sooner rather than later. And also, no one stands for the firework show. The fireworks at Versailles are nothing like firework shows in the US where everyone stands the moment the first firework goes up into the midnight sky! If you stand, the French will get angry.)

The people who were sitting behind us? They were the ones complaining about the photographer sitting beside us. Maybe if they had gotten a spot sooner? But then again, the photographer and his tripod were the only ones standing. At what point does that become rude?

Skip to 7:18 to see the fireworks.

Anyway, the firework display was the absolute perfect way to end our time in France, and I highly, highly recommend going! And, if you can swing it, a night at the Hilton Trianon Versailles will only enhance your visit all-the-more. After a long day of walking and exploring, there was nothing better than returning to our suite and cozying up under the blankets in our superbly comfortable bed.

So, what does all of this mean?


Seriously. JUST DO IT.

It's a must in my book. There isn't really any other option. ;)

Is there anything like this near where you live? If I hadn't told you this add-on was a must do, would you have considered paying extra for a night time firework show viewing of the Palace of Versaille Gardens? (Especially knowing you can visit almost any other time of year for free?)

Click here to check out the Palace of Versailles website.
And here to check out the Hilton Trianon Palace (and perhaps make a reservation?!). 😎

• Musical Fountains occur on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
• Fireworks are on Saturdays only from mid-June to August.
• To reach the park of Versailles and the Grand Canal without a garden ticket, go around the palace on its right-side (when facing the front entrance) – it is a very long walk. This route may also be used by cyclists or when traveling with dogs – neither are allowed inside the formal garden area. (source)
• Admission to the night show is €24 or €39, depending on whether or not the serenade is included. A day-ticket is still needed.

** Linking up to City Trippers Mummytravels.com and Wandermum.co.uk

Suitcases and Sandcastles
Linking up with Oregon Girl Around the World,

* If you speak French, feel free to correct my phrasing at the top of this post. I have very little experience with the French language (no French schooling whatsoever), so I have no idea if Google gave me the correct translation for my question.

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