Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

a heroine’s travel guide to Versailles, France / by Andie Lollo

Versailles: the home of the Sun King, dream vacation of French Revolution history buffs, and quiet, wonderful city. Heroines, I have brought you a guide to the garden-filled, gilded and grand environment of your dreams.

First, a little background.

If you’re familiar with Paris, you may have heard of a little museum called the Louvre. I’m kidding, it’s massive, and that’s because it used to be the royal palace.

That’s right, up until 1682, Versailles was nothing more than a huge expanse of forest with King Louis XIII’s hunting lodge in the middle of it. When his son, now known as the Sun King, decided to move the entire royal court out to his father’s lodge in Versailles, a vision was born.

Soon came man-made lakes, intricate gardens, and a palace to rival all others the world over. That small village has now grown into a wealthy suburb and home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Allow me to open to you the gates of this marvelous storybook city. Enjoy your stay in Versailles.

Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

Take a Walk (from the train).

Only about a 10 minute train ride from Paris, you’ll start your walk in the morning from Gare de Versailles-Chantiers. Follow the Rue des États Généraux to Avenue de Paris and behold: a larger-than-life tree-lined avenue with a clear view of the Château at the end. Wave hello to the Hôtel de Ville on your way to the palace – it’s where the mayor lives.

This is a great time to pop in some earphones and press play on the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’. The mix of classical and modern music is the perfect blend to represent the journey you’ll take in Versailles.

Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

Visit the Gift Shop.

When you arrive at the Château, watch your feet. Those cobblestones are ancient and total ankle-breakers. Now’s a great time to head to the left and check out the gift shop – they’ve got everything Marie-Antoinette themed a girl could wish for, and French history books in every language under the sun (king). Shop to your heart’s content among all the stationary and macarons. I personally recommend picking up one of the novels about the Queen. They’re written diary-style in first person, and are a fascinating read for any heroine.

Explore the Gardens.

Next, bypass those serpentine lines of tourists and head towards the gardens. They’re free! (Except for days with fountain shows, but more on that later.)

Stop to check out the view of the last Queen’s intricate gardens over the balcony before exploring her beloved land on your own. You might take this time to ponder some of the more interesting statues, get lost in the labyrinthine hedges, or do some sketches.

When you’ve had enough of the Royal Gardens, head towards the canal. Now might be your time to find a spot to picnic or read. Or, if you want, you can rent a rowboat and take it out – how romantic! What you absolutely must do, I suggest, is walk all the way around the cross-shaped canal. This means taking the paths or the grass around the perimeter of the water.

Tip: Go right, and work your way around that way, eventually leading you back to the Apollo Fountain. While you’re on your walk, our next destination crops up.

Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

Les Trianons & Orangerie

 

Marie Antoinette’s estate is found at the right wing of the canal, including the Trianon Palaces and the Queen’s Hameau (little village). Take some time here to locate one of the fresh juice vendors, who will squeeze you an incredibly flavourful cup of orange juice from the Orangerie before your very eyes. Armed with a refreshing beverage, carry on through your stroll. When you’ve had enough of the estate continue on your walk around the canal. Feel free to dip your feet in the water if it’s a hot summer day.

You’ll find that the farther you head towards the cross’s far end, the less people you’ll see. If you do, they’re most likely locals going for a jog or bike ride.

Congratulations, you’ve made it halfway around the canal! Complete your walk by following its shape the rest of the way back to the Royal Gardens.

You won’t find any tips about actually touring the Château here because, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was so packed full of literal busloads of tourists the one time I did go, that the grandeur of the palace didn’t really seem all that grand. Your decision. But, as a fellow heroine, I implore you to take the path less crowded.

Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

Relax on the Plan Suisse.

 

When you head out the gates, take a sharp right and keep going straight. This will take you over to another man-made lake, the Plan Suisse.

It’s an idyllic spot to read, write, do homework, have a picnic, or even a nap! You may again want to take a walk around, even touch the statue at the far end, or simply relax. You’re having a good old fashioned Versailles day.

Versailles, France / a travel guide Fit for a Heroine

Lunch Outside the Versailles Cathedral.

 

From the Plan Suisse make your way to the Rue du Maréchal-Joffre where the Versailles Cathedral rests in a large square. Pop into one of the patisseries for a snack, if you haven’t packed one (I’d go with some pain au chocolat and a macaron). Take your loot around the right side of the church where a pretty little bench awaits you in a quiet park and observe. If you’re lucky, you may be in time to witness the coming and going of a mass, where the French are dressed in their best.

Before heading back to the train, listen to your heart for a moment. Are you ready to leave? Did you take what you wanted from Versailles, or are you already pining for your next leisurely day in the Queen’s Gardens?

Versailles, France / Fit for a Heroine

Nighttime Musical Fountain Show

 

If so, you’re in luck. Remember how I mentioned on certain days the jardins are not free? That’s because at night, the Chateau puts on a musical fountain show. Yes, you read that right. If you want to experience something truly ethereal, stay til after dark and bask in the magnificence of the illuminated gardens. Baroque music soothes you from all sides as the water spectacular delights your eyes. Oh, and at the end, the Grand Canal is lit up with fireworks. Now that’s my way of spending a Saturday night!

