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Versailles Fountain

Our great Paris home exchange location near Versailles gave us a wonderful opportunity to explore and enjoy in detail the amazing 2000 acres of gardens designed by Andre Le Notre for King Louis XIV in the 1600s. Royalty of that time viewed their gardens as a demonstration of man’s conquest of nature, with tightly controlled geometric forms and and layout. This very formal French style, although not currently in vogue, has many lessons to teach us about the importance of sight-lines, perspective, symmetry, and the use of art in the garden. Avenues radiate symmetrically out from the palace and lead the eye and the walker to wonderful statues, fountains, smaller buildings, and follies. You can spend many pleasant hours exploring the grounds on foot or by bicycle. The garden at Versailles is generally green: boxwood, yew, and other hedges up to 20 feet tall require continual pruning to maintain their rigidly controlled shape and size: the crew of 48 gardeners at Versailles has developed special tall pruning platforms on wheels to make their job easier. Parterres (ornamental gardens with beds and paths arranged to form patterns) were a new idea in the 1600s, derived from the simpler English knot gardens. The spectacular scrolling green patterns of the parterres at Versailles are truly amazing when viewed (as they were designed to be) from the upper floors of the palace.

Formal Gardens at Versailles

Where: Palace of Versailles, gardens and grounds

What to do there: palace, gardens, boating, bicycling
Company website:
Local Tourism Office:
Country Visa info: US citizens may visit France for 90 days without a visa
How to get there: just outside Paris: check bus routes or take the train to Versailles Rive Gauche
Cost: 18 Euro adult for access to all areas
Time: 9am to 5:30am : closed on Mondays
Food: several restaurants and cafes on site
Family experience: The kids will enjoy exploring the gardens or taking a boat ride on the lake; bicycles are available for rental