Chasing Down a Backpack at Versailles


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.


Self portrait in the Hall of Mirrors.

Self portrait in the Hall of Mirrors.

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Versailles 8

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.

Looking up the Royal Drive toward the palace, standing where the Grand Canal begins.

Looking up the Royal Drive toward the palace, standing where the Grand Canal begins.

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.

Versailles 12

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.

Maybe I should have taken the tram?

Maybe I should have taken the tram?

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.

Versailles 10

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. 

Self portrait on the run.

Self portrait on the 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.

Versailles 5

4 thoughts on “Chasing Down a Backpack at Versailles

  1. At least you had a great location for your sprinting! I wouldn’t have even asked what time the baggage claim closed, so I’m glad you knew about the deadline.
    Jess recently posted…DC Cup-piesMy Profile

  2. OMG what an adventure!

    I was literally blown away by the beauty, magnificence of the Château de Versailles but was impressed at how big it is!

    I brought a very small bag for my day trip as I knew I didn’t wanted to bother carrying something on my back.

    Wow, I can’t believe you actually had time to visit the Château (its so luxurious), the Trianon Palaces AND sprint back to retrieve your backpack.

    So happy you made it just in time!

    That was fun to read and the photos are great 😉

    Can’t wait to return and next time I’ll bring my DSLR!

    Karla recently posted…Weekly Photo Challenge: EscapeMy Profile

  3. To be honest, it was not a pleasant experience squeezing it all in. I had to convince my wife to continue on to the Trianon Palaces. I THINK she ultimately was happy we did a quick walk through, but she could’ve done without it. That’s what happens when you try to squeeze too much in. But we were delayed arriving after spending an extra hour at the Normandy D-Day beaches before driving to Versailles on our way to Paris.

  4. It does pay to spend too much time researching a trip. And I researched every little detail of this trip since it was our first major travel experience with our young son in tow. Honestly, though, that’s when it does help to have a basic guidebook and a car ride to read it on. You have to do something on that long drive from the D-Day beaches in Normandy, or at least my wife did while I drove.

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