VERSAILLES, France - The historic Garden of Versailles, adjacent to the royal palace, is absolutely stunning as well as a testament to the unbridled opulence of the French monarchy.
The garden was the brainchild of King Louis XIV, who commissioned the building of an enormous royal palace in the 17th century.
The garden is spread across more than 1,900 acres and is one of the biggest in the world. The work took 40 years to complete. The king moved the nation's government to Versailles in 1682, where it remained until the French Revolution began in 1789.
We finished our three-week tour of Paris and parts of Luxembourg, Germany and Austria last week with a visit to the garden two days before our departure for Spokane. The palace is approximately 10 to 12 miles southwest of Paris and is easily reached by train. It's only a 10-minute walk from the train station to the palace.
My traveling partner, Claudia Erickison, had toured the opulent palace decades ago when her family lived in Germany and was not interested in touring the palace again. I was happy to skip the palace because I'm not real fond of touring palaces or castles, so our focus was on the garden, its 55 fountains and 370 statues.
Normally the garden is mostly free to visitors, except on Tuesdays, the day we were there. Still, the cost of nine Euros for a ticket seemed very reasonable.
We spent a solid two hours walking the tree-lined paths, ponds and canals in the garden and we were stunned more than once by the sheer beauty and variety in the garden. Palm, lemon and orange trees are among the varieties and they are moved indoors during the winter months.
Some 200,000 flowers and 200,000 trees are planted annually and the garden has been replanted in its entirety four times, the last such occurrence coming in the late 1990s.
An estimated six million visitors tour the garden and palace each year, making it one of France's most popular sites. For comparison, more than seven million visit the Eiffel Tower each year.
I took dozens of photos and even a few videos with my iPhone, but a thief managed to steal my phone while we were standing in a packed subway car on the way back to our AirBnB in Paris. The phone was in a zippered pocket on my jacket, evidence of the thief's particular talents. Claudia had her wallet stolen on the subway in the first week of our visit, so we have some bitter memories of subway travel.
The photo accompanying this blog is one of the few I was able to restore when I bought a new phone.
Thefts aside, we had a wonderful trip and are already looking forward to future travel adventures.