Why would anyone take a large backpack into the Chateau de Versailles, knowing it will have to be stored at baggage check? Better yet, why take it when it could be left in the rental car parked just outside?
You know those warnings local police are always touting during the holidays to not leave unattended shopping bags visible in the car? We heed those warnings everywhere we go. And quite honestly, it’s pretty solid advice. It was no different when we had two large packs that wouldn’t fit in the trunk of the car on a visit to the palace of Versailles. Logical solution: check them at baggage check.
Just try to remember baggage check closes earlier than the palace.
Don’t get the wrong idea; I went in knowing this information. I practically memorize guidebooks before a trip. So I knew baggage check closed at 5:30 p.m. while the palace itself remained open another hour. We arrived shortly close to 3, meaning we basically had about 2.5 hours to see the main palace, walk through the gardens and pay a visit to the Trianon Palaces and Domaine de Marie-Antoinette before rushing back to get the packs.
Guidebooks would recommend a full day at the palace and gardens. Sure, if we wanted to spend a couple of hours hanging out in the gardens that might make sense. But a couple of hours in the gardens is just not our style no matter how beautiful they are.
What I didn’t bank on — even though I had read as much — was just how large the Versailles palace and surrounding gardens really are. The palace, or Chateau, has numerous rooms with lavish furniture, decorations and extravagance. Even if you don’t have a great appreciation for design and art, it’s hard to not be awed by the palace’s magnificence.
It really doesn’t take that much time to walk through the palace, even when stopping to stare at the beautiful touches throughout.
We exited the palace well before 4. In my mind, so far so good. Next was the gardens and on to the Trianon Palaces. Going into our visit I counted on killing two birds with one stone: enjoying the gardens as we made our way to the Trianon Palaces. There are motorized trams to catch a ride on and bicycles for rent, but why sit for the journey when a pleasant stroll through the gardens will suffice?
Well, a couple of words of warning on that. First, if traveling with others keep in mind their level of exhaustion after a busy morning at the D-Day beaches of Normandy followed by the car ride back to Versailles might be higher than your own. And second, the walk from the Chateau to the Trianon Palaces is longer than it looks in the guidebook.
The Chateau de Versailles is beautiful, magnificent, large, picturesque, royal and — quite honestly — a royal pain in the backside. Looking for a workout? Go to the palace of Versailles, where one can walk … and walk … and walk through the beautiful gardens and still not be anywhere.
As we enjoyed the gardens along our stroll toward the Trianon Palaces, I nervously glanced at my watch while sneaking a peak at the map. Every turn we took seemed to get us no closer to our final destination. Yes, we should have just stuck to the Royal Drive instead of looking for a shortcut. Throw in an exhausted spouse and the stress of dealing with a 5-year-old boy who only kicked the pebble pathway harder when asked to stop, and we’re talking recipe for disaster. Thankfully the Trianon Palaces finally were in sight.
After a quick walk through Trianon we enjoyed a game of follow the leader through the mini maze in the back.
But backpack panic quickly set in and brought us back to reality. The time was 5:10 and all the guidebooks say it’s a 30-minute walk back to the main palace. Of course there were the trams, which the family did board.
But I felt that was too unpredictable. Who knew how long it might take to get back?
So thanks to my confidence in the trip training I had done leading up to our European adventure (and maybe a bit of cockiness) I began running. We’re not talking a little jog in the park either. It was a full-out run, harkening back to my former college track days. I made it down to the Grand Canal in just minutes, enough time to stop, snap a couple of pictures and catch my breath.
Then I turned east and realized just how long I still had to go. But not before a picture on the iPhone to preserve the memory of this run.
So, much like Forrest Gump, I became that running fool.
Long story short, I made it to the baggage check. Drenched in sweat, yes, but proud that I made with minutes to spare. I even had time to take pause and look back at the beautiful — and daunting — path I had just blazed.