Heads up, heroines. After your magical night, be careful walking back to the train station. I know you’re all smart women, but it’s easy to get confident and let your guard down. Don’t. Tourists are never safe. You’re not quite a heroine without a little danger.

Andie Lollo is a writer, artist, and blogger behind AndieLollo.com, an animation appreciation blog. She’s also the author of Spongebob & Happiness, a series dedicated to analyzing the Nickelodeon show through the lens of mental health, and a debut novel on Swoon Reads, ‘New Paris U’.

> Xandra recommends: How To Be Like Rapunzel

Is your hometown the perfect fit for a heroine? I’m always looking for fabulous locals to contribute to this Fit for a Heroine travel guide series. If you’re interested in writing for Heroine Training, read the guidelines and get in touch.

Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine

by Indigo Colton

Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine

At the beginning of 2014 I traveled from Austin, Texas to Angers, France, where I lived for four months during a study abroad program. I’d never been to France before (or outside America!), and I knew nothing about Angers before going really, except that it was two hours away from Paris by train.

I discovered is that Angers is the most magical city! It’s a small one, and you can walk from one end to the other in an hour. There are no American chains in the city, save a couple of fast food restaurants. There are people who speak English, but more often they only speak French. There is so much magic and history woven into the city itself, from the foundations to the atmosphere.

Here I rediscovered my inner strength and realized that I have a myth deep inside of me waiting to be created. I recommend stopping in the city to everyone I know, and I have put together this little travel guide for if/when you, darling, are able to make it yourself, but also to give you a small taste of just what this magical city has to offer.

>  On a chilled Saturday morning in Angers, there’s only one place you want to be: the market.

A quick walk from any area of the city, both sides of the street — three blocks worth, at least — are covered with white tents and loud vendors selling everything from antiques to shoes to fabric to fresh oysters to produce so fresh and vibrant it almost looks unreal. There are rows and rows of vendors labyrinth-esque layout, all wanting to entice you to buy their items because they are the absolute best. The best way to go through the market is to meander, to buy what looks good (buying a kilo of anything is generally a good rule of thumb to follow in my book), and to grab a crêpe from the one vendor selling them. Give yourself a few hours to take it in the first time, as it is truly a kingdom of riches.

> Visit the botanical gardens.

After the market, walk back through Place du Ralliement, the city’s square, to make your way over to Jardin des Plantes d’Angers . The botanical gardens are breathtaking and well merit a stroll. Take in the beauty all around you, experience the leisure and peace they have to offer. If you feel so inclined, tuck yourself away on one of the benches scattered throughout and write a few pages in your journal. Document whatever comes to mind, or perhaps draw the scene in front of you. Allow the gardens to inspire your hand.

Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine

> Sample a simple lunch.

For lunch you’ll make your way two kilometers (give or take) to a different part of Angers for a simple yet delicious lunch at Croc Chaud  They have the best döner kebabs in the city, and you can get it on a panini, in a pita, or even in a hamburger bun in a strange tribute to American preferences. Grab a Coke from the fridge after you order and enjoy a warm, affordable meal that will delight your taste buds before venturing back out into the cold.

 > Brose the musée.

If you walk about five minutes from Croc Chaud you’ll come across the Musée des Beaux-Arts  Pay the entry fee and prepare yourself for a quiet afternoon of beautiful art. The permanent collection is upstairs in the museum, and they house their temporary collections downstairs. Allow yourself to be enchanted by the art, by the experience.

Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine

 > Wander through the Chateau d’Angers.

No trip to Angers would be complete without a trip to the Chateau d’Angers  The castle is a few minutes walk away from Place du Raillement, and if you’re a student you can gain free admission. Spend time wandering through the gardens, the various buildings, reading the plaques and marveling in the fact that the building has stood for hundreds of years. One of the main attractions that the Chateau boasts is the la tenture de l’Apocalypse (the tapestry of the Apocalypse). The tapestry was commissioned by Louis I between 1377 and 1382. All of the panels that are still in existence are in the Chateau, for your viewing pleasure and awe.

Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine

 > Dine on a boat.

For dinner, you’ll leave the Chateau d’Angers and make your way across the river, to a restaurant called L’Eau a la Bouche  It’s a boat, anchored in the river, that serves the best pizza in Angers. I highly recommend the basilic pizza with a glass of the house sangria as your meal, but you truly can’t go wrong with any of their options. Savor the freshly made food and enjoy the view of the river at night, with the lights of Angers glittering on the surface.

Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine

 > Drink up the magic.

Most of the city closes at 7:00 P.M., only restaurants, pubs, and discotheques staying open. For a quiet end to a magical day, make your way back across the river and towards Place du Raillement, turning into Dublin’s before making it to the square. Order a drink from the owner (my suggestion is to tell him what kind of alcohol you want and have him surprise you), grab a seat either inside or outside on the deck, and reflect on the events of the day. Bask in the feeling of living in a city with so much wonder, magic, and history build into it, just waiting for you to notice that it is there.


Angers, France / Fit for a Heroine Indigo [Spikes and Stardust] is a freelance super heroine, helping amazing small businesses with their virtual existences and inspiring creatives, entrepreneurs, and fellow twenty-somethings to build their own myths. When she isn’t blogging, Indigo is a full-time student, a poet + writer, artist, baker, prolific reader, television + movie lover, and travel junkie.